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Reactor automation in continuous flow polymerisation: On-demand delivery of precision polymer materials


*Corresponding author
1. Polymer Reaction Design Group, School of Chemistry, Monash University, Clayton VIC, Australia
2. Institute for Materials Research, Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium


Flow technology is a tool to improve the control over reactions using an easy and accessible mode of operation and eventually to design innovative materials inaccessible via conventional batch chemistry. The true potential of continuous flow processes unfolds only in combination with online-monitoring techniques. Via feedback loops and suitable algorithms, synthesis becomes programmable. On the example of precision polymer synthesis we discuss the advantages made and future prospects of this technology with regards to commercial application.

Continuous flow chemistry on the micro- and milliscale had in the past decade a profound and deep impact on chemical synthesis. Flow chemistry has changed existing paradigms and revealed pathways towards new synthesis methods that would otherwise be inaccessible or very tedious and unsafe to perform in a traditional batch approaches (1, 2). Most of all, via implementation of (micro)flow reactors, accelerated synthesis of compounds under stable and very reproducible reaction conditions became available. Nowadays, more and more reactions are adapted to continuous flow protocols with the pharmaceutical sector being a front runner (3, 4). Yet, other fields of research are catching up, and flow becomes also for classical materials synthesis more and more important. Flow reactors feature significant advantages over traditional batch chemistry such as ideal heat dissipation and – as a result thereof – high operation stability. Moreover, as a further consequence from isothermal conditions provided, comparatively easy scale up of synthesis from milligram to the kilogram scale or higher is given (5-7). Despite the small reactor volumes, significant amounts of reaction product can be o ...