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Rotating chemical reactor on Nature’s front page

Prof. Bartosz Grzybowski from the PAS Institute of Organic Chemistry and the UNIST University in South Korea together with his team have proven that one rotating reactor can replace complex laboratory devices. With the help of centrifugal force, liquids of different densities placed in the reactor are separated, due to changes in rotational speed, and undergo a series of chemical reactions. Photograph of this innovative solution have been published on the cover of the latest issue of Nature journal.

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For years, scientists have been searching for solutions that would make it possible to carry out a series of multi-step, complex chemical reactions without human supervision. Thanks to the innovative solution proposed by Prof. Grzybowski and his team, there will be no need to engage engineers to control the course of processes, as the reactions will follow one another.

How a rotating reactor works

Reactor’s working principle is quite simple, namely, liquids of different densities are placed in a container that rotates around its axis. A centrifugal force acts on the liquids and causes them to separate. This can be seen as a series of concentric, multi-colored rings. The lightest liquids will have a smaller diameter and will be arranged closer to the center of this centrifuge, and the densest ones will form large rings closer to its periphery. The layers of liquid can get very thin – 150 micrometers or even thinner. A more rapid transport and efficient mixing within and between layers can be achieved by decelerating and accelerating the system.

Possible appliactions

The researchers emphasize that "concentric liquid reactors could become a useful addition to the toolbox of process chemistry at small and medium-scale laboratories."

In addition to Prof. Grzybowski the following individuals were involved in the work on the reactor: Mirosław Dygas, Barbara Mikulak-Klucznik, Tomasz Klucznik from the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Olgierd Cybulski, Marta Siek, Yaroslav I. Sobolev from IBS Center for Soft and Living Matter, UNIST University in South Korea and Seong Yeol Choi and Robert J. Mitchell from the Department of Life Sciences, UNIST University in South Korea.

Read the full article Concentric liquid reactors for chemical synthesis and separation in Nature journal.