Types of Agitator Impellers

Agitator impellers come in various designs tailored for specific mixing needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Flat blade impellers: Ideal for smooth, gentle flows, mainly used in heat transfer processes.
  • Inclined blade impellers: Promote vertical mixing, suitable for operations requiring high speeds.
  • Curved blade impellers: Designed for radial flow; help in reducing energy usage.
  • Spiral blade impellers: Specialized for moving and scraping dense materials like sludge.
  • Selection criteria for impellers: Depends on desired flow pattern, fluid viscosity, and specific process requirements.

Types of Impeller Shape

Flat Blades

Flat blade impellers are made by attaching flat steel plates to a hub, either with welding or bolts. Usually, these impellers have 2 to 4 blades that spread out from a central shaft. This design is simple yet effective for certain uses.

They are particularly good at creating a smooth, gentle flow of liquid, known as a laminar, low shear flow. This makes them ideal for mixing substances that are not very thick, as well as for processes like crystallization and dissolution where you need to mix components smoothly without much disruption. They are also great for applications involving heat transfer because they move the fluid gently.

For those who enjoy do-it-yourself projects, these impellers are a smart choice. They are inexpensive to make because they use materials that are easy to find. However, it’s important to understand that these impellers do not mix as efficiently as more complex models. This means that while they are cost-effective and simple to construct, they might not be the best choice for all mixing needs.

Flat Blades

Inclined (Folded) Blade

Inclined or folded blade impellers are designed with blades that are not flat but angled. This special design helps these impellers create an axial flow, which means the flow moves along the axis of the impeller.

The angle of the blades on these impellers allows them to add a moderate component of axial flow, setting them apart from more basic, flat-bladed impellers. This axial flow is what enhances the mixing from top to bottom, ensuring that all parts of the solution are equally homogenized.

Moreover, the unique shape of the blades not only aids in mixing but also increases the impeller’s ability to pump and create turbulence. It keeps solids in suspension, ensuring they do not settle at the bottom but remain distributed throughout the liquid.

Typically, these impellers are run at higher speeds. This utilization of high speeds is due to their designed geometry which maximizes the unique flow pattern created by the angled blades. Running at higher speeds enhances the impeller’s effectiveness in blending and keeping solids suspended within the mixture, optimizing the performance of the system they are integrated into.

Inclined Blade of impeller

Curved Blade

Curved blade impellers are designed for use in devices like stirred tanks and bioreactors, where they excel by creating radial flow. This means they effectively push fluids towards the tank’s outer edges. Typically, these impellers have between four to six curved blades attached to a central disc.

Such impellers are particularly good at ensuring even mixing and keeping solids evenly suspended in the fluid. They are best suited for fluids that are not too thick, ranging from low to medium viscosity. One significant advantage of curved blade impellers is their energy efficiency. They use less power because their design reduces drag, which cuts down on energy usage.

The design of curved blade impellers focuses more on promoting flow and pumping rather than creating shear and turbulence. This makes them a well-rounded choice for many mixing applications that rely on radial flow. Their capability to effectively turn over tank contents ensures that the entire mixture remains homogeneous.

Curved Blade of impeller

Spiral Blade

Spiral blades are designed with a helical, or twisted, shape. This design is not just for visual appeal; it serves practical purposes in various applications. For instance, when used in machinery like clarifiers and thickeners in wastewater treatment plants, the angled cut of the spiral blades allows them to more effectively move and scrape sludge. This results in better performance than straight rakes.

In machining processes, as the blade cuts through material, it efficiently removes the waste material or chips away from the cutting area. This prevents the accumulation of chips, which can lead to re-cutting that dulls the blade faster and can contaminate the workpiece.

Another application of spiral blades is in vertical axis wind turbines. Here, the unique shape helps the turbines capture wind more effectively and start up on their own without needing an external power source. This self-starting feature is particularly useful in areas with variable wind speeds.

However, despite these advantages, spiral blades also come with drawbacks. Their complex design makes them more challenging and costly to manufacture. This complexity can also restrict their use in more standard, less specialized equipment where simpler, less expensive blades might suffice.

Spiral Blade

Types of Impeller Flow Patterns

Axial Flow

Axial flow impellers operate by pushing fluids in a direction that aligns with their shaft. The blades of these impellers are specifically angled to drive the fluid along the central axis. This mechanism is particularly beneficial in various processes including blending different substances, keeping solids evenly distributed in a liquid, and mixing different liquids together effectively.

