It’s no exaggeration to say that jacketed reactors have revolutionised the way in which labs operate. The ability to accurately heat and cool a reaction is critical for safety and the quality of final product. Jacketed lab reactors are now commonplace, they have developed and evolved from the first basic designs, from being able to run reactions in parallel, to quick vessel changes, or recording data straight to a PC, but are you getting the most out of yours every day?
As with any equipment, there are some best practices you can follow in order to optimise performance – so here are our recommendations for getting the best results from your jacketed lab reactor.
Have spare parts handy
To ensure your reactor has a long lifespan, you need to pay attention to its consumables – they’ll need replacing over time, so you’ll want to have some spare parts on hand to prevent downtime. Be sure to check components regularly; the condition of O-rings in particular can deteriorate depending on the kind of work you’re doing, so if yours aren’t looking their best then it’s a good idea to replace them.
It is the user’s responsibility to check the chemical compatibility of the wetted materials in the reaction system prior to carrying out any work. The standard wetted materials in Radleys reactors are 3.3 Borosilicate glass, PTFE, FEP and other fluoropolymers. Chemical compatibility tables are widely available in the public domain.
Radleys offer three maintenance kits for our three reactors: Reactor-Ready Maintenance Kit, Reactor-Ready Pilot Maintenance Kit and Lara Maintenance Kit, all containing a range of spare components for use with the relevant equipment. If you need help identifying the one your reactor needs, just get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help.
If you are planning to run your reactor at extremely low or high temperatures we would recommend making sure all the seals are in tip top condition. Extreme temperatures will put more stress on all the components, but particularly the seals, you may have to replace them more frequently to ensure they don’t become hard and brittle. With Reactor-Ready Pilot (or other 25 mm bottom outlet valves), if you are only working at high temperatures (above +150 °C) you may want to consider changing the O-rings to a high performance Chemraz material.
Very fast temperature changes could damage your reactor through thermal shock, so try and avoid excessive differences between the jacket and the reactor contents, we recommend a maximum delta of 50K. Also try to avoid making additions to a reactor where there is a significant difference between the liquid being added and the reactor itself e.g. liquids at room temperature into a reactor at -40 °C. This may mean pre heating or cooling your addition. Keeping the addition and vessel at the same or similar temperature will mean that the temperature inside the jacket can be controlled much more accurately, without the risk of thermal shock as mentioned above.
Keep pressure in mind
It’s important not to over-pressurise glassware. Many jacketed reactors have a maximum amount that they can withstand – for example, Radleys recommend a maximum working pressure of no more than 0.5 bar above atmospheric pressure in the glass jacket reactors, to be within the safe working limits of the glassware. With this is mind, you may also want to consider the pressure of the heat transfer fluid in the jacket. Some temperature control units may have pump motors that exceed the recommended pressure, in this instance you could consider reducing the pressure by using a bypass or adjusting the pump motor settings.
Using a gas bubbler or a pressure relief valve can help to prevent pressure build-up when you’re working with inert gases. The bubbler (sometimes called an oil bubbler) will allow for pressure to escape from the vessel while keeping air out at the same time.
Be aware of static electricity
Static build-up can occur in a circulating fluid system, largely because heat transfer fluids and sometimes the reactor contents aren’t great conductors of electricity.
Use glass cone stoppers for a good vacuum level
When you’re working under vacuum, you can achieve an improved vacuum level by using glass cone stoppers on unused lid sockets, rather than using Rodaviss sealing caps. A problem you can experience with the latter is the vacuum can suck out the internal seal. This won’t happen with glass cone stoppers – and they’re more chemically resistant.
Keep it clean
It may sound obvious, but keeping your reaction system clean and tidy is imperative to its success. Corrosion can be a big problem, so preventative maintenance should be built into your ways of working. Radleys Service team offer Servicing Contracts & Preventative Maintenance Agreements. Try to regularly inspect the condition of the reactor, as well as cleaning up any chemical spillages. Use wet scrubbers to neutralise any gasses or vapours evolved from the reaction, before being released into the fume hood. Keep aggressive chemicals contained when both adding and removing from your reactors.