Nov 27, 2017 | By Tess

Researchers from the CC FLOW consortium in Graz, Austria have developed a custom flow reactor 3D printed from stainless steel which is capable of transforming an environmentally harmful Teflon waste product into a synthetic building block.

The research project, led by Oliver Kappe, a professor at the University of Graz and the scientific director of CC FLOW, was recently published about in the journal Reaction Chemistry & Engineering.

The 3D printed flow reactor is a scalable system which is capable of performing a “fast difluoromethylation reaction” with lithiated nitrile2. In short, the reactor was developed to transform fluoroform—a waste product created by the manufacturing of fluoropolymers such as Teflon, as well as a harmful greenhouse gas—into a synthetic building block.

In more simple terms, the process enabled by the bespoke 3D printed reactor could help to reduce waste and pollution from Teflon manufacturing and appropriate it for organic synthesis processes.

The flow reactor itself was 3D printed from stainless steel using selective laser melting (SLM) technology. Graz-based company Anton Paar Gmbh and experts from the Research Center Pharmaceutical Engineering GmbH (RCPE) were responsible for the reactor’s manufacturing.

Teflon is a commonly used material for non-stick pans and cookware

As Kappe explains, “With the emergence of high-power lasers for additive manufacturing, such flow devices can now be printed from a variety of metals by SLM. These materials provide the thermal conductivity as well as chemical, mechanical, and thermal stability often required for applications in organic synthesis and pharmaceutical manufacturing.”

The scalable 3D printed flow reactor consists of a number of zig-zagging channels in which nBuLi (as a base substance), fluoroform (as a reagent), and a quench solution can be inserted. The reactor’s curving and folded channel-structure was designed specifically for “a fast difluoromethylation reaction” between nBuLi and fluoroform.

As Kappe reports, the structure has actually enhanced advective mixing by “stretching and folding of the flow stream.” In tests, the 3D printed steel reactor demonstrated its capability of producing the intended synthetic substance with “excellent purity” after less than two minutes of reaction time in a temperature setting of 65 °C.

“We expect that additive manufacturing and related direct digital manufacturing technologies, in combination with computational chemical reaction and fluid dynamics simulation, will play a fundamental role in the design of next-generation, continuous flow microreactors,” added Kappe.

Currently, CC FLOW is continuing work on its 3D printed reactors and is even exploring the potentials of high-performance ceramics in the field through a partnership with Lithoz, an Austrian ceramic 3D printing company.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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