Design and Optimisation of a Microwave Reactor for Kilo-Scale Polymer Synthesis

A.J. Buttress, G. Hargreaves, A. Ilchev, T. Monti, A. Sklavounou, J. Katrib, P. Martin-Tanchereau, M.G. Unthank, D.J. Irvine, C.D. Dodds

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Current industrial production of polymer resins is generally undertaken in large multi-tonne stirred tank reactors. These are characterised by relatively slow heating and cooling cycles, resulting in long vessel cycle times and extended production campaigns. In this work we present a design for a hybrid microwave/oil jacket proof of concept system capable of producing up to 4.1 kg of polymer resin per batch. By exploiting rapid volumetric heating effects of microwave energy at 2.45GHz, we have optimised the synthetic regime, such that a 3.7 kg batch of polyester resin pre-polymer can be made in only 8 hours 20 minutes, with higher molecular weight (Mn 2,100) compared to the conventional process taking 22 hours 15 minutes (Mn 1,200), yielding an increase in synthesis rate of at least 265%. The increase in polymer molecular weight also suggests a higher conversion was achieved over a shorter time scale.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100022
Number of pages39
JournalChemical Engineering Science: X
Early online date6 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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