The aim of this project area is to develop reactor components that are able to detect the local process conditions in situ and respond by changing the geometry, flow conditions, heat fluxes, etc. in order to optimally adjust the reactor.
In Area A, the most critical reaction conditions will be detected like spatial
pressure distribution (channelling or blockage),
temperature distribution (hot spots),
concentration distribution (dead zones, mass transfer limitations),
hold-up distribution (maldistribution of phase boundaries),
distribution of catalyst state (poor catalyst performance)
moisture distribution (overwetting)
without influencing the conditions themselves (in situ measurements), with high temporal and spatial resolution and under industrial reaction conditions.To handle the above-mentioned unfavourable local conditions, a local adjustment needs to be enabled like
adaptation of flow guiding geometries (e.g. baffles, structures)
accessibility of catalytic sites (e.g. surface texture, wettability)
adaptation of electrical charge (e.g. H2 generation by electrolysis)
adaptation of heating or cooling (e.g. endothermic/exothermic reaction)
feed or removal of substances (e.g. stripping gas, in situ product removal)
with great robustness against harsh environmental conditions (temperature, pressure, attack by organic solvents, scaling, fouling, leaching).
Projects of Area A
Below you will find an overview of all individual projects and a brief description, which are assigned to Area A.
Project A01: Stimuli-responsive polymers for self-regulating reactors: From basic phenomena to reactor design
This project focuses on the experimental and theoretical development of stimuli-responsive materials and their integration in tailored SMART 3D-printed chemical reactors with special focus on inherent control and actuation. Stimuli response of the materials in different reaction conditions will be studied. Thereby the reversible phase changes of the gels in term of its thermodynamics and kinetics will be described. The investigation will culminate in the fabrication and operation of an autonomous reactor module driven by the progression of the reaction and the shift in polymer-medium affinities in order to establish a proof-of-principle for this novel concept.
Project A02: Quantitative real-time 3D electrical impedance tomography of multiphase reactors
Project A02 develops the methodology of quantitative, real-time, 3D Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT) for process monitoring in the SMART multiphase reactor for catalytic hydrogenolysis of glycerol. In A02, EIT will be combined with synchronized capillary sampling of multiphase flows, converting impedance data into process variables like gas-holdup, bubble size distribution and phase flow rates. An EIT measurement cell will be built featuring a higher number of electrodes (100-400) than existing systems (32) for performing EIT over a frequency range (100 kHz-1 MHz) on water/glycerol/propanediol/hydrogen flows at temperatures up to 250°C and 50 bar H2 pressure. Tailored measurement electronics and reconstruction algorithms will be developed.
Project A03: Surface-functionalised nanoporous solids: Towards responsive materials for SMART reactors with adjustable fluid adsorption, transport and molecular hydrogen sensorics
This project aims at the development of a multifunctional porous material system with controllable adsorption, fluid transport as well as integrated hydrogen sensing. The material design employs a hybrid sandwich structure integrating nanoporous silicon (np-Si) and nanoporous gold (np-Au) with tailorable pore size and surface functionalisation of pore walls. The stimuli-responsive np-Si/np-Au hybrid will be evaluated as a building block for SMART reactors in form of (i) protective layers for enzymatic reactions in mixed solvents and (ii) selective adsorbents with dual size-exclusion and specific modes of action.
Project A04: Self-regulating enhanced surfaces for autonomously operated bioprocesses
This project focuses on the development of microsystem substrates and the integration of smart materials enabling enhanced surfaces for bioprocesses. The enzymatic cofactor regeneration of NAD to NADH by hydrogenase using in situ generated H2 will be taken as a model reaction. This model reaction will be realised in a microsystem carrier with integrated electrodes and optical waveguides enabling space-resolved biocatalytic reaction sequences with controllable individual steps. Our novel approach of combining 3D manufacturing with microsystems technology will pave the ground for a new generation of adaptive components for future SMART bioreactors.
Project A05: Tailored functional electrode structures for SMART bioreactors
New carbon foam electrodes will be developed based on a ceramic template CVD process. By tailoring a porous microstructure for optimal microorganism activity and biofilm growths measured by small flow cell reactors for rapid testing of small electrode samples. To propose generic rules for the prediction of microbe electrode interactions, we will elucidate the molecular basis of the cellular response to the different materials using transcriptomic analyses. With a promising subset of materials, we aim for a first upscaling step in a plug flow reactor system with a reactor volume of up to 5 litres.
Project A06: Development of novel, highly active, and selective multifunctional carbon nanotube-supported catalysts for the chemical hydrogenolysis of glycerol to 1,2 propanediol
In this project, CNT-supported catalysts for hydrogenolysis are developed and optimised. First, the multifunctional carbon nanotube-supported catalyst is optimized with respect to its activity by incorporating additional transition metals. The application and fabrication of CNT forests on glass will be investigated and adjusted in parallel. Subsequently, this synthesis method is applied to 3D-printed metal surfaces, which serve as support material for the catalyst. The resulting catalyst will then be subjected to in-depth reaction engineering studies. Continuous characterization of the obtained products will be carried out during the whole project.
Project A07: Highly integrated sensors for in-line detection of granulation state in fluidised bed reactors
In project A07 novel Lagrangian sensor particles will be developed, which allow the measurement of temperature, humidity and applied coating layer thickness during fluidized bed spray granulation based on impedance spectroscopy. The first prototype is of 25 mm size, whereby further miniaturization to 5 mm will be achieved by designing and fabricating an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). Particle position will be measured by a magnetic particle tracking setup, which is for the first time adapted to a fluidized bed spray granulation process.
Project A08: Lagrangian devices with a validated model in multi-particle tracking
Project A08 will develop Lagrangian devices that can function as sensors and actuators and are substantially smaller than existing Lagrangian sensors. To enable accurate tracking of multiple particles, we will integrate sensor readings from the devices with a newly developed real-time model for their trajectories. This will deliver a high fidelity tracking mechanism that is robust and can cope with issues like noise, missing or ambiguous data and other adverse effects. Ultimately, this will allow the sensors to provide a comprehensive view of the internal state of a chemical reactor and enable their use for closed-loop control.