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Intensifying Processes – Chemical and Biochemical

Prof Gargi Das


Department of Chemical Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
India
Process intensification simply means to increase the efficiency of a particular process.In 1983
Ramshaw introduced the concept of process intensification (PI) and according to him it is a
design strategy to make dramatic changes in plant sizes by several orders of magnitude which
leads to miniaturization of process equipments. Microreactor technology,which enables the
production of miniaturecomponents for chemical and biochemical systems, involve continuous
flow systems usually comprising of two or more phases. In biphasic flow systems, the two
phases can distribute themselves in a wide variety of ways, not under the control of the
experimenter or the designer. Miniaturization favors the plug flow morphology which enhances
interfacial area, reduces diffusion length and increases interphase mixing, all of which contribute
to enhanced transport properties.
The Multiphase Flow group in the Chemical Engineering Department of IIT Kharagpur has
designed and patented devicesto enhance plug flow and intensify mass transfer controlled
processes in reduced dimensions. One of the devices comprise of multiple bends which force the
fluids to split and recombine resulting in efficient and continuous mixing along the flow path
even at low flow rates. The device has no moving parts or static mixer inserts, a particular
attraction for shear sensitive bio systems. In addition, the low cost and easy to fabricate
devicecan be scaled up simply by the numbering up approach which implies using systems in
parallel, suitably packaged in a single unit and the non-functional units can be isolated without
affecting continuous operation.The system is effective for fluids widely differing in viscosity and
surface tension which in general are difficult to mix, an added advantage for biosystems.
Intensification has also been achieved in liquid-liquid systems by low frequency flow oscillations
at the fluid inlet and in gas-liquid systems by mechanical vibration of the test passage, both
contributing to enhanced plugging and increased residence time in the fluidic microspace.