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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L012278/1
Title: Manufacturing in Flow: Controlled Multiphase Reactions on Demand (CoMRaDe)
Principal Investigator: Hellgardt, Professor K
Other Investigators:
Hii, Professor KK(
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Jorin Limited Micropore Technologies Ltd Sulzer
Department: Department of Chemical Engineering
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2014 Ends: 30 September 2017 Value (£): 667,090
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Electrochemical Science & Eng. Separation Processes
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
EP/L011697/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
01 Oct 2013 Engineering Prioritisation Meeting 1 October 2013 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In the production of pharmaceutical and fine chemicals, most of the reactions are conducted 'homogeneously' in one phase, i.e. a suitable solvent is used to dissolved all of the starting material, reagent and catalyst. At the end of the reaction, extra operations (known as 'work up') are required to separate the product from byproducts and any remaining starting materials. Work up/separation procedures can be complicated and time-consuming, and can constitute 40-70% of the costs of chemical processes. It also consumes extra resources (energy, material, additional solvent), which is detrimental to the environment.

One way of overcoming the separation issue is to conduct multiphase reactions, where the starting material and the reagent are dissolved in immiscible solvents (such as oil and water). After the reaction, the products remain physically separated from the reagent and byproducts, which simplifies the workup procedure. However, there are several fundamental issues that need to be addresse; namely, how fast reactions can occur at the interface, and how to control it precisely to afford reproducible and predictable outcomes (which is very important for its eventual application in industry).

The proposed programme will develop a new type of continuous manufacturing process for multiphase oxidations. First, it will use electrochemistry to generate inorganic oxidants in water from non-hazardous inorganic salts and electricity. The solution of oxidant will be mixed with reactants in an immiscible solvent, using a specially designed reactor that generates an emulsion from the two immiscible fluids. After the reaction, the two different phases then separate out naturally, thus simplifying the workup procedure.

The research programme will focus on the generation of different oxidants and their intrinsic reactivity. We will also develop novel emulsion forming systems to handle liquid/liquid reactive flows. The rates of the various steps in the process will be deteremined, to produce a predictive model that we can be used to construct a mini-plant for demonstration purposes.
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk