Chemical Processing

NRI’s work in chemical processing includes contributions to microfluidic chemistry and reactive distillation.

Microfluidic Chemistry

In traditional laboratory chemistry, it is extremely common to use wide ranges of temperature and pressure in a glassware system or stepwise procedure. Accordingly, traditional laboratory chemistry system or process involves localized ranges of temperature and pressure. Further, the degree of temperatures employed can be quite high and quite low, and similarly the degree of pressures employed can be quite high and quite low. In contrast, in microfluidic systems it is difficult if not impractical to localize wide variations in temperature and pressure. Accordingly, microfluidic systems (particularly complex ones) are typically directed to protein chemistry where uniform temperature and pressure environments are naturally provided.

However, for a number of reasons (both obvious material limitations and more subtle reasons, such as implications of ratios of volumes to surface area) photochemistry and electrochemistry are well-suited for microfluidic systems (particularly complex microfluidic systems). In NRI’s approach to microfluidic chemical systems, photochemistry (and some less-appreciated aspects of electrochemistry) involves the world of excited state chemistry which is gaining new appreciation as to its potentials in chemical synthesis. Excited state molecules and atoms have very different redox properties and are better electron donors and acceptors than those in ground-state. Transitions to excited states move electrons into higher orbitals and thus change aspects of the geometry in which electrons and orbitals interact and intermesh. For example, the Woodman-Hoffman rules partition pericyclic chemical reactions that can only occur in excited states from chemical reactions that can only occur in thermally-activated states. Promising excited-state electron transfer and related reactions are also potential valuable players (see for example Progress in Inorganic Chemistry, vol. 30). Additionally, although there can be limitations and electrode lifetime considerations, electrochemical synthesis can also be readily incorporated into microfluidic frameworks. These can be combined with photochemistry infrastructure to implement photoelectrochemical/electrophotochemical synthesis reactions. NRI’s microfluidic chemistry approaches provide for multiple-step (as well as “single-pot”) synthesis and chemical processes, and software libraries for the operation of such multistep chemical processes can be readily constructed. Further, by preselecting families of moieties suitable for use in such a microfluidic chemical processor, synthon/retrosynthesis methods can be added to an overall user-applications software-library framework.

Further, a microfluidic system comprising LEDs and electrochemistry electrodes can readily also include photodetectors and measurement electronics, and thus the NRI approach also supports including photoanalytic {colorimetric, fluorescent, photospectropic, etc.} and electroanalytic {voltammetric (including amperometric), coulometric, potentiometric, etc.} methods.

Additionally, NRI has combined microfluidic systems with biochemical sensor arrays and protein chemistry, and continues active research in these areas – see Biochemical/Chemical Sensors and Sensor-Array Systems.

Further, NRI has made many other innovations in microfluidic systems and continues active research in that area – see Microfluidic and Lab-On-A-Chip Systems.

Reactive Distillation

NRI’s earlier (2007-2010) R&D work in reactive distillation includes:

  • specialized modular laboratory glassware and instrumentation for use with modeling software for scale-up emulation,
  • controllable multiple-mode, controllable variable-configuration, and controllable-parameter distillation trays,
  • introduction of the notion of tray configuration modulation to the control of reactive distillation dynamics,
  • applications of bilinear system models to the control of reactive distillation dynamics,
  • applications of self-organization models to the control of reactive distillation dynamics.

Issued Patents

TitlePatent NumberApplication NumberPriority DatesPDFText OnlyRelated Patents
Modular reactive distillation emulation elements integrated with instrumentation, control, and simulation algorithms
8,935,84712/882,91809/17/2009PDFText Chemical Processing
Chemical synthesis and analysis via integrated, sequential and series-parallel photochemical and other chemical processes for microfluidic, lab-on-a-chip, and green-chemistry applications 8,877,14314/287,18102/11/2010PDFText Chemical Processing
Chemical synthesis and analysis via integrated or sequential photochemical and electrochemical processes for use in microfluidic, lab-on-a-chip, and green-chemistry applications
8,734,73212/931,86702/11/2010PDFText Chemical Processing

Pending Patents

TitlePublication NumberApplication NumberPriority DatesPDFText OnlyRelated Patents

Pending Unpublished Applications

TitleApplication NumberPriority DatesRelated Patents
Chemical Synthesis and Analysis Via Integrated, Sequential and Series-Parallel Photochemical and Electrochemical Processes for Microfluidic, Lab-On-A-Chip, and Green-Chemistry Applications
Chemical Processing