In 2010, the total amount of plastic materials produced worldwide reached 258 million tons. This exremely high amount of polymers that the world uses today requires efficient, large scale production. Polymerisation reactions are exothermic reactions that require sufficient control. The reaction occurs with a fast rate and has the danger of thermal run-away. Scaling-up such an exothermic batch-reaction will decrease the efficiency of heat transfer and thus increase the probability of thermal run-away. Also the size of the batch reactors are also limited.
Flow reactors, especially tube reactors have a larger surface area to volume ratio, which greatly improves the efficiency of heat removal. Flow reactors usually require a lower volume when compared to the same batch productivity. The danger of a thermal run-away or a more serious explosion is reduced. Polymerisation under pressure is easily carried out in a flow reactor. Oxygen-sensitive reactions can be implemented since the reaction mixture is closed from the air.
Polyolefin and free radical polimerisation has been widely studied in tube reactors. Recently, ATRP (Atom-Transfer Radical Polymerisation) and CRP (Controlled Radical Polymerisation) reactions were also successfully implemented in experimental tube reactors. The initiation of the polymerisation reaction can be very effectively controlled in flow conditions by micromixing. The precise control of polymerization temperature and micromixing together influences the molecular weight distribution positively.
ThalesNano’s newly introduced IceCube™ offers an effective solution for exothermic reactions. Users can control the temperature between (-70)-(+80) °C. Loop reactors are available made of PTFE and PTTFE, with an 0.5 / 1.0 / 1.5 mm optional inner diameter.