In 2010, the total amount of plastic materials produced worldwide reached 258 million tons. This extremely high amount of polymers requires efficient, large scale production. Polymerization reactions require sufficient control, and since the size of batch reactors is limited, producing polymers can be challenging.
Flow reactors, especially tube reactors have a large surface area to volume ratio, which greatly improves the efficiency of heat transfer. Flow reactors usually require a lower volume when compared to the same batch productivity. Polymerization under pressure can be 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 polimerization has been widely studied in tube reactors. Recently, ATRP (Atom-Transfer Radical Polymerization) and CRP (Controlled Radical Polymerization) reactions were also successfully implemented in experimental tube reactors. The initiation of the polymerization 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.