Flow Reactor For Many Applications

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Flow Reactor For Many Applications

Date Added: 4th May 2012

Alfa Laval, the pre-eminent process engineering group have introduced the Alfa Laval ART® Plate Reactor, a flow reactor that is set to replace much of the pharmaceutical and chemical industries' stirred batch reactors currently in use today.

In the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, some processes require processing in reactors to achieve the precise temperature and mix control as well as repeatability for safety and customer acceptability. Alfa Laval has been working closely with these industries to provide engineered solutions for many years.

Stirred batch reactors suffer from three big failings; it is hard to change and maintain temperatures to control reaction times, they are inefficient in terms of power consumption and when a batch is spoiled, a large amount of sometimes expensive ingredients are wasted.  

The Alfa Laval ART® Plate Flow reactor overcomes all these problems by replacing a cumbersome (in process control terms) batch process (or series of in-line batch processes) with a responsive, efficient and tightly controlled multi-stage continuous process. This flow reactor uses works by integrating the mixing channel with heat transfer surfaces in the plate, thus creating a modular, continuous reaction system that can be staged with reagents added at different temperatures.

The ART plate reactor borrows an idea from their world-famous plate heat exchangers and uses of a series of cassettes. The plate heat exchanger relies on a large surface area for heat transfer and the creation of a convoluted path through each cassette for though mixing of the through-flow.  For the ART plate flow reactor, the cassettes are stacked horizontally. 

The channels within each plate cassette are specifically designed to optimise the mixing for the reaction process and the number of cassettes is added to achieve the required residence time.  Each cassette has one process inlet, one process outlet port at each end and a number of secondary ports along the length of the plate, for adding reagents or to provide measuring or monitoring equipment to be inserted into the process plug flow. 

The enclosed heating and cooling spaces between each plate cassette contains a pair of thermocouples ports and they can be arranged so that each space can be joined either in series or in parallel to suit the reaction or series of distinct reactions.   The efficiency of this arrangement is such that the flow reactor can achieve heating or cooling rates as much as 20 to 30°C per second which makes even the most extreme endothermic or exothermic reactions fully controllable.

The plate stacks accurately machined and then they are compressed within a spring-loaded frame with separators for each part of the reaction process such that there is no possibility of leakage, whatever the temperatures involved. 

The Alfa Laval work closely with their customers process designers to design, manufacture, install and commission the ART® Plate Flow reactor to ensure that each is tailored to each customer's requirements.