Experimental Methods in Chemical Engineering: Micro‐Reactors

    • Arturo Macchi a
    • Patrick Plouffe a
    • Gregory S. Patience b
    • Dominique M. Roberge c
    • a Centre for Catalysis Research and Innovation, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5 Canada
    • b Department of Chemical Engineering ‐ Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, QC, H3C 3A7 Canada
    • c Chemical Manufacturing Technologies, Lonza AG, CH‐, 3930 Visp, Switzerland

    Whereas the bulk chemical industry has historically sought economic advantage through economies of scale, a paradigm shift has researchers developing systems on smaller scales. Nano‐cages and nano‐actuators increase selectivity and robustness at the molecular scale. In parallel, micro‐contactors with sub‐millimeter lateral dimensions are decreasing boundary layers that restrict heat and mass transfer and thus meet the objectives of process intensification with great increases in productivity with a smaller footprint. These contactors continue to serve chemical engineers and chemists to synthesize fine chemicals and characterize catalysts, however, now have been adopted for sensors in biological and biochemical systems. A bibliometric analysis of articles indexed in the Web of Science in 2016 and 2017 identified five major clusters of research: catalysis and bulk chemicals; nanoparticles; organic synthesis and flow chemistry; systems and micro‐fluidics applied to biochemistry; and micro‐channel reactors and mass transfer. In the early 1990s, less than 100 articles a year mentioned micro‐reactors, while over 943 articles mentioned it in 2017. Here, we introduce micro‐reactors and their role in the continuous synthesis of fine chemicals across the various scales to commercialization.

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