Intensification of slow reversible chemical transformation: carboxylation of resorcinol as a case study
Conjugated kinetic and thermodynamic modeling is suggested as a suitable approach to identify a novel process window (NPW) for the intensification of slow reversible reactions. The aqueous Kolbe-Schmitt synthesis of beta-resorcylic acid is taken as a model. The potential of operating at high pressure (P) and temperature (T) is evaluated in order to reduce the characteristic reaction time (t(r)) and increase the specific productivity. For the first time, a reliable kinetic model for this reaction is derived from batch experiments. Based on this model, an NPW of P =10 bars, T=453 K is determined for a continuous reactor operated at a residence time of 28 s. It is predicted that the specific productivity can be increased by a factor of 100 with a 4.2 times less concentrated KHCO3 solution, as compared to a conventional batch process, if the reaction is kinetically controlled. The model prediction is experimentally validated with a continuously operated milli-reactor equipped by SMXS mixer elements (Sulzer Chemtech, Switzerland) ensuring a fast mixing (characteristic mixing time similar to 4.10(-2) s). The milli-reactor renders exclusively beta-resorcylic acid (selectivity 100%) and confirms process intensification (PI) of two orders of magnitude as compared to conventional batch operation.