Plug flow reactor (PFR), also known as the tubular reactor, consists of a hollow pipe or tube through which reactants flow. A plug flow reactor is a tube wrapped around an acrylic mold, which is encased in a tank. Water at a controlled temperature is circulated through the tank to maintain constant reactant temperature. The plug flow reactor is widely utilized in the chemical industry whenever an exothermic or explosive reaction is needed to be carried out through the conventional way. The plug flow reactor is easy to maintain, since there are no moving parts, offers a high conversion rate per reactor volume, its tubes are easy to clean, and is suitable for large capacity processes. The PFR model is used to predict the behaviour of chemical reactors of tubular design, so that key reactor variables, such as the dimensions of the reactor, can be estimated.
The diameter of a PFR ranges from a few centimeters to several meters. The choice of diameter is based on construction cost, pumping cost, the desired residence time, and heat transfer needs. Typically, long and small diameter tubes are used for high reaction rates and larger diameter tubes are utilized for slow reaction rates. Plug flow reactors have following advantages such as large-scale production, fast reactions, homogeneous or heterogeneous reactions, and continuous production.
In terms of application, the plug flow reactor market can be classified into chemicals, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and others. Chemicals is anticipated to be the dominant segment of the plug flow reactors market. Synthesis of ammonia, and the oxidation of sulfur dioxide to sulfur trioxide, and oxidation of the nitrogen compounds are some processes that utilize plug flow reactors. Petrochemical is another dominant segment of the plug flow reactor market. The plug flow reactor is widely employed in the gasoline production and oil cracking. Utilization of PFRs in the pharmaceutical industry offers several advantages to drug development and scale up of processes. Tubular reactors can also be utilized as bioreactors or for small-scale production. Tubular bioreactors are employed for the production of algae. The algae is then compressed and dried and can be used as feed for a biodiesel reactor.
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