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From Batch to Continuous Processing

By Robert Ashe, AM Technology |

Small chemical reactors offer a number of benefits compared to large reactors, such as better heat transfer and mixing. While small batch vessels are impractical at the industrial scale, continuous flow reactors can provide the benefits of small physical size without the practical difficulties of multiple vessels. This article considers the four basic needs of flow reactors (volumetric capacity, heat transfer, plug flow and mixing) and how they influence choice of equipment.   Flow reactors A small chemical reactor has a higher ratio of heat transfer area to working volume than a large reactor. It can also deliver more mixing energy per unit volume without bending the agitator shaft. Since the outcome of most chemical reactions is linked in some way to mixing or heat transfer (or both), small reactors have inherent advantages over large ones. Depending on the reaction type, these advantages can contribute toward substantially lower capital and operating costs. Small batch vessels, however, are impractical at the industrial scale since hundreds or even thousands of process cycles would be required for commercial throughputs. The solution to this problem is to use a flow reactor. This is a channel or series of mixed stages in which…
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