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A recent paper outlines a methodology to help development teams decide whether switching from batch to continuous mode makes financial and technical sense.
Researcher Soo Khean Teoh, from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s Institute of Chemical Engineering Sciences, and colleagues at GEA Pharma Systems in India have developed a method for assessing the feasibility of switching any process from batch to continuous operation. The method is designed to “guide users to understand the process in question, brainstorm about the potential benefits [of running that process continuously] and help them come to swift decisions,” Teoh said in a press release on A*STAR’s website.
The methodology starts off by using simple yes/no queries to help development teams screen chemical processes to determine key economic requirements and potential problems with reagents. Processes that seem like they’d work well in continuous mode then undergo a flow-chart analysis to identify potential manufacturing equipment, control schemes and configurations within the plant. If the resulting analysis proves that the redesigned process would be economically feasible, the project then reaches a final “process execution” stage.
The researchers found that highly exothermic and endothermic liquid-phase processes were good candidates for continuous processing. In particular, they singled out the Reformatsky reaction, which is catalyzed by an organozinc and can often overheat when it is carried on in batch processing mode.
“Our methodology makes understanding the process much clearer, especially to chemists and engineers dealing with the synthesis,” said Teoh, thus allowing them quickly to decide whether any process is a “go/no go” for conversion to continuous processing.