A doctoral candidate at Eindhoven University of Technology has developed a porous foam reactor for the rapid and well-controlled production of high value chemicals with an energy efficiency ten times higher than traditional reactors at comparable production rates.
Charl Stemmet investigated a new, structured support for catalysts for use in gas-liquid reactors. He used a highly porous solid foam as the support material, having up to 97% open space available and a very large surface area per reactor volume. This large surface area is important for mass-transfer-limited, gas-liquid reactions; the larger the surface area, the greater the production per unit reactor volume.
To make a good reactor design with this new catalyst support, Stemmet first of all examined the flow behaviour of gas and liquid, and experimentally determined the design equations. He then compared the foam reactor with the current standard for gas-liquid reactions using a solid catalyst: a packed bed of stacked catalyst particles.
The foam reactor has a volume 1.5 times larger than that of the packed bed for the same gas and liquid flows and the same production rate. However, the energy efficiency of the foam reactor is ten times higher than that of the packed bed.
The results will be used by the industrial partners in this project: BASF Nederland B.V. (formerly Engelhard) , DSM Research B.V., Ecoceramics B.V., Lummus Technology (formerly ABB Lummus Global Inc.), Recemat B.V. and Shell Global Solutions International B.V. The project was funded by Technology Foundation STW.
Technology Foundation STW funds applied technical scientific research, with a budget of about €50 million (US$73 million).