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Zeolite Membrane Microreactors for Fine Chemical Synthesis

X. Zhang, S.M. Lai, K.F. Lam, K.L. Yeung and R. Martin-Aranda
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, CN

microreactor, zeolite, membrane

The performance of a membrane microreactor was tested and compared with that of microreactor, packed bed reactor (PBR) and packed bed membrane reactor (PBMR) for the Knoevenagel condensation reaction of benzaldehyde and ethyl cyanoacetate to produce ethyl-2-cyano-3-phenylacrylate. Cs-exchanged NaX faujasite zeolite was used as the base catalyst for this equilibrium-limited reaction. Hydrophilic zeolite membranes were employed in both membrane microreactor and PBMR for the selective removal of water byproduct from the reaction. The product yield per pass was low for the packed bed reactor. Higher yields were observed for the microreactor and PBMR, but the best performance belongs to the membrane microreactor, which displayed both supra-equilibrium conversion and better product purity. Analysis indicated that all water produced by the condensation reaction was completely removed and the membrane was operating below its capacity. This means that the performance of the membrane microreactor is limited mainly by the kinetics, now that both thermodynamic and mass transfer constraints were removed. A nearly fourfold increase in reaction conversion was obtained for the microreactor when CsNaX-NH2 catalyst was used instead of CsNaX.

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