280170 Reaction Engineering and Separations in Microchemical Systems: Applications in Fine Chemicals Processing and Energy Production

Wednesday, October 31, 2012: 3:15 PM
316 (Convention Center )
Ryan L. Hartman, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

The field of chemical reaction engineering, interfacing all of the traditional chemical engineering concepts, has rapidly evolved over the last few decades impacting both traditional and non-traditional problems.  Chemical engineers have traditionally applied reactor design principles to successfully innovate chemical processes on macroscopic scales when the manufacture of considerable quantities of materials and compounds are economical (e.g., commodities and petrochemicals).  When markets exist for smaller quantities, however, the opportunity arises to rethink our approach to the engineering of chemical processes.  The efficient, continuous flow manufacturing of specialty chemicals, for example fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, rely on the accurate prediction of scale-up from the laboratory to intermediary and production scales.  Accurate predictions can only happen when the intrinsic kinetics and synthetic methodologies are discovered in the laboratory and subsequently combined with traditional chemical engineering principles (e.g., mass and energy balances, transport phenomena, thermodynamics, etc.).  The laboratory scale is an area of tremendous growth opportunity that engineering innovations will surely catalyze.  Towards this end, micro-structured reactors are powerful laboratory scale tools that eliminate time dependent physical and chemical resistances during organic synthetic transformations.  A problem inherent in many synthetic pathways, however, is the use or generation of crystalline solids as non-covently bonded materials, which introduces challenges in performing synthetic chemistry in micro-scale systems.  Similarly, the eloquent, yet complex, methodologies discovered in the laboratory foster the need for new innovations in the area of continuous separations.  These concepts are related to challenges currently facing the petroleum and natural gas industry.

Every barrel of crude oil produced involves the production and separation of hydrocarbon, aqueous, and gas phases making the upstream business a complex chemistry and chemical engineering venture and with many unknown variables at extreme conditions.  The flow assurance of petroleum and natural gas resources in subsea pipelines encounters resistance (through rheology and the formation of macroscopic blockages) when the hydrogen bonding of water generates icy cages (e.g., clathrate hydrates) that trap produced gases.  Much remains to be understood of these solid materials, a challenge to crystallize in the laboratory, that experimental work with microreactors can discover.  The aforementioned societal problems interface chemical engineering with micro-scale systems, a broad and interdisciplinary topic, which promises to continue advancing our understanding of molecular-scale processes and has the potential to generate the integrated microchemical systems of the future.

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See more of this Session: Multiphase Reaction Engineering II
See more of this Group/Topical: Catalysis and Reaction Engineering Division