Development of 3D Printed Flow Reactors for Photochemical Processes

Whilst continuous research in photocatalysis will require substantial financial investment as well as supporting knowledge transfer between academic and industrial stakeholders, the focus should also lie on delivering applications that integrate various technologies to photochemical research such as polymer chemistry, flow chemistry, and additive manufacturing. Consequently, the fulfilment of our long-term vision encompasses the broad availability and use of inexpensive, custom-built laboratory containers (reactionware) that can efficiently perform specific photochemical reactions because the photocatalysts that power these reactions are an integral part of the container material itself. The ambition is to, on the one hand, bring photocatalysis in-line with the already mature field of polymer-supported reagents and catalysts, which is long overdue; and on the other, deliver all-encompassing methodologies by which photoactive reactionware is made amenable to industrially preferred technologies such as flow chemistry.

The main aim of this project is to design and 3D print flow reactors that (i) have improved depth-of-light penetration; (ii) have a 3D static mixing role in continuous flow; (iii) present increased surface areas and (iv) can seamlessly integrate to our continuous flow equipment.

To control the above parameters, you will rely on stereolithographic 3D printing technology, which enables freedom-of-design, ensuring that many iterations and design optimisation are easily attainable. For example, it is possible to redesign conventional flow paths that are typically just hollow tubbing into more complex and intricate structures that enhance mixing, promote a greater proximity between reaction components within the tube and allow for greater light penetration.

You will also experimentally validate the designs via Residence Time Distribution (RTD) experiments. The RTD of a reactor is one of the most informative characterisations of the flow pattern in a chemical reactor, which can be useful in comparing different reactor designs and can easily be determined via U.V.-vis. spectroscopy (pulse trace experiment), at the flow outlet. It monitors the concentration of a given tracer molecule over time, providing crucial information on how long various elements have been in each reactor, and provides a quantitative measure of the degree of back mixing within a system. It also allows for an accurate kinetic modelling of the system, helping to achieve or preserve a desired flow pattern during reactor design.

Adilet Zhakeyev, Mary C. Jones, Christopher G. Thomson, John M. Tobin Huizhi Wang, Filipe Vilela, Jin Xuan, Additive manufacturing of intricate and inherently photocatalytic flow reactor components, Additive Manufacturing, 2021, 38, 101828

Supervisor name: 
Filipe Vilela
Supervisor and Deputy email addresses:
Project location: 
William Perkin Building WP2.31 and WP1.18
Deputy name: 
Valeria Arrighi