PhotoScale: Developing an innovative reactor for industrially relevant photocatalytic conversions

December 15, 2022

The Dutch Research Council NWO has awarded funding of a million euros for a cooperation between chemistry research groups at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), to develop an innovative reactor for photocatalytic conversions that are relevant to the pharmaceutical industry. The four-year research will be carried out in close cooperation with industry.

Led by Prof. John van der Schaaf at TU/e, the aim of the PhotoScale project is to develop a scalable, continuous-flow photochemical rotor-stator spinning disk reactor equipped with high intensity light sources. The research will be carried out in close cooperation with lighting company Signify and pharmaceutical company Janssen. At UvA, Prof. Timothy Noël will focus on developing photocatalytic reactions to be carried out in the reactor, in particular those relevant to the synthesis of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). The four-year project involves the appointment of two PhD students (one at each university), a postdoc researcher and a technician (both at TU/e).

Fulfilling the promise of photocatalytic conversions

Experimental spinning disk reactor used in earlier research. Photo: TU/e.

Photocatalytic, light-induced conversions have begun to transform the way pharmaceuticals are made, providing unprecedented levels of reactivity and selectivity. However, it remains quite a challenge to carry out these promising reactions at an industrially relevant scale. This is, amongst others, due to the relatively high operational cost of lighting and the attenuation of light in conventional reactors.

In PhotoScale, the researchers want to solve this by combining high intensity and energy-efficient light sources with the novel concept of a rotor-stator spinning disk reactor. With this they hope to boost the transition of photocatalytic transformations from laboratory settings into industrial production.

The project builds on earlier research that has already been published:

Chaudhuri, A.; Zondag, S. D. A.; Schuurmans, J. H. A.; van der Schaaf, J.; and Noël, T. Scale-Up of a Heterogeneous Photocatalytic Degradation Using a Photochemical Rotor–Stator Spinning Disk Reactor. Organic Process Research & Development 2022, 26 (4), 1279-1288 DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.2c00012

Chaudhuri, A.; Kuijpers, K. P. L.; Hendrix, R.; Hacking, J.; Shivaprasad, P.; Emanuelsson, E. A. C.; Noël, T. and Schaaf, J. van der. Process Intensification of Photochemical Oxidations Using a High Throughput Rotor-Stator Spinning Disk Reactor: A Strategy for Scale Up. Chemical Engineering Journal 2020, 400, 125875 DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2020.125875

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