Final Report Summary - NPW (Novel Process Windows - Boosted Micro Process Technology)
Within the last five years, the ERC Advanced Grant "Novel Process Windows" has researched the essential enabling function to render industrial processes in flow and with microstructured reactors commercially competitive and sustainable. Micro process technology intensifies heat and mass transfer mainly, thereby allowing to operate chemistry under intrinsic kinetic conditions, i.e. letting chemistry perform at its best internal potential. Although this on its own is a big step, still the fastness of chemical reactions often is not high enough to allow sustainable reactor and plant capacities under "micro-flow". To make the latter suitable for large-scale production, a chemical intensification and process-design intensification is need which has been coined Novel Process Windows (NPW) - the name and topic of the ERC Advanced Grant reported here which has become a widely accepted term. The new NPW approaches enable new kinds of chemical transformations, new kinds of chemical activation, new kinds of use of smart solvents, and new kinds of process designs and process integration - all operated in continuous-flow and favorably with microstructured reactors. Central research topic is process chemistry under harsh (p, T, c, ...) conditions – opening new, highly intensified process regimes. The most tangible result of this is the enormous speeding up of reactions by orders-of-magnitude (factor: 100 - 1000) through superheated processing which denotes using temperatures (much) above the boiling point of solvents, typically at 200-300°C; 50-100 bar. The new NPW process chemistry is developed with view on integration into intensified compact, modular and distributed production platforms (‘Future Factories’, ‘Chemistry on Wheels’) which are strongly pushed by European chemical industry. The scope of applications and demonstrations comprised fine-chemical and pharma reactions, but also included bulk-chemical processes and energy-related topics. Essential part is the pre-selection among an almost infinitive large choice of NPW process options. This is done through evaluation via (full-process) cost analysis and life-cycle assessment to monitor sustainability; not only after, but also before (‘ex-ante’) process. The latter allows to rank the NPW options in a kind of process-options scenario analysis. End-to-end process designs – presenting a step-change as opposed to the conventional drop-in, retrofit strategy – have been envisioned by applying process simplification and integration. The result are entirely new chemical processes - starting from the utilities and upstream processing over the central reaction part up to purification and other kinds of downstream processing.