Optimum Air Velocity, Air Temperature and Maize Layer Thickness for Highest Moisture Removal Rate and Drying Efficiency in a Forced Convection Grain Dryer
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The performance of a forced convection grain dryer may be evaluated based on different criteria, such as drying rate, moisture removal rate and efficiency. This performance is dependent upon various drying parameters, such drying air velocity and temperature as well as grain layer thickness. It is necessary to apply an optimal combination of levels of the various parameters in order to achieve improved performance of such a dryer. This study developed an experimental grain dryer and investigated its performance under different drying conditions. The Taguchi approach was used to determine the optimal combination of drying air velocity, temperature and grain layer thickness that could be used to ensure greatest drying efficiency and moisture removal rate (MRR). ANOVA and LSD tests were used to determine whether change of air velocity and grain layer thicknesses significantly affected drying efficiency as well as MRR.The experimental grain dryer developed was of dimensions 0.5 m x 0.5 m x 1.0 m and was equipped with a 0.7 kW centrifugal fan. It was found that the optimal combination of grain layer thickness and air velocity were 0.04 m and 0.34 m/s respectively for solar drying, if drying efficiency was the determining criterion. When drying was done under laboratory conditions, a combination of 0.41 m/s air velocity, 45°C air temperature and 0.02m layer thickness resulted in greatest MRR and drying efficiency. These findings are useful because use of combination enable the design and use of such a dryer in a manner that ensures minimal energy wastage. Appropriate time management is also facilitated as drying can be undertaken at the shortest possible time.