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The University of Southampton

CHEM6159 Reactor Design for Sustainable Processing

Module Overview

Reactors have applications in many low carbon and sustainable technologies including energy conversion (fuel cells, metal-air batteries, fuel production, electrolysers and flow batteries), catalysis (chemical and electrochemical synthesis), carbon capture/sequestration/conversion and fermentation based chemical production. This module provides an introduction to the chemical, biochemical and mathematical principles underpinning reactor design and operation. Students will develop a working knowledge of reactors through carbon capture, catalysis and energy conversion case studies.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The impact of homogeneous and heterogeneous chemical processes in reactor design and operation.
  • Chemical and energy flows occurring in reactors for low carbon and bioenergy applications.
  • Biological reaction kinetics for bioreactor design.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the importance of chemical processes in the choice, design, and justification of reactor systems.
  • Design a reactor based on specified input and output criteria.
  • Apply engineering analysis to chemical processes found in real energy technology applications.
  • Develop and apply suitable mathematical models to design reactors for specific technologies and processes.
  • Design and conduct experiment to generate engineering data for reactor design
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Present technical and economic assessments of investment options, accounting for uncertainty.
  • Communicate in a clear, structured and efficient manner.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Perform numerical analysis on chemical processes in order to identify and optimise prospective reactor technologies.
  • Design a reactor based on specified input and output criteria.


Chemical reaction processes An introduction to the role the chemical reactions play in the design of reactors and the environment created within the reaction vessel. Material to be considered includes: • Homogeneous and heterogeneous chemical reactions • Catalysis • Mass transport • Reaction interfaces • Mass and energy balances • Rate laws, kinetics and thermodynamics Reaction vessel Design: An overview of the appropriate processes and components required in reaction vessel design will be provided through case studies and include: • Process flow diagram, reactor components and balance of plant • Types of reactors (fluidised beds, plug-flow, continuous, batch etc) • Material selection and compatibility • Mathematical treatment of reaction environments • Chemical, electrochemical and biological reaction mechanisms Applications: Chemical and biochemical reaction processes and reaction vessel design will be developed around low carbon, sustainable and energy conversion reactor applications including: Case studies 1. Biodireactor for fermentation-based chemical production (8 lectures) • Kinetics of cell growth, substrate consumption and product formation • Bioreactor types and selection • Bioreactor operation modes: batch, fed-batch and continuous • Gas-liquid transfer, measurement of volumetric mass transfer coefficient and design for oxygen transfer • Mixing and power input • Bioreactor design 2. Flow reactors for energy storage (4 lectures) • Flow battery design, operation and performance • Electrochemical energy conversion in flow reactors • Free energy, voltage and Nernst equation in relation to battery design • Faradays Laws and space time yield • Current distribution, bypass currents and cell balancing • Single pass, recirculated flow or cascade stack configuration including effects of concentration distribution in battery operation 3. Heterogeneous catalyst design for optimising reactor performance (6 lectures) • Catalysis for fine chemicals (e.g. pharmaceuticals) • Design of hybrid catalysts • Catalyst deactivation mechanisms • Catalyst characterisation techniques • Designing fixed bed reactors for chemical processes • Utilising carbon dioxide as a feedstock

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures including examples. • Set example questions are supported by group problem solving sessions. • Guest lectures to provide industrial input. • Laboratory practical sessions. Learning activities include • Directed reading. • Group and individual work on examples. • Coursework: to produce a short report or experimental write-up.

Completion of assessment task60
Wider reading or practice57
Practical classes and workshops12
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
A lab report 33%
A lab report 33%
Assignment 34%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assignment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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