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Chemical Reaction Engineering Perspectives on the Role of Water in Fine Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Manufacture


*Corresponding author
The University of Alabama, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, BOX 870203, AL 35487, Tuscaloosa, USA


Chemical reaction engineering principles are needed to successfully advance fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacture, which is important to the global economy. Significant quantities of chemical wastes are generated in fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacture relative to the mass of the products formed. Innovations in process intensification technology are needed to minimize waste, and water plays a key role. The reaction engineering of organic syntheses using water has broad and versatile utility. Organic synthesis in water could revolutionize both heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis in continuous fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals where the reactants and the products remain soluble. Trade-off exists between water consumption in chemicals processing and the benefits of performing organic syntheses in water. Partnerships between chemists and chemical engineers are needed to drive innovations in science and engineering that harness water. The role of water in fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacture is highlighted from a reaction engineering perspective.


Computers, introduced by the previous generation, revolutionized science and engineering while chemistry represents a major contribution of the next generation of young scientists and engineers (1). Chemistry is not only the foundation of biology (1), but industrial chemistry was the birth-field of chemical engineering in the late 19th Century (2). The global chemical industry, a $3 trillion market that impacts virtually every other sector of the World’s economy, was forecasted to grow in 2013 by 1.9 percent in the United States (compared to 1.5 percent growth in 2012), 0.5 percent in Europe (up from 2.0 percent contraction in 2012), and 8.1 percent in China (3). Industrial chemistry emerged primarily based upon the use of catalytic chemistry,(4) which remains a cornerstone of the world’s economy (4). Catalysis directly links chemistry to chemical engineering. Catalysis is also grass-roots fundamental to the green chemistry revolution (5), which is transforming how fine chemicals and pharmaceutical processes are innovated and designed (6). Fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals were forecasted to lead the U.S. chemical industry sector in gro ...