Flow chemistry, how to bringit to industrial scale?
The continuous tubular reactor is a well-known concept which is applied broadly and has proven its value to t chemical industry. In essence the micro reactor is nothing else than a tubular reactor with an unusual small diameter. The very principles that lead to high performance of the micor reactor seem to disable economical viable applications: a large number of parallel channels is required to reach plant scale production capacities (>1 Million channels for 10 kTon).
The negative influence on manufacturability and cost can be countered by influencing the fluid dynamics inside somewhat larger channels (0.5–6 mm), and making use of secondary flow phenomena.
Selective laser melting (3D metal printing) is a new fast developing manufacturing technology that delivers an unique freedom of design combined with a promising cost level. Those properties match very well with the needs within flow reactor technology, and act as a strong enabler for applications in process development as well as industrial production. With the knowledge and tools in hand, one could now design the perfect asset for demanding type of chemistries, rather than what has been done for many decades, adapting the chemistry to the existing assets.