UK Catalysis Hub


Novel catalytic distillation processes for a sustainable chemical industry

Dr. Anton Kiss (Manchester/Twente) 

Reactive distillation is an efficient process intensification technique that integrates catalytic chemical reaction and distillation in one single apparatus. When a heterogeneous catalyst is used, the process is known as catalytic distillation (CD). RD/CD technology has many key advantages such as reduced capital investment and significant energy savings, as it can surpass equilibrium limitations, simplify complex processes, increase product selectivity and improve the separation efficiency. But CD is also constrained by thermodynamic requirements (related to volatility differences and heat of reaction), overlapping of the reaction and distillation operating conditions, and the availability of catalysts that are active, selective and with sufficient longevity to ensure economical operation.

This lecture gives an overview of the challenges and opportunities for catalytic distillation processes, the requirements in terms of hardware and catalyst engineering, and it provides some industrially relevant examples related to the production of polymers, esters, ethers, and other chemicals. The potential of reactive / catalytic distillation processes to transform the chemical industry will be assessed from a techno-economic and sustainability perspective. Moreover, the role of the catalysis community in improving the applicability range of CD technology will be addressed and discussed.

Fig. Various reactive distillation configurations


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  2. A. A. Kiss, Distillation technology - Still young and full of breakthrough opportunities, Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, 89, 479-498, 2014.
  3. A. A. Kiss, Advanced Distillation Technologies - Design, Control and Applications, John Wiley & Sons, 2013. far.