Flow chemistry innovations


  • Post By : Steve Evans, Chief Commercial Officer at Uniqsis

  • Source: UNIQSIS

  • Date: 08 Sep,2023

Despite its many benefits, transitioning synthesis of chemical entities by batch methods to continuous flow protocols based on microreactors still varies in different parts of the world and from industry to industry. The flow chemistry approach, which has been widely adopted by pharmaceutical scientists and production engineers in recent years, perhaps shows a glimpse of the future. Uniqsis is a manufacturer of entry-level and fully integrated continuous flow reactors designed by chemists for chemists. Here’s a fascinating interview I had with Steve Evans, the Chief Commercial Officer at Uniqsis.

Caption: Uniqsis at ChemExpo India exhibition

Please tell us about Uniqsis and its specialisation in flow chemistry?

Since our formation in 2007 we’ve been committed to developing innovative flow chemistry products for customers across the chemical and pharmaceutical research sectors. A good example of this is our FlowSyn range of fully integrated flow reactors which has become the flow chemistry tool of choice for many research chemists across the world. Our aim over the last 15+ years has been to make flow chemistry easily accessible to both novices and experienced users and to provide expert technical and applications support to our growing user base in Europe, North America and across Asia. To enable chemists to realise the many benefits of using photochemical methods in synthetic chemistry, Uniqsis has in the last few years developed an exciting range of high-performance flow and batch photochemical reactors.

Why should Indian labs consider switching from batch to flow chemistry?

For many years – research chemists heavily relied on well-established batch synthesis techniques based upon technology that had remained relatively unchanged for decades. Starting from the petrochemical industry the many benefits of implementing a continuous flow chemistry reactor have become increasingly evident to chemical researchers worldwide.

These benefits include:

  1. Reactions can be run faster by superheating reagents under pressure.
  2. Reactions can be run much more safely and reproducibly as smaller volumes per unit time are run compared to equivalent conventional batch methods.
  3. Flow Chemistry is much easier to scale up to generate larger quantities once optimum conditions have been established in smaller scale reactions.
  4. Flow chemistry uses less energy and creates less waste – consequently it is a greener technique plus it reduces costs.

These undisputed flow chemistry benefits facilitate bringing a product faster to market by cutting down the number of reaction steps, increasing product yields and reducing required downstream purification/processing.

Flow chemistry has also enabled research chemists to gain the full benefit of chemistries previously not possible using conventional batch technologies.

What advantages does photochemistry offer synthetic chemists and what products does Uniqsis offer in this area?

Many chemical processes benefit from the interaction of light at various wavelengths to initiate and drive a reaction. This is particularly relevant for flow processes where the penetration depth of the light is generally much lower than in a batch process, hence much more efficient. Uniqsis has developed a series of flow photoreactors operating at optimum wavelengths to cover a wide range of synthetic chemistry methods performed at different scales (mg to kg). Our Borealis range of flow photoreactors are an excellent tool for reaction optimisation on a smaller scale. The photochemical reaction, once optimised on the Borealis can then be scaled up using a PhotoSyn flow photoreactor. The PhotoSyn is a totally unique reactor comprising of 2 semi-circular LED arrays focused on a coil reactor. The PhotoSyn offers unrivalled power to efficiently and safely facilitate scale up.

Caption: Borealis photoreactor

Why is efficient mixing important in flow chemistry and how is it best achieved?

To achieve high reproducibility and facilitate scale-up the control of mixing and temperature is essential. Efficient mixing is particularly important for highly exothermic or fast, mixing-dependent reactions. Using glass static mixer (GSM) chips or reactor blocks have become a widely trusted method for producing an efficient, turbulent mixed reagent stream that is not diffusion dependent.

Our glass static mixers can be used as mixing modules prior to a coil reactor residence time unit, or as reactor blocks suitable for rapid exothermic reactions including metalation and nitration. Reagent input streams run through the tempering channels of the GSM to equilibrate temperatures prior to merging at the mixing point. These ‘chips’ are precision machined from inert borosilicate glass to withstand a wide temperature range and can be conveniently attached to our FlowSyn column heater module or on top of either the Cold Coil and Polar Bear Plus cryogenic reactor modules.

Connections to a GSM chip can be conveniently made using standard threaded HPLC fittings utilising an ‘O’-ring seal to ensure effective finger-tight sealing without the need for any tools.

Caption: Glass Static Mixer chips improve flow chemistry reproducibility

Industrial labs are often looking for ways to increase productivity – what Flow chemistry automation innovations have Uniqsis developed?

We have developed an Auto Loop Filling system which enables pharmaceutical chemists to run combinatorial flow library synthesis and optimisation in an unattended fashion freeing up valuable time to perform other tasks. Using such a system – chemists can run up to 100 independent optimization experiments by automatically filling sample loops with the different reagents in many different combinations in a 2 or 4 reagent channel flow chemistry reactor configuration. Using an Auto Loop Filling system is easy. You simply set up the required automated reaction protocols and leave the system to do the rest.

Caption: FlowSyn Auto LF II™ for Automated Synthesis

How does Uniqsis support its flow chemistry systems in India?

For several years – Ultra Instruments Pvt has been our knowledgeable local agent supporting our expanding Flow Chemistry business activities in India. Ultra have offices located in many parts of India and they have staff trained to offer comprehensive pre-sales and post-sales support for our complete range of products. Indian customers also have access to technical and application support advice from world leading flow chemistry experts based at Uniqsis HQ in the UK.

 About Steve Evans:

 Steve Evans is the Chief Commercial Officer at Uniqsis. He has a wealth of experience in flow chemistry having previously held a number of commercial positions including sales, account development/management, sales team/distributor management, product/business development, global sales & marketing management in the industry. Steve has a BSc in chemistry.

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