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Flow chemistry for designing sustainable chemical synthesis


*Corresponding author
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sustainable Technology Division, National Risk Management Research Laboratory26 West Martin Luther King Drive, MS 483, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA


An efficiently designed continuous flow chemical process can lead to significant advantages in developing a sustainable chemical synthesis or process. These advantages are the direct result of being able to impart a higher degree of control on several key reactor and reaction parameters. Furthermore, these controls can be utilized to increase the sustainability value of the chemical synthesis or process. This article will examine the contributions from a continuous flow reactor and the advantages which are gained when compared to a batch reactor. Additionally, an expanded detail of these advantages will be presented and used to explain the contribution they have which can increase the sustainability of a chemical synthesis or chemical process.


An efficiently designed flow chemical process can play a significant role in the development of a sustainable chemical synthesis and eventual chemical process. The advantages associated with continuous flow reactor technology also aids in increasing the control of several design and reaction parameters. One example is the ability to maintain a reaction temperature above a solvent’s boiling point (super heating) to obtain a faster reaction. Other benefits include, the ability to achieve efficient heat and mass transfer which lowers operation costs and leads to superior kinetic control of the reaction. Many flow reactors allow for process intensification, which also lends to lowering operation, maintenance and capital expenditures. As well as a minimized physical footprint. Steady-state conditions are also easily maintained due to a reduced reaction volume within the reactor and decreased residence time in the reaction zone.
While there are obvious advantages gained from this reactor configuration and design, an influence on the reaction chemistry that can be achieved is also a key benefit. Flow reactors allow for the ease of perfor ...