Alkoxylation reactions typically couple a long chain alcohol and an epoxide, ethylene or propylene oxide, in the presence of a small amount of catalyst (normally a base like KOH) to accelerate the reaction. The product is an ether alcohol or polyether alcohol, these are commonly used as non-ionic surfactants. Reactions are very fast, but process times vary from a few seconds, in microflow setups, to >90 minutes in batch/CSTR.
These reactions are carried out at elevated temperature and high pressure (to keep epoxide in liquid phase). The reaction is highly exothermic and, in batch, requires careful addition of the reactants to avoid a runaway reaction.
NiTech’s patented continuous oscillatory baffled reactor has a high heat transfer surface area to process volume, which allows for high heat removal capacity. Coupled with efficient and intense mixing via the orifice baffles, heat and mass transfer rates are maximised, thus helping to avoid runaway reactions.