A microreactor is a device having precise static features that are generally much less than 1 mm in dimension and is used to mix fluids. The microreactor represents a key technology to fields such as chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, analytical chemistry, biochemical analysis, and high-throughput synthesis, since it makes use of the miniaturization of the fluids associated in the mixing to reduce quantities involved in the chemical and/or biochemical processes. Often rapid mixing is achieved through rapid diffusion mixing within the tiny channels.
Microreactors are valuable devices where rapid mixing is required and simultaneously it is advantageous to use very small quantities of material. Microreactors are typically manufactured from optically transparent material; borosilicate glass or quartz however some larger microreactors are manufactured from opaque silicon carbide ceramic. Silicon carbide has attractive properties offering high rates of heat transfer combined with excellent chemical compatibility.
Scaling up of microreactors
In the microreactor community over the years there has been much discussion about scaling of chemical processes derived from these micro-structured devices. In the late 1990s and early 2000s there was much talk about “scaling-out” – deriving high throughputs from running 10s possibly even 100s of micro mixing devices in parallel. Today, it has been broadly accepted that “scaling-up” is a more realistic approach – learning from the micromixer devices but building single larger throughput devices that achieve similar process intensification as achieved with the micromixers but at a larger scale. A very good example of this concept is the spinning-disc-reactor.