Introduction To Batch Reactors: Basics And Applications

Have you ever thought about how the chemical reactions that make things like medicine and fuel happen?

You know that these reactions don't just happen on their own because you are an engineering student or engineer.

They need exact conditions, carefully measured amounts of reactants and catalysts, and the right kind of reactor.

The batch reactor helps with this.

The batch reactor is an important tool for any chemical engineer because it can handle a wide range of reactions and the conditions of those reactions can be controlled very precisely.

In this article, I'll go into detail about batch reactors, talking about their parts, benefits, and uses.

Whether you're an experienced engineer or just starting out, this article will give you the information you need to understand batch reactors and how important they are in the world of chemical engineering.

Introduction to Batch Reactors

Formal definition:

A chemical reactor in which the reactants and catalyst are introduced in the desired quantities and the vessel is then closed to the delivery of additional material.

Batch reactors are flexible machines that can be used for many different process operations.

Some of the most common things that batch reactors do are:

Solids can be dissolved in liquids with the help of batch reactors.

The solids and the solvent are put into the reactor, and the mixture is stirred until all of the solids are dissolved.

  • Mixing Products: Batch reactors are used to mix together different products to make the mixture you want.

This can be useful in the food and drink industry, where different ingredients are mixed to make a certain product.

  • Chemical Reactions: Most chemical reactions are done in batch reactors.

After adding the reactants to the reactor, the mixture is left to react for a set amount of time.

At the end of the batch, the items are then taken out.

  • Batch Distillation: Batch reactors can also be used for batch distillation, which is a way to separate parts of a mixture based on their boiling points.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Batch Reactors

Batch reactors have a number of benefits, such as:

Batch reactors are versatile because they can do more than one thing in a single vessel without breaking containment.

Batch reactors can make different products in the same reactor because they can be used for more than one thing.

  • High Conversions: Reagents can stay in the reactor for a long time, which leads to high conversions.
  • Ease of Making and Changing: Batch reactors are pretty easy to make and change.

But batch reactors also have some problems, such as:

  • Backmixing: Backmixing happens when material isn't taken out until the reaction is over.

This shortens the life of the catalyst and makes a lot of waste.

  • Limited Quantities: Batch reactors are not the best way to make a lot of a product all at once.
  • Variability of Products: The products made by batch reactors can be different from one batch to the next.
  • Difficulties with Large-Scale Production: Batch reactors aren't good for making a lot of things at once.
  • Costly to Run: Batch reactors need to be turned on and off often, which makes them expensive to run.

Design Features of Batch Reactors

Batch reactors are made with some similar parts, such as:

  • Ports for Injecting Reactants and Removing Products: Batch reactors have ports for injecting reactants and removing products.
  • Heat Exchanger or Stirring System: A heat exchanger or a stirring system can be added to a batch reactor.
  • Constant Volume: Batch reactors usually have a constant volume, but some are made so that the volume can be changed to keep a constant pressure.

In short, batch reactors are simple containers that are used in the process industries for a wide range of tasks.

They are versatile, can be used for more than one thing, have high conversion rates, and are easy to make and change.

But they also have some problems, such as backmixing, limited quantities, different products, difficulty making a lot of them, a short life for the catalyst, and waste.

Batch reactors are often used for small-scale jobs, testing out new methods, and making expensive goods.

They are also often used in labs for small-scale production and to start the fermentation process for drinks.

Embracing the Unpredictability: The Excitement and Risks of Batch Reactors

Still hard to understand? Let me change the point of view a bit:

Chemists, please pay attention! Want your job to be more interesting? Tired of the same things happening over and over again? The batch reactor is all you need.

The batch reactor is perfect for chaos, unpredictability, and maybe even a little excitement because you can add reactants and catalysts in the amounts you want and then close the vessel to stop more materials from coming in.

Who cares about control and consistency? Accept the fact that the batch reactor is hard to predict and see where it takes you.

Okay, that was just a joke made to look like a TV ad.

Now let's go back to the explanation.

Components of Batch Reactors

Batch reactors are vessels that are used in the process industries to do things like dissolve solids, mix products, carry out chemical reactions, and distill in batches.

