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Towards Perfect Chemical Reactors:
Engineering the Enhanced Control of Reaction Pathways at Molecular Level via Fundamental Concepts of Process Intensification

Final Report Summary - TOPCHEM (Towards Perfect Chemical Reactors:Engineering the Enhanced Control of Reaction Pathways at Molecular Level via Fundamental Concepts of Process Intensification)

The art of carrying out chemical reactions resembles a nano-snooker game. In the real snooker game an experienced player remains in full control of the collisions between the balls he/she wants to have colliding, by providing them with the right amount of energy, right geometry of approach and right mutual orientation at the moment of collision. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the current practice of chemical reactors as they offer a very limited degree of control of molecular-level events. A conductive heated reactor, instead of a well-controlled snooker, resembles rather a pinball game where all balls move in all possible directions and randomly collide with each other. Project TOPCHEM (“Towards Perfect Chemical Reactors”) has been focused on the development of highly innovative concepts of chemical reactors with enhanced control of molecular orientation and activation. building, among other things, on the Nobel Prize-awarded fundamental works in the area of the reaction dynamics and molecular reaction control, which were never considered in the chemical engineering field thus far. Contrary to conventional conductive heating, the use of electric or electromagnetic fields in the reactors can lead to a much better reaction control and, what follows, much cleaner chemical processes. In the project electric fields, laser beams, microwaves and light were investigated as means for orienting and activating the molecules in three new concepts of chemical reactors.

All three reactor concepts developed within the project utilize electricity-based forms of energy. This way the research carried out within TOPCHEM project lays down the foundation for the inevitable long-term transition of the chemical process plants from fossil fuels to green electricity as the primary energy source.