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Process intensification methodolgies for liquid-liquid systems in structured equipment

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High-throughput chemical synthesis from liquid reactants

Scientists are optimising chemical synthesis using two liquids in a continuous flow paradigm. Potential benefits include increased throughput, lower cost and less energy consumption.

Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies

In order to produce high-quality chemical products faster and with lower cost, many industries are moving from batch processing to continuous processing technologies. Two-phase liquid-liquid reactions play an important role in the manufacture of chemicals. Scientists initiated the EU-funded project 'Process intensification methodologies for liquid-liquid systems in structured equipment' (PILLS) to develop flexible and high-performance continuous manufacturing technology for liquid-liquid reactions. The goal was throughputs ranging from several litres (fine chemicals) to several hundreds of litres per hour (bulk chemicals). Laboratory studies on dispersion performance, material compatibility and process development resulted in the generation of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models and multi-phase reactor simulations. The software facilitates investigation of effects of equipment choice and process conditions on selectivity of complex reactions in liquid-liquid systems. Prototypes of both micro- and meso-structured reactors were built, culminating in a multipurpose plant installation incorporating plug-in micro-structured mixers, reactors and separators. Testing on a model industrial reaction demonstrated a dramatic improvement in yield even at low flow rates of approximately one litre per hour. Scientists then designed a test research facility including construction materials, an automated control system, and health, safety and environmental factors. Micro- and meso-structured reactors for bulk synthesis were evaluated over a range of operating conditions. Researchers transformed knowledge into a systematic methodology for phase strategy selection available in downloadable format as a self-paced instruction manual. Continuous processing is become increasingly preferable to batch mode with benefits including less time, lower cost and higher throughput. PILLS software tools promise to enhance selection of high-throughput continuous processing parameters for any liquid-liquid system in order to attain eco-efficient, safe and sustainable chemical production.