We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Flow Reactor?

By Paul Reed
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A flow reactor is a chemical process where raw materials are added to a reaction vessel, typically a series of tubes, to create products continuously. This is different from a batch process, where all the materials are added and reacted, then removed and processed. Flow reactions continue as long as raw materials are added at one end, and can be used for both liquids and gases.

The design of a flow reactor is typically a series of tubes inside a temperature-controlled shell. Heat or coolant can be added to the shell to provide temperature control of the reaction inside the tubes. The reactor can be constructed from metals, plastics or composites as needed to prevent the raw materials from attacking it.

Tube designs for a flow reactor can vary greatly depending on the desired reactions. Rarely are the tubes empty, because mixing will not occur in empty tubes; the materials will remain separated inside the tubes and not react. Coils of smaller tubes, small shapes called packing, or internal barriers called baffles are all used to mix the reactants, or raw materials, together.

Placing coiled tubing inside a flow reactor can help with mixing or heat transfer. Coils add distance for the chemicals to travel in the reaction section, providing more time for the chemical process to occur. Heating or cooling liquids can also be inside the coils, with the reactants outside, for better temperature control. Tube size, which changes the internal diameter or cross-section, can be varied to change reactant flow rates.

Tubes can be packed with various materials based on what reactions are needed. Some chemicals require a catalyst, a material that accelerates reactions without being used up in the process. Catalysts can be added to ceramic glass beads or other materials and packed in the tubes. Non-catalyst packing can also be used to help mix the reactants, which is often needed if heat or cooling is applied on the outside of the tubes. Without mixing, the material closest to the tube walls will be too hot or cold, which will affect product quality.

Baffles can vary greatly in design, but all help mixing by creating vortices, or swirls of turbulence inside the tube. They can be layers of mesh installed in the tubes, or grooves machined into the tube walls. Catalysts can also be coated onto baffle surfaces, providing reaction control in addition to mixing.

Flow reactor design also takes into account the reaction rate of the chemicals. The movement of chemicals through all tubes must be the same, or the finished product quality may be different from each tube. Designing the flow rates to gain plug flow conditions ensures a consistent product. Plug flow is a characteristic of tube design and flow rate control where the time reactants spend in the reactor is the same regardless of which tube is observed.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.