New Alfa Laval reactor technology will "revolutionise" manufacturing

In response to competitive pressure and environmental legislation that are forcing manufacturers to find safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient means of manufacturing, Swedish engineering company Alfa Laval has launched a unique reactor technology that allows manufacturers to go from batch processing to continuous production of chemicals.

In response to competitive pressure and environmental legislation that are forcing manufacturers to find safer, cleaner and more energy-efficient means of manufacturing, Swedish engineering company Alfa Laval has launched a unique reactor technology that allows manufacturers to go from batch processing to continuous production of chemicals.

The Alfa Laval Plate Reactor - ART - is a continuous reactor that allows faster scale-up, improved yield and provides better control of the reaction compared with classic stirred-tank reactors.

The ART Plate Reactor combines the properties of a continuous chemical reactor with those of a plate heat exchanger. It contains flow-directing reactor plates that are sandwiched between heat transfer plates, held together by pressure plates to create a modular reactor unit. Ports along the reaction channel provide access to the reaction mixture for measurement, sampling and reactant addition. The plate reactor can be disassembled and reassembled quickly allowing easy cleaning.

The mechanical design of the reactor allows for reaction at elevated temperature and pressure. The product range has capacities from 0.25 l/h up to 1 m3/h, covering all steps from laboratory scale r&d to full production.

This technology has several advantages, says Alfa Laval. The high heat transfer of a plate heat exchanger is combined with efficient mixing producing reliable reaction control in one unit. This allows users to improve existing processes and develop new products.

Unlike a batch reactor, the Alfa Laval ART Plate Reactor handles a continuous flow of reactants. This makes it a safer proposition, since the reaction volume is up to 99% smaller than that of a batch.

Batch reactors require the dilution of reactants with solvents; the Plate Reactor operates at an optimal concentration. This limits the creation of by-products and does away with solvent evaporation, which in turn reduces energy consumption.

The basics of the Alfa Laval ART Plate Reactor originate from heat exchanger developments. Together with leading European universities the technology was further developed and tested between 2002 and 2004. Since then Alfa Laval plate reactor prototypes have undergone extensive testing at a number of customers including Astra Zeneca (Sweden) and Perstorp (Sweden).

The French chemical company Arkema has been a long term partner in the development and testing of the technology. Alfa Laval and Arkema have received a grant through the EU's Life project.

Companies