Single-phase fluid flow distribution and heat transfer in microstructured reactors

E.V. Rebrov, J.C. Schouten, M.H.J.M. Croon, de

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Single-phase microreactors and micro-heat-exchangers have been widely used in industrial and scientific applications over the last decade. In several cases, operation of microreactors has shown that their expected efficiency cannot be reached either due to non-uniform distribution of reactants between different channels or due to flow maldistribution between individual microreactors working in parallel. The latter problem can result in substantial temperature deviations between different microreactors resulting in thermal runaway which could arise from an exothermic reaction. Thus advances in the understanding of heat transfer and fluid flow distribution continue to be crucial in achieving improved performance, efficiency and safety in microstructured reactors used for different applications. This paper presents a review of the experimental and numerical results on fluid flow distribution, heat transfer and combination thereof, available in the open literature. Heat transfer in microchannels can be suitably described by standard theory and correlations, but scaling effects (entrance effects, conjugate heat transfer, viscous heating, and temperature-dependent properties) have often to be accounted for in microsystems. Experiments with single channels are in good agreement with predictions from the published correlations. The accuracy of multichannel experiments is lower due to flow maldistribution. Special attention is devoted to theoretical and experimental studies on the effect of a flow maldistribution on the thermal and conversion response of catalytic microreactors. The review concludes with a set of design recommendations aimed at improving the reactor performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1374-1393
Number of pages20
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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