Microreactors – An Overview

Microreactors use small internal dimensions, ranging from 10-500μm, to manipulate and control fluids in a controlled environment. Microreactors can be divided into two classes: chip microreactors and microcapillary microreactors. The chip-type microreactors are most commonly used because the offer several advantages over the microcapillary type microreactors, such as easy control and integration of multiple processes.

Microreactors can be produced from a variety of materials such as glass, quartz, silicon, metals, and polymers. Glass is the most commonly used material since it is chemically inert and transparent. These properties of glass microreactors allows researchers to visually observe the microchannels and the reactions occurring therein.

Benefits of Microreactors

There are many benefits offered by microreactors, not least of which is the shrinking of the reactor size. At smaller scales, new physical phenomena can be observed and utilized as a positive trigger for many reactions.

Fast Mixing and Mass Transfer

Any reduction in microchannel dimensions reduces diffusion limitations of the enzyme and substrates, and mixing takes place by molecular diffusion. Therefore, a concentration gradient can be avoided. This is especially important for the reaction systems in which active site of the enzyme and the substrate are very distant. Exploiting the benefits of reduced microchannel size, limitations of the effective reaction rate can be avoided.

High Surface-to-Volume Ratio

Specific surfaces of the microchannel (from 10 000 to 50 000 m2/m3) are significantly higher than those of traditional macroreactor systems (usually around 100 and 1000 m2/m3), which as a consequence have a great effect on mass, momentum and energy transfer in the system. In biotechnology, besides the influence on mass transfer and its benefits explained previously, this is important for reactions performed by enzymes whose activity depends on the temperature. Due to high surface-to-volume ratio, heat transfer is very efficient, making it possible to regulate reaction temperatures in the system by very effective heat removal.

Laminar Flow

Laminar Flow favors control and modelling of a reaction. Since modelling of biotransformations is typically complex, the use of laminar flow technology makes the process much simper. Laminar flow aslo provides high surface-to-volume ratio and interface areas.

Environmentally Friendly

Since the reactions are conducted at a micro scale in microreactors, the byproduct of reactions is smaller. Combined with high productivity and conversion rates in microreactors, these systems generate a reduction in the total amount of waste, thus making it environmentally friendly. Furthermore, due to the aforementioned high surface-to-volume ratio, the transfer of heat is very efficient, leading to less energy consumption, again resulting in environmental benefits.

Citrogene: Microreactor Engineers

Citrogene is the leading manufacturer of microreactor systems. Our proprietary systems allow for custom microreactor design submission to be engineered precisely to meet specific needs. Contact Citrogene today to learn more about our microreactor manufacturing process.