Reactor analysis and design and process intensification

The diversification of the natural resources for the production of chemicals, energy and energy carriers is a reality and requires the development of novel types of reactors and processes. Nevertheless, coal, gas oil and natural gas will remain to be important for decades to come. Challenges in the conversion of gas oil are found in the use of increasingly heavy or lower quality oil fractions and in the increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Novel technologies are developed that allow reducing the cost and energy requirements of important gas oil conversion processes. Natural gas becomes an increasingly important feedstock. A first step in the conversion of natural gas into chemicals is the production of synthesis gas. Novel technologies allowing to increase the capacity of existing plants and to reduce the cost and energy requirements of new plants are therefore being developed. A major challenge is found in reducing CO2 emissions, requiring the development of technologies that facilitate CO2 capture. Chemical Looping technologies, such as autothermal Chemical Looping Reforming of natural gas, are studied in this context. With Cranfield University (UK), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati (India), and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CMERI) (New Dehli, India), IMAP is involved in the Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme "International Collaboration on Computational Modeling of Fluidized Bed Systems for Clean Energy Technologies" (iComFluid).

Biomass is considered an alternative and CO2 neutral natural resource. The conversion of biomass into valuable chemicals and energy carriers is, however, challenging. IMAP and TFL are involved in developing thermal and biochemical processes for the conversion of biomass. Technologies for efficient biomass drying and torrefaction are developed. The use of solar energy requires the deposition of thin films, e.g. in the production of solar cells. IMAP is involved in developing novel reactor technologies for thin film deposition, allowing to improve the efficiency and the production cost of solar cells.

Process Intensification is a guiding principle in the development of eco-efficient processes and processes for the production of specific high-quality materials. In the context of methane steam reforming, tubular structured catalytic reactors are developed that aim at reducing the pressure drop and improving the catalyst efficiency and the heat transfer between the process gas and the tubular wall of the reactor. A wide variety of fluidized processes, e.g. catalytic cracking of gas oil or biomass drying/torrefaction, can be significantly intensified by fluidizing in a high-G field. High-G fluidization allows intensifying interfacial transfer of species, heat and momentum. The latter allows reducing the formation of bubbles and the fluidization of cohesive particles. Different technologies for high-G fluidization are studied and specific applications developed, e.g. the coating of cohesive powders for food/feed and pharmaceutical applications. The use of alternative forms of energy is also addressed. The characteristics of plasma reactors, e.g. for the deposition of thin films, are investigated in this context.

Research in IMAP focuses on the fundamental understanding of the behavior of chemical reactors and processes through experimental studies and modeling. Lab-scale experimental studies aim at obtaining accurate data for model development and validation. Mono- and multiphase Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) models are developed, including interfacial transfer phenomena and detailed reaction kinetics. The fundamental models developed aim at facilitating reactor and process scale-up and optimization. Scale-up and commercialization of specific applications are typically studied in collaboration with an industrial partner.