Intense processes allow chemical reactions to occur faster, safer, greener and in substantially less space than conventional chemical processing methods such as stirred tank reactors or simple tubular reactors. Process intensification not only lowers the cost of manufacturing-- but something else happens: The time needed for development and scale-up, are greatly reduced.
How are processes intensified?
There are two ways to intensify chemical reactions--heat transfer and mass transfer. Improving heat transfer allows for heat to be added or taken away from a chemical process more efficiently. In energetic reactions much heat is released during the process which can result in thermal runaway or in some cases even detonation! In batch processes, we may cool these reactions down to cryogenic temperatures to slow their progression, select solvents which slow the process down, or slowly add reagents or dilute the reaction for safety. In some cases reactions must be heated to reach activation temperature-- while at the same time they become very close to runaway temperature. In these kinds of reactions the improvement in heat transfer not only provides a measure of safety--the processes can be run more concentrated at higher temperature and complete in less time than their batch counterpart.
In the case of mass transfer, the ability to move matter in and out of a reaction zone at desired concentrations can have profound effects on reactions. In the case of batch reactions, very often one chemical must be added to another to control the reactive process, this results in stoichometry which may impede the process as the appropriate amount of one reactant is added. In other cases, the ability to mix two reactants may be limited due to viscosity, states of matter, or diffusion limits. These type of problems can be overcome with the right choice of reactor design and in continuous processes, due to the limits on reaction time, the appropriate design must be chose to complete the reaction in the given hardware.
Depending on how heat and mass transfer are combined, the reactive environment for a particular chemical transformation can be tailored to suit the characteristics of a process and in many cases can be run more concentrated, at higher temperatures, allowing the process to occur in much smaller space and time--e.g. greater efficiency.
What kinds of chemical transformations lend themselves to process intensification? Almost all chemical transformations developed in a round-bottom flask provide some opportunities for process intensification. Most unit operations undertaken in a pilot plant setting also offer opportunities where the right kind of engineering can greatly reduce the effort needed to produce a result.
What tools are used to intensify processes? Tools for process intensification depend on the kind of chemical process and the specific problem that can be overcome. Energetic reactions that occur primarily in solution are often intensifed by moving the reaction from a large stirred tank reactor to a continuous flow reactor. Microreactors (those that have very small and engineered fluid paths and materials that lend themselves to greater heat transfer ) are well suited for these kinds of reactions and offer even greater intensification over tubular static mixers. Other processes may involve solids, either by formation during the reaction or as a reagent that is needed to react as part of the process. For these processes, other tools may be better suited than tubular reactors that can clog. Spinning Disk, Oscillatory Reactors, MSMPR, offer huge advantages for these kinds of processes.
Intense Process Technologies works at the interface between batch process development and continuous manufacture to develop processes and provide proof of concept studies that support continuous manufacturing with breakthrough tools for process intensification.
Our goal is to work at the interface between batch process development and continuous manufacture to develop processes and provide proof of concept studies that support continuous manufacturing with breakthrough tools for process intensification.
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