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Intensification of processes through microtechnology

Intensification of processes using microtechnology is an innovative concept in the creation of chemical products and specialties, mainly for pharmaceutical products, foods and cosmetics, since these processes involve the use of a new generation of equipment and their respective manufacturing technologies. In this new concept, the processes use modular reaction systems and separation processes, which consist of sequential modular systems of miniaturized equipment. The effect is similar to that of installing a large group of small production systems operating in parallel, and the industrial capacity is determined by the number of basic units.

Process miniaturization offers several advantages over conventional processes, such as:

Processing continuity:
miniaturized processes allow for changes from batch processing to continuous processing, with 24 hour production, resulting in the improved use of raw materials and reduction of production costs.

Easy scale change:
process scale-up is much easier and faster than in conventional processes since, in addition to avoiding the pilot scale testing stage, scale-up is achieved by increasing the number of basic production units.

Chemical process improvements: miniaturization of chemical reactors allows for precise control of the reaction environment, enabling continuous production with better characteristics, such as greater process control and consequent reduction of reaction sub-products; better use of raw materials; decreased use of additives; increase in product purity; reduction of separation costs and of energy losses and process effluents.

New or improved products:
process intensification through miniaturization enables the creation of products which cannot be safely produced or controlled in other ways, due to very high reaction ratios, highly exothermal reactions or dangerous reagents. Due to the size of the reactors, work can be carried out under more controlled conditions.

Increased Safety:
miniaturized processes have safer characteristics, such as lower total volume of potentially harmful materials and more precise control of very rapid or dangerous reactions.

Energy and Environmental Benefits:
many applications of process intensification offer opportunities for energy savings (50% in the case of micromixers) and environmental benefits, especially in terms of sustainable development.

Aseptic products: manufacture in miniaturized systems allows the use of sterilizable materials, which reduces the risk of contamination.

Easy maintenance allied to cost reduction:
due to its modularity, maintenance may be performed by replacing a defective module without stopping the other modules; this approach therefore reduces maintenance costs and losses resulting from forced stoppages.

Reduction in capital costs: due to their modular approach, these systems represent a substantial reduction in capital invested in buildings, equipment support structures, assembly and instrumentation, which can reduce the costs of insurance policies since many of these systems are intrinsically safe.

Technology that allows for integration
: the multilayer ceramic technology (LTCC) employed in the production of microsystems allows for the integration of sensors, actuators and electronics to perform process control functions, reducing the overall cost of instrumentation of the production system.

In this area, IPT focuses on the following aspects:

  • Systems for generating single and double emulsions, using microfluid techniques
  • Miniaturized systems for obtaining micro- and nanoparticles
  • Continuous flow static micromixers
  • Chemical microreactors for various processes
  • Continuous flow microseparators
  • Continuous flow precipitators
  • Micro heat exchangers
  • Physical and electrochemical microsensors