The important role of pressure in supercritical fluid process development revealed by reaction calorimetry
The technique of reaction calorimetry adapted for use with reactions in supercritical fluids was used to study some safety aspects of the free-radical dispersion polymerization of methyl methacrylate in scCO2. The reaction heat rate profile was found to change very little once the dispersion was well formed. Furthermore, it provided valuable information for the calculation of the maximum temperature attainable by the synthesis reaction (MTSR) in the case of a hypothetical cooling system failure. Finally, a series of failure scenarios demonstrated the importance of the pressure as far as the safety of the process is concerned, due to the particularity of the supercritical state of the solvent. It was found that the acceleration phase of the reaction is the most critical period, since a cooling system failure during this phase leaves very little time before the pressure overcomes the operational limit of the equipment and results in an accident. Hence, the utility and the importance of defining the reaction heat rate profile become obvious and several safety features have to be taken into consideration when designing a SCF process.