Consistently producing a unique balance of properties for fine and specialty chemicals is an ongoing challenge for manufacturers. Traditional batch processing techniques have been proven over decades of use, but may have efficiency, quality control and safety shortcomings that could be particularly troublesome in specialty chemical production.
Chemical engineers have long recognized that continuous flow processing is an efficient and cost effective alternative to batch processing. Until recently, continuous processing mainly worked in laboratories that needed to produce small volumes of chemicals for testing and product development.
That changed when Corning developed its Corning® Advanced-Flow™ reactors (AFR) to take continuous flow processing out of the laboratory and onto the production floor. Employing its more than 165 years of experience in materials science and process manufacturing, Corning created industrial-scale reactors that can provide continuous process production capacity of up to hundreds of kilograms per hour for pharmaceutical chemicals, base chemicals, and fine and specialty chemicals.
“For the past seven years, Corning has been working in the Indian pharmaceutical and chemical processing market to bring AFR’s disruptive, inherently safer technology (IST) to academia and commercial manufacturers in region,” said Amit Bansal, President of Corning India. “This team continues to expand our footprint in India through partnerships with colleges and universities, as well as relationships with fine/specialty chemicals and the pharmaceutical industry.”
While Corning’s AFR technology has been around for more than sixteen years, the growth and development in the Indian chemical & pharmaceutical industry has taken place primarily over the last seven years. A growing number of Indian chemical and pharmaceutical companies are turning to continuous manufacturing techniques to supplement, and in many cases, replace their batch production processes. With broad experience of over sixteen years, over 600 chemistries and hundreds of installations across the globe, Corning’s AFR technology offers a variety of solutions to help meet the needs of small and large laboratories, as well as industrial scale manufacturing.
Corning AFR Technology
Advanced-Flow reactors consist of corrosion resistant glass and/or ceramic fluidic modules with integrated dosing system that connects them with the feeding sources. The reactors combine three essential properties of chemical production – heat, mass transfer, and reaction – to occur simultaneously in a single piece of equipment.
“Advanced-Flow reactors are small and produce the full benefits of intensified microscale continuous processes, but with the capability to meet industrial scale production,” said Alessandra Vizza, regional business director, Corning® Advanced-Flow™ reactors. “Advanced-Flow reactors enable
greater efficiency in production as compared to traditional batch reactors due to their smaller footprint in manufacturing facilities and ability to scale from the laboratory to full production in less than half the time it takes in batch production systems. There could also be safety gains because continuous flow reactors use smaller volumes of chemicals compared to large volumes of chemicals in batch production.”
Starting materials are dosed into Advanced-Flow reactors to flow through heart-shaped mixing structures which are specially designed to promote thorough mixing while keeping intense heat exchange to ensure isothermal conditions. These features allow production of a large portfolio of desired chemical reactions such as nitration, chlorination, oxidation, hydrogenation and many others. The ability to control the feed ingredient ratios into the reactors could enable companies to safely produce a specifically desired quantity of a product at consistent quality and lower cost.
Advanced-Flow reactors can be customized to meet specific needs. They can also be integrated into existing chemical processing infrastructures with little or no downtime. The reactors have small footprints so companies don’t have to expand or build new facilities to produce new product lines. Depending on customer needs, the reactors are also compatible with the cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) and the ATEX (the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres) regulations.
Scaling up production with Advanced-Flow reactors can be as easy as increasing the volume of ingredients fed into them. Advanced-Flow reactors offer a seamless scale up that can reduce, by as much as 50 percent, the time required to bring a new product from the laboratory to production and keep constant quality at all the development stages.
Batch processing, by comparison, consists of passing fixed quantities of ingredients along a production vessel according to a fixed formula to yield a specific amount of finished product. Modifying formulas or repeating a production can cause quality to vary from batch to batch.
Additionally, batch production requires a lot of space. Once a chemistry passes a section of the production line, that section is idle until the next batch comes through. Also, batch production could pose higher safety risks than continuous flow production because of the large amounts of reactive chemicals combined in a typical batch production process. Advanced-Flow reactors at any instance use smaller amounts of chemicals so can reduce the risk of accidents.
In addition to the reactor technology, customers have access to Corning engineers who consult with them regarding the feasibility of continuous processing in their manufacturing operation. They also demonstrate consistent quality, reliable performance, and scaled-up production to industrial-level volumes, which demonstrate effective and seamless scale up. Corning also provides automated feeding systems to support the Advanced-Flow reactors.
Backed by Corning’s engineering and production experience, continuous flow can provide an economically and environmentally sound alternative to batch production. With the potential for more efficient material use, lower waste production and higher safety margins, Corning’s Advanced-Flow reactor technology offers fine and specialty chemical, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturers a cost-effective solution to meet current demand for their products.
C K Sethia, Manager Sales, Corning Reactor Technologies, India
Sethia has been working with Corning Advanced-Flow Reactors for over four years now.
Dr. Makarand Pimplapure, Application Development Manager for Corning Reactor Technologies, Corning Technologies India Pvt Ltd.
Before joining Corning, Makarand has worked in chemical & petrochemical industries (GE plastic, DOW Chemicals) as process/research engineer for process development and process intensification.