Manufacturing News

CSIRO set to improve chemical manufacturing

CSIRO has launched its “FloWorks” Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry today in Clayton, Victoria.

The aim of FloWorks is to provide cutting-edge research into flow chemistry capability, making it more accessible to the chemical manufacturing industry.

Senior research scientist with CSIRO’s manufacturing sector and Director of the new centre, Dr Christian Hornung, said flow chemistry offers a cleaner, smarter and more efficient way of making chemicals.

“The benefits of using the flow process include reduced reaction times and plant space, which equate to less energy cost, more efficient processes, reduced waste and a much safer environment,” Dr Hornung said.

Contrary to traditional batch chemistry methods, starting materials are fed into a reactor where the chemical reaction takes place in a continuous stream, a method that in many cases has proven to be a more efficient and cost effective way of producing chemicals.

Multi-stage processing, which eliminates the need for manual handling of chemicals in between steps, greatly improves safety, while in-line purification makes the system more streamlined. Smart monitoring and on-line analysis is used to automate the manufacturing process.

Industry partner, Zoran Manev from Boron Molecular, uses flow chemistry at his Noble Park plant to manufacture fine chemicals for Australian and international pharmaceutical and materials science clients.

“CSIRO helped us integrate flow chemistry into our operations,” Manev said.

“We use our unit to develop a number of processes or convert them from batch to flow.

“Flow chemistry enables us to make purer molecules, so we have fewer side products and fewer issues when we scale up to manufacture from small scale to larger tonne lots.

“With flow we’re using far less solvents and energy and discarding far less waste material into the environment than we would otherwise,” he said.

FloWorks offers a unique, complete package all the way through development; from early discovery stages to industrial scale-up and tech transfer.

A purpose-built 410m2 facility will be housed at CSIRO’s Clayton site in Melbourne’s south east. Incorporating all of CSIRO’s flow chemistry equipment, its capabilities will range from small-scale discovery tools to large-scale industrial reactors.

Dr Hornung said the new collaborative space would generate greater engagement with industry and other research bodies.

“I see flow technology eventually being taken up by chemical manufacturers in all areas,” he said.

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