Solar-Driven Autonomous Chemical Mini-Plant

Solar-Driven Autonomous Chemical Mini-Plant

Author: ChemSusChem

The increasing worldwide energy demand and the environmental issues generated by fossil fuels consumption cause a need for more sustainable technologies. In this context, the chemical industry is heading towards flow chemistry to reduce the power use and volume of solvent consumed by existing production plants. Coupled with photochemistry, microflow synthesis is advantageous thanks to the improved light irradiation of the reaction mixture. Since solar irradiation can enable photochemical reactions, it makes sense to use this abundant energy source.

Timothy Noël, University of Amsterdam and Eindhoven University of Technology, both The Netherlands, and colleagues have developed a solar-driven chemical mini-plant that uses a luminescent solar concentrator photo-microreactor (LSC-PM) to harvest and direct the photon flux to the reactions channels. The reactor panel contains perfluoroalkoxy alkane (PFA) tubing surrounded by polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) doped with the commercial fluorescent dye (Lumogen F Red 305). The reactor is fed by an HPLC pump, and a mass flow controller (MFC) is used to control an incoming oxygen flow. The team used the oxidation of L-methionine to the corresponding sulfoxide as a model reaction.

To account for variations in solar irradiance and passing clouds, a responsive control system rapidly adapts the flow of reagents to ensure constant product quality. By placing solar panels behind the reactor to use the transmitted fraction of the solar irradiation as a power source, the setup becomes self-sufficient and fully operational off-grid. The solar energy that is not used for chemical production can be used, e.g., to drive pumps, sensors, and the regulation system. The platform is environmentally friendly, low-cost, and versatile, making it applicable for a wide variety of photochemical syntheses.



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