Process intensification refers to a development that leads to a technology that is substantially smaller, cleaner, safer or more energy efficient. Faculty in our department working in this area, achieve process intensification either by improving the design or the operation of the equipment. Novel microfluidic systems, photocatalytic reactors and multiphase systems are being explored to enhance mass transfer and reaction rates. The focus has also been to use energy from ultrasound and microwave to intensify processes like solid dissolution, washing of coal and heating of food materials. Advanced combustion technologies like oxy-fuel/chemical looping combustion, biochemical processes that enhance enzyme/oil production and novel methods of synthesising gold/silver nanoparticles are also being developed. Computational studies at the molecular and continuum scales are also carried out to simulate the enhancement of transport and reaction rates in the different processes.
Efficient equipment design
Microfluidic systems with a characteristic length scale less than a millimetre, offer a high surface area to volume ratio resulting in increased transport rates. The fundamental aspects of such systems viz. fluid flow characteristics, mass transfer and reactions are being explored theoretically and experimentally for single and two-phase systems. The focus is on understanding the relation between hydrodynamics and mass transfer/reactions, and develop strategies for enhancing the performance of micro-reactors/separators. Photocatalytic reactors containing a suspension of photo-catalyst are used for treatment of pollutants with the help of radiation in the UV or visible wavelength range. Novel design of such reactors like the rotating annular reactor are being developed and studied, which have better pollutant removal efficiency compared to conventional designs. Other applications include the photo-catalytic conversion of green-house gases like carbon –dioxide. Multiphase systems involving gas/liquid/solid phases are used to carryout different physical and chemical operations. Novel contacting modes can result in higher phase holdups leading to higher mass transfer rates. The focus is on studying the hydrodynamics of such gas-liquid-solid systems and demonstrate their roles in various applications.
Use of external energy source
Activities under this sub-theme aim to enhance the performance of a process using external energy sources like ultrasound and microwave. Ultrasound or high frequency acoustic waves, are used to intensify the rate of mass transfer for the dissolution of sparingly soluble solids. It is also being applied in the enhancement of the rate of leaching of alkali metals from Indian coal. Microwaves are high frequency electromagnetic waves which cause volumetric heating. The role of microwaves in intensifying the heating rate of different food materials is being studied computationally. The focus is to analyse the heating process fundamentally in terms of thermodynamic and heat transfer phenomena.
Processes which are cleaner or show better performance are being developed. Thermodynamic and experimental studies are being carried out on advanced combustion technologies like oxy-fuel combustion and chemical looping combustion which are cleaner since they release sequester ready CO2 stream. Transport properties of liquid metals, which can be used as fluids in heat pipes in reactors, are being studied computationally through molecular simulations. Advanced biochemical processes are also being developed and studied. Kinetics of regulated enzyme synthesis and bio-diesel production using non-edible oils is being studied to understand the underlying reaction mechanism. Gold/silver nanoparticles with anti-microbial activity are being synthesized through the biochemical route. Processes are being developed for synthesis of Lovastatin nanoparticle with an improved drug delivery performance.