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Millichannel Reactors: A Practical Middle Ground for Production

By Martin Jönsson and Barry Johnson, Alfa Laval |

The desire to move from batch to continuous processes for the production of high-value organic molecules has become more widespread in recent years as evidenced by the increasing number of related studies published in the literature. The benefits of continuous flow include increased product yield, increased utility and energy utilization, improved safety and greater automation. A quest to improve the overall production economics for smaller organic molecules and many inorganic chemicals forced this change on the bulk chemicals industry many decades ago. But strong interest has not yet translated into the widespread use of continuous processes for specialty chemicals, fine chemicals and pharmaceutical manufacturing. This article proposes that the use of small-scale reactions can provide the missing link that brings continuous operation within practical reach. Consider, first, that the great number of publications that describe laboratory experiments involving dozens of different chemistries (for instance, experiments that are seeking yield improvements or hazard reductions, or simply demonstrating the translation of a batch process to continuous mode), often champion the use of microreactors. These ultra-small-scale devices work on…
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