Loughborough University
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Design and additive manufacture for flow chemistry

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posted on 2016-06-13, 11:50 authored by Andrew J. Capel
This thesis aims to investigate the use of additive manufacturing (AM) as a novel manufacturing process for the production of milli-scale chemical reaction systems. Five well developed additive manufacturing techniques; stereolithography (SL), selective laser melting (SLM), fused deposition modelling (FDM), ultrasonic additive manufacture (UAM) and selective laser sintering (SLS) were used to manufacture a number of miniaturised flow devices which were tested using a range of organic and inorganic reactions. SL was used to manufacture a range of functioning milli-scale flow devices from Accura 60 photoresin, with both simple and complex internal channel networks. These devices were used to perform a range of organic and inorganic reactions, including aldehyde and ketone functional group interconversions. Conversion of products within these reactors, were shown to be comparable to commercially available milli-scale coil reactors. More complex designs, which allowed SL parts to be integrated to existing flow and analytical instrumentation, allowed us to develop an automated reaction analysis and optimisation platform. This platform allowed precise control over the reaction conditions, including flow rate, temperature and reagent composition. We also designed a simplex type reaction optimisation software package that could input data in the form of reaction conversions, peak intensities, and thermocouple data, and generate a new set of optimal reaction conditions. SL parts which incorporated embedded analytical components were also manufactured, which allowed us to perform inline reaction analysis as a feedback method for input into the optimisation platform. Stereolithography was shown to be a highly versatile manufacturing method for designing and producing these flow devices, however the process was shown to be still limited by the range of processable materials currently commercially available. SLM was also used to manufacture a number of functioning milli-scale flow devices from stainless steel and titanium, which had simplistic internal channel designs of diameters ranging from 1 to 3 mm. Again, SLM parts were manufactured which incorporated embedded analytical components, which could be integrated into an automated reaction platform. These devices, unlike parts produced via SL, could be attached to heating platforms to allow us to perform high temperature reactions. This control over the reaction temperature formed an essential part of the reaction optimisation platform. These parts were again used to perform a ketone functional group interconversion. Internal structures of these SLM parts were also visualised via micro computed tomography (µCT or microCT) scanning as well as optical microscopy. FDM was used throughout the project as an inexpensive method of prototyping parts which were to be manufactured via more expensive manufacturing processes. This prototyping allowed the optimisation of intricate design features, such as the manufacture of an inline spectroscopic flow cell for integration with a commercially available LC system. FDM was also proposed as a customisable approach to designing and manufacturing flow devices with embedded components, however the current limitations in build resolution and materials choices severely limited the use of FDM for this application. UAM was also proposed as a novel manufacturing process whereby the build process would allow discrete components to be embedded directly into a flow channel. This was demonstrated by embedding a type-k thermocouple across a 2 mm channel. The data from this thermocouple was monitored during a heated reaction, and used as a method of determining the exact reaction conditions the reaction medium was being exposed to. SLS was also proposed as a possible manufacturing method for milli-scale flow devices, however it proved difficult to remove un-sintered powder from parts with internal channel diameters as high as 5 mm. It was shown that this powder was forming a dense semi solid, due to the large degree of shrinkage upon cooling of the SLS parts, which was compressing the powder. More research into optimum processing conditions is required before SLS could be used for the production of intricate channel networks.


Loughborough University



  • Science


  • Chemistry


© Andrew James Capel

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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