The reactor vessel, the reaction medium, the headspace, and an agitator are the four main parts.

Reactor Vessel

The main part of a batch reactor is the reactor vessel, which is often made of steel, stainless steel, glass-lined steel, glass, or an exotic alloy.

It could be smaller than 1 liter or bigger than 15,000 liters.

Most of the time, liquids and solids are put into the reactor through holes in the top cover.

Vapors and gases come out of holes in the top, and liquids come out of holes in the bottom.

Reaction Medium

The thing that the reaction takes place in is called the reaction medium.

Depending on the type of reaction being done, it can be in a gas phase, a liquid phase, or a liquid-solid phase.


Headspace is the empty space above the medium.

It gives room for the gas or vapor that is made during the reaction.


The agitator is needed to mix the different parts and add or remove heat from the reaction.

Depending on the type of reaction, it can be made with axial flow impellers or radial flow impellers to provide different types of mixing.

Advantages and Challenges of Batch Reactors

One of the best things about batch reactors is how flexible they are.

A single vessel can do a series of different tasks without breaking containment.

This is helpful when working with toxic materials because it lowers the risk of workers getting hurt.

But batch reactors have some problems, like backmixing, which can make the quality of the product bad because the reactants aren't spread out evenly in the vessel.

Designing and Sizing Batch Reactors

Several things need to be taken into account when designing and sizing a batch reactor for a certain reaction.

These include the kinetics of the reaction, heat transfer, mass transfer, mixing, and phase behavior.

The design must make sure that the reactor can carry out the reaction safely and efficiently, meet the specifications for the product, and keep production costs as low as possible.

Most of the time, figuring out the size of a batch reactor means figuring out the volume of the reactor needed to convert the reactants in a certain way and allow for enough mixing and heat transfer.

To get the best performance out of the reactor, the design and sizing process may involve experiments, simulations, and models.

In a batch reactor, the time it takes to reach a certain level of conversion depends on how fast the reaction is going and how much conversion you want.

So, to figure out the right batch reactor volume for a certain reaction, you would have to think about things like the speed of the reaction, the initial concentrations of the reactants, the level of conversion you want, and the amount of time the reactor will be running.

This information could be used to figure out the right size for a batch reactor by calculating parameters like reaction rate constants and stoichiometric coefficients.

In contrast to CSTRs and PFRs, which can process large amounts of reactants continuously over time, batch reactors can only handle a certain number of reactants at once.

So, a batch reactor might not be able to handle the same amount of species A per day as a continuous flow reactor.

But batch reactors are still useful for small-scale operations, testing new processes that haven't been fully developed yet, and making expensive products.

In short, batch reactors have several important parts, such as the reactor vessel, the reaction medium, the headspace, and the agitator.

They have benefits like being flexible and able to be used for more than one thing, but they also have problems like backmixing.

To design and size a batch reactor for a certain reaction, you have to think about things like reaction kinetics, heat transfer, mass transfer, mixing, and phase behavior.

Calculations in Batch Reactors

Mole Balance Equation and Series Reaction

For a batch reactor with a series reaction, we need to use the mole balance equation to figure out how much of a substance is in the reactor.

The mole balance equation is used to figure out how fast the amount of each mole in the reactor is changing.

The mole balance equation for a batch reactor is:

dN_i/dt = r_i*V

where N_i is the number of moles of species i, t is time, r_i is the rate of reaction for species i, and V is the volume of the reactor.

Whenever we want to know how much of each species is in a batch reactor during a series reaction, we can use this equation.

Sizing a Batch Saponification Reactor for the Hot Process

Saponification is a chemical process that turns fats and lye into soap.

For the hot process of saponification, a batch reactor is used.

For the hot process, the size of the batch saponification reactor will depend on how much soap needs to be made and what kind of soap is being made.

In addition to the size of the reactor, the area of the reactor's surface can also change how fast the reaction happens.

If you use a reactor with baffles or one with a higher aspect ratio, you can make the surface area bigger.

For the hot saponification process, the temperature of the reactor should be kept between 70°C and 85°C.

How long the reaction takes depends on how much soap you want to make.

It can take anywhere from several hours to several days.

A batch reactor can be used to study the kinetics of saponification.

