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Flow Chemistry Catalysts

The current methods for employing flow chemistry catalysts effectively use miniaturized packed bed reactor geometries, which pose many limitations. At CSIRO, we have overcome these with our innovative 3D printed catalytic static mixers (CSMs).

CSM inserted in 8 mm OD tubing
CSM inserted in 8 mm OD tubing

CSIRO’s flow chemistry catalyst program is directed toward developing a stand alone hydrogenation device based on the Catalytic Static Mixer (CSM) technology. The CSM technology is a radically new approach compared to conventional packed bed or slurry reactors, which presents a series of improvements, including:

  • Robust and flexible mixer design: Additive manufacturing allows the mixer to be tailored to the needs of the fluidic application / chemical reaction. Our 3D printed metal scaffolds have good mechanical stability and can easily be inserted into tubular reactor geometries and replaced multiple times without damage, and they can be retrofitted to existing tubular reactors.
  • Superior process control: Perhaps the biggest advantages of a tubular reactor system is the large L/D ratio which results in superior control of heat and mass transfer along the length of the reactor device, avoiding issues with non-uniformity often plaguing conventional designs, such as packed bed reactors. The tubular channel geometry also ensures that pressure drop is low and that the flow is regular. In contrast, most bed (including trickle beds) or monolith systems, temperature and concentration gradients are highly non-uniform along the cross section.
  • One step catalyst coating: Most conventional heterogeneous reactor designs are also made by a complex, often multi-stage synthesis and require elaborate preparation and washing protocols, which are not necessary for CSMs, as the catalytic layer is deposited directly onto the mixer scaffold by electroplating or cold spraying.
  • Scalability: Tubular reactors are easily scalable devices. Batch reactors, monolith reactor systems, and packed bed reactors need considerable additional engineering effort during scale-up from lab / pilot to production; this is a much more linear process using CSMs.

CSIRO is continuing to develop this technology and is looking for:

  • Beta-testers – For example, partners to test one of our devices in the early development stage to provide feedback on user experience.
  • Investors –  The Flow Chemistry market is moving quite quickly and is growing. CSIRO is interested to talk to partners looking to strategically invest in Flow Chemistry start-ups.

Review Article (Free Access)


  •  Continuous Flow Hydrogenation – 9th Symposium on Continuous Flow Reactor Technology for Industrial Applications, Barcelona, 14-16 Nov 2017. Download


  • “The use of catalytic static mixers for continuous flow gas-liquid and transfer hydrogenations in organic synthesis”, C.H. Hornung, X. Nguyen, A. Carafa, J. Gardiner, A. Urban, D. Fraser, M.D. Horne, D.R. Gunasegaram, J. Tsanaktsidis, Organic Process Research & Development, 2017, 21, 1311−1319. DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.7b00180.
  • “Continuous flow hydrogenations using novel catalytic static mixers inside a tubular reactor”, A. Avril, C.H. Hornung,  A. Urban, D. Fraser, M. Horne, J.-P. Veder, J. Tsanaktsidis, T. Rodopoulos, C. Henry  and  D.R. Gunasegaram , Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, 2017, 2, 180-188. DOI: 10.1039/C6RE00188B.
  • “Hydrogenation of vinyl acetate using a continuous flow tubular reactor with catalytic static mixers”, X. Nguyen, A. Carafa and C.H. Hornung, Chemical Engineering and Processing – Process Intensification, 2018, 124, 215-221. DOI: 10.1016/j.cep.2017.12.007.
  • “The art of manufacturing molecules”, C. H. Hornung, Science, 2018, 359, 273–274. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4543.
    Free Reprint
  • Reductive aminations using a 3D printed supported metal(0) catalyst system“, C. Genet, X. Nguyen, B. Bayatsarmadi, M. D. Horne, J. Gardiner, and C. H. Hornung, J Flow Chem, 2018, on-line. DOI: 10.1007/s41981-018-0013-6.