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European Training Network for Continuous Sonication and Microwave Reactors

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - COSMIC (European Training Network for Continuous Sonication and Microwave Reactors)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30

The European chemical industry faces some very serious challenges if it is to retain its competitive position in the global economy. The new industries setting up in Asia and the Near East are based on novel process-intensification concepts, leaving Europe desperately searching for a competitive edge. The transition from batch to continuous micro- and milliflow processing is essential to ensure a future for the European fine-chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries. However, despite the huge interest shown by both academia and industrial R&D, many challenges remain, such as the problems of reaction activation, channel clogging due to solids formation and the scaling up of these technologies to match the required throughput. COSMIC, the European Training Network for Continuous Sonication and Microwave Reactors, took on these challenges by developing material- and energy-efficient continuous chemical processes for the synthesis of organic molecules and nanoparticles. The COSMIC training network consisted of leading universities and industry participants and trained 15 PhD students in the areas of flow technology, millifluidics and external energy fields (ultrasound and microwaves). These energy fields can be applied in structured, continuous milli-reactors for producing high-value-added chemicals with excellent yield efficiencies – in terms of throughput, waste minimization and product quality – that simply cannot be achieved with traditional batch-type chemical reactors.

COSMIC focused on the synthesis of organic molecules and nanoparticles for use in organic syntheses, catalyst preparation and health applications, all of which are im¬portant domains in the fine-chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries today and into the future. COSMIC’s specific science and technology (S/T) objectives are to develop:
• Resource-efficient multiphase reactions in the fields of organic synthesis (C–H, C=C and C≡C bond activation) and nanoparticle synthesis (for use in catalysis and health applications);
• Intensified reactors that efficiently integrate milliflow technology with ultrasound and/or microwave actuation;
• Knowledge-based assessment and decision methodologies to evaluate and select process-intensification technologies.
The following deliverables were achieved:
• New chemistries were developed, in batch, in flow, with and without ultrasound and/or microwaves;
• Novel (nano)catalysts and crystalline materials were synthesized by flow, ultrasound and microwave conditions, these materials can serve in catalytic, drying and health applications;
• Ultrasound and microwaves were shown to increase mass, heat and momentum transfer, leading to quicker and more efficient reactions;
• Better mechanistic understanding of ultrasound and microwave irradiation and activation was achieved, leading to better models that can be applied to predict, validate and understand experimental results;
• Scenario modelling analysis was developed and optimized processes were assessed with a sensitivity analysis for all the technologies analyzed within the project.

A total of 51 scientific publications, 49 blogs, 1 video, 15 knowledge clips and 2 newsletters were disseminated. A list of these can be found on the following website: https://cosmic-etn.eu/. COSMIC results also led to 1 follow-up EU project (SIMPLIFY, https://www.spire2030.eu/simplify) 2 industrial implementations (of which 1 still running) and 2 filed patents.
The COSMIC project began with the aim of developing a new group of professionals with a specific thematic expertise (continuous flow chemistry, alternative energy sources, ultrasound, microwaves, C-H coupling, C-C coupling, nano- and microparticle synthesis) and a broad knowledge of process intensification, in general, together with many additional soft skills. Not only is the need for these professionals as urgent as ever, the chemical industry in Europe has grown less rather than more stable, meaning even greater numbers of scientists and engineers will be needed in Europe that are skilled in efficient chemical science and technology. The description of impact in the original COSMIC proposal remains very relevant indeed.
In the context of enhancing research- and innovation-related skills and knowledge the project has more than succeeded in developing a team of professionals with enviable expertise in process intensification, flow chemistry, ultrasound- and microwave-assisted chemical technology and sustainability/techno-economic assessment. COSMIC has addressed a number of important EU needs – with respect to the development of local process control and energy supply using innovative energy sources like microwaves and ultrasound, extending the processing options for the continuous operation of solids-containing process fluids in small & intensified devices, and adapting intensified process equipment to advances in nanotechnology. This is extremely relevant and is the most significant impact that a project can have on the EU and society. In the wider context the COSMIC project has impacted on the policy objectives outlined by the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SUSCHEM) and the European Federation of Chemical Engineers (EFCE).
In technology terms, the work performed within COSMIC is having a very strong impact on the use of process intensification technologies in Europe, and on COSMIC’s industrial partners’ (like ARKEMA and Microinnova) businesses. The SIMPLIFY project, with core involvement of ARKEMA and Weber Ultrasonics, is an example of this. COSMIC, together with other running (EU) projects, has kept process intensification on the radar of the European innovation sector, in particular the industrial companies. During the IPIC2 conference in Leuven (https://kuleuvencongres.be/ipic2019) the COSMIC consortium organized a well-attended COSMIC Symposium with lots of industrial participants. The COSMIC partners were also crucial in the organization of the Industrial Day of that conference, a well-received discussion forum between academia and industry for the future of process intensification.
COSMIC Consortium