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Lab Scale Continuous Flow Chemistry

Many chemists across all industries and academia are switching to continuous flow techniques for their chemistry. In this article, Neal Munyebvu, Flow Chemistry Technical Specialist for the Syrris Support Team, tell us about his experience installing Asia Flow Chemistry Systems in sites worldwide. As he is in contact with the end-user, he encounters many different reactions, from anxiety to excitement.

If you’d like to get more familiar with flow chemistry before going in too deep, be sure to read our blog post about Flow Chemistry Basics & Key Elements.

Views from a nervous chemist:

In my role as Flow Chemistry Technical Specialist, I regularly install Asia Flow Chemistry Systems in sites around the world, and part of that process often involves running training sessions on flow chemistry and their new equipment. Whenever I find myself discussing flow chemistry with traditional batch chemists during these training sessions, their faces are often a mix of several emotions.

One of those emotions is nervousness – probably from having had to convince their lab professors, lab managers, and colleagues to invest in something different.

However, the overwhelming feeling is excitement and eagerness to know more and to figure out how they can transfer their current processes from batch to flow quickly, cheaply, and with as little effort required to learn how to get to grips with the equipment as possible.

A pump, tubes, and a mixing junction

Flow Chemistry

When you break it down, flow chemistry is not as scary a prospect as it might seem. Looking through schematics in journals, complex product brochures, and photos in your favourite chemistry magazine showing complicated industrial set-ups can make it look all too complicated. We understand that – our R&D100 Award-winning Asia Flow Chemistry System has 15 different modules to choose from!

All you really need to do ‘flow chemistry’ is a pump, some tubes, and a mixing junction.

Adapting continuous flow chemistry to your needs

However, as chemists, we want the best possible reactions. Just putting these parts together isn’t enough – we need smoother, more continuous flow. We need our reactions to be heated or cooled for varying amounts of time and most importantly we want them to be safe.

How are we supposed to configure our system to incorporate these conditions as easily as possible? Ideally, the most limiting part of our experiment should be the chemistry and not the capability of the equipment.

With the Asia Flow Chemistry System these conditions can be added to, or removed from, your flow chemistry system in the same way as creating or deleting a shortcut on your PC:

  • Want temperature Control? – Add an Asia Heater
  • Want to run reactions under pressure? – Add an Asia Pressure Controller
  • Want temperature but not pressure control? – Just add an Asia Heater and take away the Pressure controller
  • Want to simply add a Syringe Pump to an existing system? – That’s fine. The flexibility is a huge bonus for chemists who are looking for an easy way to re-configure their system in minutes.

Being safe in continuous flow

The safety aspect is something new users really want to understand. What extra precautions need to be taken compared to batch processes?

The answer is generally “nothing extra, just do the same as usual: a fume hood and a well-considered risk assessment”, but many chemists think I’m leaving something out.

The most sceptical of chemists struggle to believe it is just that easy and it really is. The confidence to start working with the equipment in the way they want is the biggest hump. After that, the actual chemistry part seems to come easy…

Despite the many benefits of Flow Chemistry, not all chemistry can be performed in continuous flow. If you are looking into flow chemistry systems, make sure you have a thorough look over every aspect of your processes.

Want to know more about Continuous Flow Chemistry? 

If you’re considering implementing continuous flow techniques into your lab, or even if you’re already working in flow but looking to improve your results, contact our Sales Team today. They will be happy to help you with all your lab needs.

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