|MadSci Network: Chemistry|
A pilot reactor is built for the purpose of exploring the chemical, mechanical and physical parameters that influence a reaction. Pilot reactors are built on a small scale to minimize cost, minimize hazard, increase the flexibility of operation, and to make modifications to the reactors be as easy as possible in order to learn enough about the reaction to make it full scale. You hope to learn the reaction kinetics and thermodynamics, understand the equilibria, know how temperature and pressure affect the reaction, study the amount and identity of the byproducts formed in the reaction, and even look at the influence of impure reactants since you oftne cannot control the reactant purity beyond some point. Once you know the optimum conditions for operating your reactor to make the best product at the best yield, you may want to understand the costs involved with purifying your product, handling the product, storing the product, and determing the cost per pound you would expect it to cost to make. If the idea is to make a product that is going to make you money, you need to know how much product you can make (volume) and how much it will cost you to build a plant, and whether you will make money from it in the long term or whether doing the project will actually COST you money. You would expect to find all the required information you want in scientific journals and reports, but that is often not the case. In your reaction going from ethylene chlorohydrin (2-chloro ethanol) to ethylene glycol (1,2 ethane diol), I suspect that you could find out all you need to know if you chose to form the glycol mixing the reactant with a base such as caustic (NaOH in water). This is a simple recation that has been thoroughly studied. You might not need a pilot reactor study in that case. However, if you were contemplating a new reaction pathway where the reaction was going to be done in the vapor state with a new catalyst, then you want to study the effect of the reactant flow rate through the catalyst bed, look at the amount of bed fluidization (if a fluidized bed is used), as well as temperature and pressure and catalyst life. Following a pilot reactor test, the process or design engineer takes the data and looks at designing a plant. The pilot reactor is only the first step in looking at whether a chemical process method is a good idea to take further toward full scale production. If this has not answered your question, please let me know. I might infer from your question that you wanted a design for a pilot reactor that would react 2-chloro ethanol and caustic to form ethylene glycol. That is a very complex question requiring more input from you. You might actually want to use ammonia instead of caustic, so that would change the design. There are many different ways to get from the reactant to the product in your case. I know. I do this for a living. Sincerely, Edward Peterson, PhD, P.E. firstname.lastname@example.org
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