One of the most important tools for those engaged in hazard evaluation is the microreactor; this is a bench reactor which provides a compact solution for reaction modeling. Typically, these reactions are confined using microchannels to keep chemical reactions within a space with lateral dimensions of 1 millimeter or less. These bench top reactors are also a staple of microprocess engineering applications, being used to model large scale chemical and physical processes, along with micro heat exchangers.
The small reactors used in product-evaluation these applications are typically continuous flow reactors rather than batch reactors, with the continuous flow model providing better performance in material synthesis than is possible with batch reactors.
A small scale reactor is used in hazard evaluation applications due to the much greater speed of reactions and higher energy efficiency they offer, as well as the most obvious reason: for safety. A bench reactor may be used to perform reactions on a very small scale to determine the potential for dangerous situations such as runaway reactions or the generation of excessive levels of heat. The results yielded from these reactions is scalable, with researchers being able to then extrapolate from the data available to the outcomes of the same reaction on a large scale.
The understanding these instruments provide of the workings of a chemical or physical reaction are invaluable in refining analytical methodologies and production processes to maximize safety and efficiency. These hazard evaluation assessments are an essential part of the research and development process for many industries, with the relatively low cost and sophisticated sensors integrated into bench reactor instruments being used to determine how a given process can be fine tuned and optimized.
Parallel bench reactors are one of the most commonly used devices for these small scale studies of reactions. Their ability to provide an environment for the control and monitoring of several simultaneous reactions makes them a very efficient modeling method, particularly for the screening and characterization of combinatorial processes, one of several advantages the parallel reactors offer over the conventional single reactors for the hazard evaluation specialist.
Providing the capability to hold multiple reaction mixture containing vessels along with the necessary individual apparatus and control systems for temperature and stirring of mixtures makes the parallel bench reactor the instrument of choice for many environments. Individual control and monitoring of these and other parameters such as pressure and the addition of materials to reaction vessels offers an efficient hazard evaluation process for several possible scenarios in a single run.
The scalable reaction assessment data that a microreactor provides allows for the advancement of scientific discovery, the production of goods for the business to business and consumer markets and increase the safety of work environments for laboratory personnel, factory workers and the general public.
The work of hazard assessment experts has made and continues to bring many technological advances from the germ of an idea into being as useful products and processes in an efficient, cost effective and most importantly, safe manner. The development of sophisticated bench reactor instruments has improved the hazard evaluation process immeasurably and had an enormous impact on modern life.
Andrew Long writes for scientific websites and a main area for content covers laboratory reactor and products like hazard evaluation and other products.