Authors:Eric Mielke, Dominique M. Roberge, and Arturo Macchi
Based on previous work studying complex microreactors, it was desired to further improve the mixing efficiency by varying the mixing unit design for fast liquid—liquid reactions. Different flow regimes were studied, including slug flow, parallel flow, and drop flow. The two-phase hydrolysis of 4-nitrophenyl acetate in sodium hydroxide solution was used to evaluate the overall volumetric mass transfer coefficients (Korga) as a function of the average rate of energy dissipation (ε) for each microreactor design and all flow regimes. The liquid—liquid systems investigated used n-butanol or toluene as the organic phase solvent and a 0.5-M NaOH aqueous solution. The use of surfactant was also investigated with the toluene—water system. All microreactor geometry designs were based on contraction—expansion repeating units with asymmetric obstacles to aid the breakup of slugs and desynchronize the recombination of split streams. The investigated designs were chosen to avoid the formation of the parallel flow regime, contrary to curvature-based mixing-unit designs. The microreactor design can then be optimized to reduce the ε required to reach drop flow, since Korga has been found to be constant at equal ε for a given solvent system in this flow regime, regardless of the reactor selection. Additionally, the “3/7th” scaleup rule was applied and confirmed with the LL-Triangle mixer. It was found that, for low interfacial-tension systems (i.e., n-butanol—water), the onset of drop flow occurred at a lower ε for the LL-Triangle mixer when compared with the Sickle or LL-Rhombus mixers.