One of the major advantages of axial flow impellers over radial flow impellers is their ability to move large volumes of fluid with less power, which makes them more energy-efficient. They are designed to operate at higher speeds, which further contributes to their efficiency in creating the desired flow patterns within a vessel.

They are not designed for creating high shear forces but are best suited for applications where a gentle, yet effective, mixing is required. This makes them ideal for operations that involve delicate materials or where over-mixing could be detrimental.

In contrast to radial flow impellers, which are better at generating localized turbulence, axial flow impellers ensure a consistent and comprehensive mixing action.

Radial Flow

Radial flow impellers are designed to move fluids outwards from the center of rotation, perpendicular to the axis. This design is ideal for tasks requiring thorough mixing, such as in the handling of viscous liquids and suspending solids. Common types like the bar turbine and Smith turbine are noted for their effectiveness in these applications.

The structure of these impellers involves vertical blades that push the fluid sideways across the tank, moving it from the center outwards in a radial pattern. This movement ensures even mixing and effective dispersion in various processing tasks.

To enhance the effectiveness of radial flow impellers, tanks are often equipped with baffles. Baffles are barriers that restrict the fluid’s circular motion, helping maintain a dominant radial flow.

However, it’s important to note that radial flow impellers can be sensitive to changes in fluid viscosity. Effective operation requires careful control of conditions to ensure the impeller performs efficiently and achieves the desired mixing results.

Tangential Flow

Tangential flow impellers, such as the anchor and paddle types, are engineered to stir fluids horizontally in a circular pattern within a vessel. This is particularly beneficial for mixing substances that are thick or have high viscosity. The design of these impellers is crucial because they help to maintain the thickness of the viscous boundary layers that form along the walls of the vessel. There is minimal space between the impeller blades and the vessel walls, which enhances the mixing efficiency.

Unlike impellers that move fluid vertically (axial flow) or outward from the center (radial flow), tangential flow impellers focus on promoting a consistent horizontal movement. This pattern is less disruptive and more gentle on the material being mixed, making it ideal for products that are sensitive to shear forces. This gentle mixing action helps in preserving the structure and integrity of the product while ensuring thorough mixing.图片

Types of Impeller for Specific Applications

Low Viscosity Mixing

For effective blending of low viscosity fluids such as water, solvents, and thin oils, specific types of impellers are utilized. Axial flow impellers like propellers, pitched blade turbines, and hydrofoils are optimal for this purpose.

Propellers are particularly useful in applications requiring high flow. They quickly disperse the fluid throughout the vessel, ensuring a uniform mixture.

Pitched blade turbines have adjustable blades. This feature allows them to alter the flow angle, enhancing their ability to mix fluids thoroughly. They are effective not only in mixing but also in suspending solids and facilitating efficient heat transfer.

Hydrofoils are designed to be highly efficient while consuming less energy. They produce a streamlined flow that minimizes turbulence and promotes effective blending. This efficiency is beneficial in reducing operational costs and improving the environmental footprint of the mixing process.

Medium to High Viscosity Mixing

When dealing with medium to high viscosity mixing, each impeller type—anchor, helical ribbon, auger, and gate—has specific features suited to different viscosity levels.

Anchor impellers are designed to mirror the shape of the mixing vessel. This design enables them to move the fluid along the vessel walls, promoting a tangential flow that effectively handles viscosities up to about 500,000 centipoise. This sweeping motion ensures that all parts of the fluid are actively involved in the mixing process.

Helical ribbon impellers are particularly adept at managing even higher viscosities. Their structure supports movement in both radial and axial directions, which enhances the mix efficiency by ensuring a thorough blend throughout the fluid. This type is ideal when uniform consistency is needed in very viscous substances.

Auger impellers, which resemble the shape of a screw conveyor, are excellent for the highest viscosity levels. These impellers push the fluid or paste forward, similar to how a drill moves through wood. This action allows them to mix very thick materials effectively, ensuring no part of the mixture is left unmoved.

Gate impellers merge features of both anchor and gate types, creating a design that increases shear forces within the mix. This is particularly useful in breaking down lumps and integrating ingredients smoothly into medium to high viscosity fluids.

High Shear and Gas Dispersion

High shear impellers such as sawtooth, Cowles, and dispersion blades are designed for intense mixing and breaking down particles. These impellers spin rapidly, effectively dispersing fine particles and ensuring even mixtures. They mix liquids that normally don’t combine well and help in achieving excellent gas-liquid contact.

The sawtooth and Cowles blades, are particularly good at pulverizing solid clumps into smaller, uniform particles.

