A microreactor is a device having precise static features that are generally much less than 1 mm. The device can be used to mix fluids. The microreactor represents a key technology to fields such as:
- chemical industry.
- pharmaceutical industry.
- analytical chemistry.
- biochemical analysis.
- high-throughput synthesis.
The strength of the device is the miniaturization of the mixing paths to reduce the quantities involved in the chemical and/or biochemical processes. Often fast mixing is achieved through rapid diffusion mixing within the tiny channels.
Microreactors are valuable devices where rapid mixing is required. A further advantage is the ability to use very small quantities of material. Micromixers are typically manufactured from optically transparent materials, borosilicate glass or quartz. Some larger micromixers 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 a microreactor
In the microreactor community there has been much discussion. This discussion has centred around scaling of chemical processes derived from these micro-structured devices. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s there was much talk about “scaling-out” the microreactor. Deriving high throughputs from running 10’s possibly even 100’s of micro mixing devices in parallel. Today, it has been broadly accepted that “scaling-up” the microreactor is a more realistic approach. Using the micromixer devices as research tools. Then building single larger throughput devices that achieve similar process intensification. A very good example of this concept is the spinning-disc-reactor.
Process intensification: spinning disk reactor for styrene polymerisation