Go with FloWorks: opening our new Flow Chemistry Centre

By Ali Green

22 November 2016

New flow chemistry equipment.

Cleaner, safer, faster flow chemistry will eventually replace most traditional batch chemistry methods for Chemical manufacture.

Did you realise manufactured chemicals surround us every day? They are in the food we eat, our medicines, clothes, household products, cars and buildings…

Currently these chemicals are manufactured using classical batch methods – in other words, manufacturers manually combine chemicals in industrial sized vats, like the one below, to combine chemicals with different properties and functions to discover new materials.

An old flow chemistry vat.

Classical batch chemistry is the traditional method for manufacturing chemicals

Given this method has been around since before the industrial revolution, it may not come as a surprise to learn it does have its limitations.

It can be difficult for scaling up production. It can be inefficient – producing industrial waste. It can be unsafe, resulting in runaway reactions or even explosions. The equipment can take up a huge footprint in manufacturing plants, and it uses a lot of energy.

That’s why we’ve launched the FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry. Flow offers a cleaner, smarter, more controlled way of making chemicals.

Not only is flow chemistry a better solution, but the new method is set to play a key role in the future of chemical manufacturing in Australia and around the world.

The Centre will be located at our site in Clayton, Victoria and will incorporate some pretty cool equipment – from small-scale chemical discovery tools to large-scale industrial reactors. It will also act as a functional platform for prospective partners looking to jump into the world of flow chemistry.

Flow chemistry works by using pumps to deliver chemicals to a reactor, where chemical reaction takes place in a continuous stream.

Producing chemicals in a multi-stage ‘flow’ process removes the need for handling chemicals manually between manufacturing steps and reduces reaction times. The process can even be automated via smart monitoring and on-line analysis tools.

Flow’s much smaller footprint is another bonus, with flow chemistry equipment taking up considerably less space than its batch counterpart. Small scale flow chemistry reactors for example are around the size as a regular desktop PC!

All of these benefits equal less energy use, more efficient processes, reduced waste and a much safer environment.

The aim of our new FloWorks Centre is to make flow chemistry more accessible to the chemical manufacturing industry by providing a space where businesses can learn, test and adapt flow principles to their own chemical manufacturing needs. We can even advise them about the sort of equipment they’ll need!

The FloWorks centre will also facilitate cutting edge research into flow chemistry capability, proving a platform for us, and our research partners, to make exciting new discoveries.

We believe flow chemistry is the future of chemical manufacturing and it is just one of the many advanced manufacturing capabilities our team is working at the cutting edge of. You can find out more about our work in this area on our website.