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The University of Southampton

CHEM6158 Reaction Engineering in Micro- and Meso- Scale Flow

Module Overview

Chemical engineering degrees are generally focussed on the skills needed to design large scale plants. Many modern applications however require processes to be fitted to existing small scale reactors with continuous processes (flow) allowing medium scale production from a small footprint (process intensification). One consequence is a greater emphasis on optimising processes in situ. This module will introduce the technology available and the design methods needed to develop processes using micro- and meso-scale flow systems including techniques such in line analysis and statistical tools such as Design of Experiments for rapid modelling and optimisation.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Calculate flow, heat transport and mixing on meso- and micro- scales including dispersion, diffusion and Dean circulation.
  • Select and design appropriate reactor types available for meso- and micro- scale operations, assessing their advantages and disadvantages particularly compared to batch reactors.
  • Critically evaluate reaction kinetics and transport and their interplay within meso- and micro- scale reactors.
  • Assess and evaluate data from in-line analysis of flow processes to gain process understanding and optimisation, including the use of statistical methods (Design of Experiments, multi-component analysis) for both the extraction and interpretation of data.
  • Design continuous processing apparatus to accomplish photochemical, electrochemical, bioprocessing, continuous crystallisation, and heterogenous catalysis reactions.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Select and optimise appropriate meso- and micro- scale reactors to meet specific production needs.


Introduction to continuous flow reactors. Advantages and disadvantages of flow vs batch reactors. Different types of flow reactors. Meso-scale flow reactors. Laminar Flow (Reynolds number). Residence time distribution in plug flow reactors (dispersion, Dean circulation, effect of diffusion). Back pressure calculations. Temperature/pressure calculation for superheated reactions. Mixing in meso-scale reactors. Types of reactors and other system components available (including for work-up and purification) and multi-step systems. Production of high value fine chemicals using flow reactors (industrial presenter). Continuous crystallisation. Workshop 1. Calculations on plug flow meso scale reactors (Mathematica). Practical 1. Investigating how flow rate, tube diameter and length, temperature and solvent viscosity affects residence time distribution and back pressure in a meso-scale plug flow reactor. Practical 1 and WS 1 assessed through combined write-up. In-line and off-line Data collection and analysis. Types of data which can be collected in-line and off-line (e.g. IR, UV, MS, HPLC, GC, Raman, NMR) and how it can be analysed to provide reaction composition knowledge. Practical 2. Following reaction progress using in-line IR and/or UV. Workshop 2. Using multi-component analysis to extracting component compositions from sets of spectral data. Practical 2 and WS 2 assessed through combined write-up. Micro-scale flow reactors. Introduction to microfluidics and Lab-on-a-Chip Typical microreactor types, fabrication and applications. Diffusive mixing. Workshop 3. Design of “Lab-on-a-Chip” systems. Practical 3. Visualising diffusion processes in micro scale reactors. Under steady-state flow conditions, observing molecule diffusion across the interface of two side-by-side flow streams along a microchannel and investigating the effect of flow rate using digital imaging the selected area of interest under microscope followed by image analysis. Workshop 3 and Practical 3 assessed though combined write-up. Characterisation and Optimisation of Flow Processes. Experimental methods for the determination of kinetic parameters of chemical reactions. Statistical methods for the characterisation and optimisation of reactions. Design of Experiments (multi-factorial optimisation). Principle component analysis (exemplified for solvent choice). Workshop 4 (full day). Use of Design of Experiments. Practical 4. DoE study on an SNAr reaction. Workshop 4 and practical 4 assessed with combined write-up. Special techniques using micro- and meso-scale flow reactors. Flow Electrochemistry – concepts of charge/ current as limiting ‘regent’. Flow Photochemistry – light penetration and absorption. Quantum yields. Flow bioreactors and Bioprocesses. Heterogenous Catalysis in Flow reactors.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, Workshops, Practicals, Laboratory demonstrations.

Preparation for scheduled sessions44
Completion of assessment task42
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

50% from 4 write-ups of practical / workshop sessions. 50% from exam


MethodPercentage contribution
Analysis and report  ( words) 50%
Examination  (1 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Analysis and report  ( words) 50%
Examination  (1 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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