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Chemical reactors are very important unit operations in industrial practice. The
reaction occurred in a reactor can either give off heat (exothermic) or absorb
heat (endothermic). The reactor is generally assembled with a jacket or coil in
order to maintain the reaction temperature properly. If heat is evolved due to
exothermic reaction, a coolant stream is required to pass through the jacket (or
coil) to remove the extra heat. On the other hand, if endothermic reaction
occurs in the system, the flow of a heating medium is considered through the
surrounded jacket (or immersed coil) to maintain the reactor temperature at its
expected value.
The range of forms of chemical reactors is so wide that it is really difficult to
establish a complete, systematic classification. However, the primary
classification can be based on the number of phases to be involved. When only
one phase is required, the system is said to be homogeneous. If more than one
phase are present, the system is a heterogeneous one.
The chemical reactors also can be classified based on the feeding mechanism
as: batch, semi-batch and continuous flow reactors. In the batch reactor, a
certain amount of material is introduced first, but there is no further inflow or
outflow of materials as the reaction proceeds. For the case of semi-batch
reactor, some components are either fed in or withdrawn as the reaction occurs.
The name continuous flow reactor indicates that this reactor runs with
continuous flow of reactants and products.
Chemical reactors are usually vessel type. There are two main basic vessel type
reactors, which are designed as tank reactor (a tank) and tubular reactor (a pipe
or tube). Batch, semi-batch and many continuous flow reactors are generally
tank reactors. Plug flow reactor (PFR) is an example of tubular reactor. The
tubular reactors are operated only with a continuous mode. Indeed, there are
two distinct types of reactors in continuous processes: continuous stirred tank
reactor (CSTR) and PFR.
Also, we may consider the following types of reactors. When a reactor operates
at a constant temperature, then that is called as the isothermal reactor. If any
exothermic or endothermic reactions are involved in the reactor, the
temperature of the reaction mixture varies with time and we need to develop
the energy balance equation for this non-isothermal reactor. It is well-known
that the term adiabatic means no interchange of heat between the system and
the surroundings.
So, usually no heating and cooling arrangements are provided with the adiabatic
reactor. In addition, no heat transfer is involved in between the well-insulated
reactor and the external environment. For the case of non-adiabatic reactor,
there is heat flow into or out of the reactor. One interesting feature of a nonisothermal CSTR, in which exothermic reaction takes place, is the multiple
steady states (for a particular value of the input variable, several values of the
output variable may be obtained). Multiple steady states may be the result of
energy feedback and the highly nonlinear behaviour of the reaction rate
constant (according

to Arrhenius law). This steady state multiplicity can result in an unstable

operating condition leading to a quench (the reaction stops) or a runaway (the
reactor overheats).