Types Of Reactors And Their Applications

Hey there! In this post, we’ll talk about reactors, their types, and applications with illustrations. Download the PDF at the end. Now, let’s dive into the world of valves.

What are Reactors?

Reactors, essential in chemical processes, facilitate chemical reactions. It is often referred as the heart of the chemical industry. They play a crucial role in transforming raw materials into various products. Also they are important in diverse industries like chemicals, polymers, dyes, pigments, and pharmaceuticals.

The selection of reactor types depends on the nature of the reaction and raw materials. This post explores different reactor types in the chemical industry, providing examples. Let’s dive in!

Main Types of Reactors

The chemical industry uses various reactor types. Later in this article, we’ll discuss selection criteria, addressing when and which reactor type to use. Following are the main types of Reactors:

#1 Batch Reactor

A batch reactor is a closed vessel for chemical reactions, receiving all reactants at once. It includes an agitator for efficient mixing, often equipped with cooling coils for exothermic processes. The reactor can heat the mixture for endothermic processes. Being non-steady and transient, its conversion varies over time, but it offers uniformity. Widely used in pharmaceuticals, batch reactors are also employed for solutions like dosing chemicals.

Batch Reactor
  • Adaptability: Batch reactors offer significant flexibility.
  • Versatility: They can chemically react with a diverse range of reactants within the same reactor.
  • Efficiency with Multiple Products: Batch reactors prove valuable when a reaction generates a substantial number of products.
  • Kinetics Research: Widely utilized in laboratories for studying the kinetics of liquid-phase reaction systems.
  • Labor-Intensive Operation: Batch reactors pose a disadvantage as they demand substantial labor for continuous tasks such as charging reactants, discharging products, and cleaning the reactor.

Application of Batch Reactor

These reactors are employed to produce compounds for reactions. In the caustic chlorine industry, a batch of sodium sulfite is made and used to dose brine, eliminating free chlorine at the dichlorination outlet.

#2 Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor (C.S.T.R)

Continuous stirred tank reactors, also known as mixed-flow reactors, employ a closed tank with an agitator for continuous reactions. Unlike batch reactors, they operate continuously, with reactants entering at a specific mass flow rate, reacting based on the reactor’s space-time, and producing products. The steady-state nature ensures conversion independence of time, and the agitator maintains uniform concentration, making the extent of conversion location-independent.

Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor
  • High Production Capacity: A significant advantage of implementing a C.S.T.R. in industries is its capability to produce a large volume of items.
  • Continuous Operation: Being a continuous steady-state reactor allows it to operate continuously for extended periods, running for hours on end.
  • Size Limitation: One drawback of a C.S.T.R. is its requirement for a large reactor, making it unsuitable for reactions with very slow kinetics.
  • Cost Considerations: The production and operating costs of the reactor may render it unfeasible. In such cases, a batch reactor is employed.

Application of Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor

C.S.T.R. reactors find extensive use in the chemical industry, especially in continuous plants.

#3 Plug Flow Reactor (P.F.R)

A Plug Flow Reactor (P.F.R.), also known as a Continuous Tubular Reactor (C.T.R.), works by pumping chemicals through a tube, leading to a chemical reaction. As the reagents move through the P.F.R., the reaction unfolds, creating a gradient in reaction rate. Starting with a high rate at the inlet, it gradually decreases as reagent concentrations drop and product concentrations rise.

Plug Flow Reactor
  • Space-Time and Conversion Efficiency: P.F.R. holds an advantage over C.S.T.R. concerning space time and conversion levels.
  • Compact Design: In contrast to C.S.T.R., P.F.R. boasts a relatively smaller volume, implying reduced space requirements. For a given reactor volume, P.F.R. achieves a higher conversion rate than C.S.T.R.
  • Efficient Use of Space: The P.F.R.’s reduced space requirements and higher conversion rate for a given volume contribute to its efficient use of space.
  • Kinetics Exploration: P.F.R. is commonly employed for studying the kinetics of gas phase catalytic processes.
  • Temperature Gradient Challenge: Conducting an exothermic reaction in a P.F.R. poses a drawback as controlling temperature gradients becomes challenging.
  • Higher Maintenance Costs: Compared to a C.S.T.R., a P.F.R. entails higher maintenance and operating costs.
  • Costly Shutdown and Cleaning: The shutdown and cleaning of this reactor can be expensive.

Application of Plug Flow Reactor

PFRs are commonly used in industries like chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and petrochemicals. They also play a key role in polymerization processes, including the production of materials like polyethylene and polypropylene.

#4 Semi-Batch Reactor

A semi-batch reactor handles both continuous and batch inputs and outputs, combining their processes. Raw materials and reactants are charged, and chemicals are added gradually during the reaction. Stirred by an agitator, the reactor maintains uniform composition and temperature. Jackets allow heating or cooling as needed for the chemical process.

Semi-Batch Reactor
  • Enhanced Control: Semi-batch reactors offer the ability to carry out multiple reactions, providing greater control over yield and selectivity.
  • Exothermic Reaction Flexibility: Particularly beneficial for exothermic reactions, as it permits the modification of the flow rate of the other reactant.
  • Scale-Up Costs: The semi-batch process, when scaled up, incurs significantly higher capital expenditures per unit compared to continuous process reactors (C.S.T.R. and P.F.R.).
  • Increased Labor Requirements: Scaling up the semi-batch process necessitates additional labor for tasks such as charging and discharging the reactor, as well as cleaning reactors and blades.

#5 Nuclear Reactor

A semi-batch reactor handles both continuous and batch inputs and outputs, combining their processes. Raw materials and reactants are charged, and chemicals are added gradually during the reaction. Stirred by an agitator, the reactor maintains uniform composition and temperature. Jackets allow heating or cooling as needed for the chemical process.

Nuclear Reactor

Application of Nuclear Reaction

Nuclear reactors serve essential roles in fundamental research, radioisotope manufacturing, radiography, neutron scattering, and material testing. They are vital resources for advanced training in nuclear technology, encompassing energy and other applications.

#6 Catalytic Reactor

Primarily powered by catalysts, as well as mass and heat transfer, these reactors find application in chemical synthesis, polymerization, hydrogen cracking, and various processes. They are commonly classified based on the movement pattern of catalysts, including Fixed Bed, Trickle Bed, and Fluidized Bed.

Fixed Bed Reactor

Utilized in individually catalyzed gas-phase processes, it can be constructed on either a single tube or multiple tubes, depending on requirements. Fixed Bed category includes popular reactor types like Packed Beds and Multi-tube reactors.

Fixed Bed Reactor

Trickle Bed

Trickle bed reactors utilize a solid-phase catalyst for gas-liquid reactions, primarily in hydrogenation processes. Liquid reactants descend from the top, interacting with the solid catalyst bed, while gas reactants enter from the cross-current direction to enhance contact.

Trickle Bed

Fluidized Bed Reactor

These reactors comprise a bed of solid particles supported by an upward-flowing gas or liquid with sufficient velocity to behave like a fluid. The reactor employed to investigate this phenomenon is known as a Fluidized Bed Reactor.

Fluidized Bed Reactor


That concludes the discussion on “Types of Reactors.” If there’s anything you think I missed or if you have any questions about the content, please feel free to let me know. If you found the article interesting, do share it with your friends. Thank you for the engaging discussion!

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