Concept

Continuous reactor

Summary
Continuous reactors (alternatively referred to as flow reactors) carry material as a flowing stream. Reactants are continuously fed into the reactor and emerge as continuous stream of product. Continuous reactors are used for a wide variety of chemical and biological processes within the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. A survey of the continuous reactor market will throw up a daunting variety of shapes and types of machine. Beneath this variation however lies a relatively small number of key design features which determine the capabilities of the reactor. When classifying continuous reactors, it can be more helpful to look at these design features rather than the whole system. Reactors can be divided into two broad categories, batch reactors and continuous reactors. Batch reactors are stirred tanks sufficiently large to handle the full inventory of a complete batch cycle. In some cases, batch reactors may be operated in semi batch mode where one chemical is charged to the vessel and a second chemical is added slowly. Continuous reactors are generally smaller than batch reactors and handle the product as a flowing stream. Continuous reactors may be designed as pipes with or without baffles or a series of interconnected stages. The advantages of the two options are considered below. Batch reactors are very versatile and are used for a variety for different unit operations (batch distillation, storage, crystallisation, liquid-liquid extraction etc.) in addition to chemical reactions. There is a large installed base of batch reactors within industry and their method of use is well established. Batch reactors are excellent at handling difficult materials like slurries or products with a tendency to foul. Batch reactors represent an effective and economic solution for many types of slow reactions. The rate of many chemical reactions is dependent on reactant concentration. Continuous reactors are generally able to cope with much higher reactant concentrations due to their superior heat transfer capacities.
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