Using a batch reactor with magnetic stirring and a glass jacket, students can figure out the rate constants of a second-order reaction at different temperatures.

The saponification reaction can also be used to figure out the reaction conversion in a packed-bed tubular reactor.

Testing and Optimization in Batch Reactors

Performing Batch Reactor Tests with Solids

When doing a batch reactor test with a solid, the solid and liquid reactants are usually mixed in a vessel with an agitator.

The mixture is then left to react for a certain amount of time.

After that, the solid is usually separated from the liquid by filtration or centrifugation.

Then, to find out how far the reaction went, the concentration of the species of interest in the liquid phase is measured.

When planning a batch reactor test with a solid, you should also think about the size of the solid's particles, the initial concentration of reactants, and the level of conversion you want.

Modified Laboratory Batch Reactor Test

The biodegradation of volatile organic compounds in activated sludge has been tested in a batch reactor in the lab.

The test has been changed to include solid-phase microextraction (SPME) fibers for sampling in the gas phase.

This eliminates the need for a draft tube and makes it easier to use with solids.

Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) Systems

A sequencing batch reactor (SBR) is an activated sludge system that treats wastewater by being filled and then drained.

In this system, wastewater is put into a single batch reactor.

Two or more batch reactors are used in a set order to get the best performance out of the system.

SBR systems have been used to treat wastewater from both cities and factories.

Material Balance Equation

The material balance equation can be used to figure out what's going on in batch reactors when chemical reactions happen.

For example, the equation d dt ∫V cj dV = Q0cj0 − Q1cj1 + ∫V. Rj dV can be used for well-stirred batch reactors because the integrals are simple to evaluate due to good mixing within the reactor.

Semi-Batch Reactors

Semi-batch reactors have features of both batch reactors and stirred-tank reactors that run all the time (CSTRs).

They can add feed while the reaction is going on, like CSTRs, but they are filled with reactant at the start, like batch reactors.

Most of the time, semi-batch reactors are used when a reaction needs to add one reagent slowly or when the reaction is too hot to be done in a batch reactor.

Batch Reactor Overview

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Use cases

Used in:Description:
Synthesis of chemicals:During chemical synthesis, batch reactors are often used to make a wide range of products, such as drugs, specialty chemicals, and plastics. In this process, the batch reactor is filled with the right amounts of reactants and catalysts, and the vessel is then sealed off so that no more materials can be added. After a certain amount of time has passed, the product is taken out of the reaction.
Polymerization:Polymerization is the process of combining monomers to make polymers. Batch reactors are often used in this process. The batch reactor is used to start the reaction and keep it under control. This makes it possible to precisely control the size and shape of the polymer that is made. This means that a wide range of polymer products with different properties can be made.
Fermentation:In the fermentation process, which is used to make biofuels, medicines, and food products, batch reactors are often used. In this process, nutrients and other things are put into the reactor along with microorganisms. The reactor is then closed, and the microorganisms are given a certain amount of time to ferment the ingredients. After that time, the product is taken out of the reactor.
Dealing with trash:Batch reactors can also be used to treat wastewater and other types of waste. In this method, the waste and chemicals or microorganisms that break down the waste are put into a reactor. The reactor is then shut off, and the reaction is left to continue for a certain amount of time. When the reaction is done, the waste that has been cleaned is taken out of the reactor.
Heat transfer:Batch reactors can be used to heat or cool a product or do other things that involve heat transfer. In this process, a heat transfer fluid is pumped through the jacket of the reactor to move heat to or from the product in the reactor. This is a process that is often used to make food and drinks.


In the end, the batch reactor is an important tool for chemical engineers in many different fields.

It lets you control the conditions of a reaction very precisely, which is important for making consistent, high-quality products.

But even though the batch reactor is a great piece of technology, it is not a cure-all.

It can't be used for every kind of reaction because it has some flaws.

As engineers, it is our job to keep coming up with new ideas and trying out new technologies that can help us get around these problems and make it easier to make complex chemical products.

We can make a better future for ourselves and the planet if we push the limits of what is possible.

So let's keep looking and trying new things to find better, more efficient, and more long-term solutions.

Links and references

Mole Balances:

Reactors in Process Engineering:

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