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Sustainable Manufacture of Fine Chemicals and Polymers using Continuous Flow Processing

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In recent years microreactor technology has transformed the way chemical synthesis is conducted in research laboratories by replacing batch reactions classically carried out in laboratory glassware, with continuous flow processes using tubular or chip based reactor designs. A continuous flow reactor can offer a range of benefits over batch processing; as one example, flow reactors have better heat and mass transfer properties, leading to increased control over the process, and often to improvements in product quality. Our group at CSIRO engages with a series of companies in the manufacturing sector on a broad range of commercial projects. We are focusing on the utilization of micro- and meso-structured continuous flow reactors for applications in the pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, polymers, flavours and fragrances industries as well as for the synthesis of chemicals from renewable sources. Our aim is to optimise yield, conversion and the selectivity of chemical reactions, cut process times, minimise process waste streams, and reduce footprint of the reactor infrastructure by intensifying the chemical process through smart continuous reactor technology. One application our group has worked on intensively over the past years is the use of continuous flow reactors for exothermic solution phase polymerization reactions, including the Reversible Addition-Fragmentation chain Transfer (RAFT) process;1-4 a convenient and versatile approach to control radical polymerisations invented by CSIRO .5 Other commercial projects include the industrial manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients, the synthesis of photochromic dyes and the production of fine chemicals from refined sugars.6

In January 2016 the Australian Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry was established as a platform providing access to CSIRO ’s cutting-edge research into industrial processing for Australian and international chemical manufacturers. The centre’s facilities operate state-of-the-art flow chemistry reactor technology for development and optimisation of chemical processes from discovery stage in the laboratory to process scale-up in the pilot plant. Its focus lies on engagement with chemical manufacturers, providing a range of services, which include: a) process R&D operations at CSIRO , b) managing the technology transfer to the client’s site, c) as well as in-house training for industrial collaborators on the centre’s flow chemistry and process equipment.

  1. C. H. Hornung et al., Org. Process Res. Dev. 2011, 15, 593.
  2. C. H. Hornung, X. Nguyen, G. Dumsday, S. Saubern, Macromol. React. Eng. 2012, 6, 458.
  3. N. Micic, A. Young, J. Rosselgong, C. H. Hornung, Processes 2013, 2, 58.
  4. C. H. Hornung, X. Nguyen, S. Kyi, J. Chiefari, S. Saubern, Aust. J. Chem. 2013, 66, 192.
  5. J. Chiefari et al., Macromolecules 1998, 31, 5559.
  6. M. Brasholz, K. von Känel, C. H. Hornung, S. Saubern, J. Tsanaktsidis, Green Chem. 2011, 13, 1114.

This talk is part of the Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology occasional seminars series.

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