The dispersion blade stands out by integrating air or other gases into liquids. This action is beneficial for processes that depend on certain chemical reactions where the rate and stability of the product can be enhanced by the presence of gases.

Solids Suspension

Axial flow impellers, specifically hydrofoils and pitched blade turbines, are highly effective for suspending solids in liquids. Their design promotes a strong vertical flow, efficiently circulating solids from the bottom to the top of the mixing vessel. This action ensures that solids are evenly distributed throughout the liquid, preventing them from settling at the bottom.

In contrast, radial flow impellers are not as suitable for this purpose. Their flow pattern is directed outward toward the vessel’s sides, mainly affecting the peripheral areas. This design fails to create sufficient lift to keep the solids in suspension, especially those at the bottom of the vessel.


How Do You Choose an Impeller Type

Desired flow pattern

If your goal is to achieve thorough top-to-bottom movement in the mixture, an axial flow impeller is ideal. This type is known for its efficiency in blending and keeping solids uniformly suspended throughout the liquid. Perfect for tasks like ensuring ingredients are well mixed in large tanks.

On the other hand, if your process requires vigorous side-to-side flow, consider a radial flow impeller. This variety excels in applications where intense shear and effective gas dispersion are critical, especially in thicker, more viscous fluids. The design of radial impellers allows them to create powerful currents that can break down more stubborn materials and integrate gases thoroughly.

Fluid properties

For fluids with low viscosity, axial flow impellers, such as propellers, are typically the best choice. These impellers create effective flow patterns that enhance mixing without causing too much shear. As fluid viscosity increases, you might need to consider switching to radial flow impellers or turbine agitators. These are better suited for thicker materials, as they produce radial flow patterns that ensure comprehensive mixing, often necessary in chemical processing applications.

For very high-viscosity fluids, an anchor impeller is advisable. This type features blades whose angles can be adjusted to effectively handle dense and sticky substances. Such impellers work well to keep shear rates low while ensuring uniformity in the final product.

Vessel geometry

Typically, the impeller should be roughly one-third the diameter of the tank. This size ratio is key for efficient mixing, as it helps balance the flow and shear forces inside the vessel.

Placement of the impeller is equally important. It needs to be positioned in a way that maximizes its interaction with the fluid, ensuring effective mixing. The design of the impeller blades, including their angle and shape, should be chosen based on the viscosity of the fluid and the specific mixing application.

Specific process requirements

If your priority is handling shear-sensitive materials, like thick liquids, choose a pitched blade impeller or a flat blade turbine. These impellers mix gently, helping prevent damage to delicate products.

For processes that require high shear, such as making fine emulsions, a radial impeller is better. This impeller type connects tightly to the shaft, ensuring efficient, vigorous mixing.

In cases where it’s crucial to minimize air mixing into the liquid, axial impellers are the best option. They are designed to avoid drawing air into the mix.

Material of construction

It’s important to consider how the type of agitator and the conditions it will operate in interact when selecting materials. Stainless steel is a common choice because it is strong and resists corrosion, making it versatile across different agitator setups.

Different designs of agitators require materials with specific characteristics for optimal performance. For instance, polypropylene is often used in settings where chemical resistance is critical due to its ability to withstand corrosive substances. Ensure that the materials selected for both the agitator shaft and the entire assembly are compatible to maintain the system’s integrity and efficiency.

Power and speed capability of the mixer drive

If the impeller is large or has a complex design, it requires a strong motor. The motor must provide enough power and torque to meet the demands of the impeller without causing strain on the system. It is vital to check that the motor’s torque and the gearbox’s capacity are sufficient. These components must support the impeller’s speed and efficiency needs effectively.

When selecting a mixer drive, ensuring it has the proper capabilities. This avoids mechanical problems and ensures the mixer performs well within the necessary speed range. It is important to assess the drive’s ability to handle either larger or more complex impellers to enhance the mixing process’s overall efficiency.


Impellers with complex shapes or made from special materials usually cost more initially. This higher price is due to their intricate designs and superior materials, which improve the mixing process’s efficiency and durability.

However, long-term expenses, such as energy use, maintenance, and possible downtime, play a significant role in overall costs. Therefore, assessing the total expense of the mixing system is essential.


Choosing the right agitator impeller is crucial for optimizing the mixing process. Consider the flow type needed—axial, radial, or tangential—and select the appropriate impeller shape for your application. Factors like fluid viscosity and tank dimensions also play a significant role in determining the most effective impeller type.

Explore our range of agitator impellers to find the perfect fit for your needs, and don’t hesitate to contact us for expert advice on enhancing your mixing operations.

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