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Process intensification – Overcoming impediments to heat and mass transfer enhancement when solids are present, via the IbD project

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard Law, Professor Colin Ramshaw, Emeritus Dr David Reay


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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Process intensification (PI) grew in importance in the chemical processing industry and may be concisely defined as: any chemical engineering development that leads to a substantially smaller, cleaner, safer and more energy efficient technology. Its application is not limited to the chemicals sector, however. If one rephrases the definition in terms of heat and mass transfer enhancement, the scope becomes much wider. Introducing the adjective 'smaller’ into the definition immediately – for a process engineer – flashes a ‘caution’ warning in streams and unit operations where solid particles may be present. 'small’, ‘compact’ and 'solids’ spell ‘fouling’ and the presence of solids can lead to other difficulties such as abrasion, separation challenges and particle size classifcation. Most PI plant deals with gasses, vapours or liquids. It is in this context, in addition to the other benefits that might arise from the use of PI, that the HORIZON 2020 project ‘Intensified by Design’ (IbD) led by IRIS in Barcelona has been conceived to address the challenge of solids handling. The European Commission (EC) highlighted a number of important considerations in future process plant operation, where increasingly adoption of decentralised on-site plants and modular approaches towards small- and medium-scale production may become the norm. The EC stated: “Most processes in chemicals, pharmaceutics and food sectors, as well as industries processing steel, glass, cement, non-ferrous metals, or minerals, involve solids as reactants, catalysts, intermediates or (by-)products. If these processes are to be transferred to intensified process equipment, it is likely that difficulties associated with the presence of particulate solids will be encountered, such as fouling or blockages. Robust and sustainable solutions to these problems are not widely available. This hampers the industrial realization of processes involving solids handling”. In parallel with this, the EC also highlights the well-recognised growing demand for the design and development of tailor-made products while keeping the time-to-market as short as possible. One possible solution is to move towards improving continuous processes, which can significantly reduce development time as well as scale-up efforts. This paper, after giving an extensive introduction to the concept of PI, gives information on some of the intensified technologies that might be applied to the sectors targeted in the IbD study – which include pharmaceuticals, mineral and metal processing, ceramics and chemical reactions in the presence of solids – in order to overcome problems of fouling, while striving for better product quality and ultimately more decentralised production.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Law R, Ramshaw C, Reay D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Thermal Science and Engineering Progress

Year: 2017

Volume: 1

Pages: 53-58

Print publication date: 01/03/2017

Online publication date: 22/03/2017

Acceptance date: 12/02/2017

ISSN (print): 2451-9049

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.tsep.2017.02.004


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