The ChemArtificer

IntensiChem: Dedicated to Flow Chemistry

What is the best way to exploit the advantages presented by flow technology? Why would one choose a flow chemistry solution over a standard batch approach? What process chemistry is only suited to flow technology and does it offer real advantage over batch? Will an organisation see real monetary advantage from the adoption of continuous strategies?

Theses are just some of questions that we have asked ourselves frequently over the past five years or more. In answering questions such as these with commercial production in mind, we have come to to the conclusion that dedicated flow chemistry can offer significant advantages over batch or other multi purpose strategies.

Our background is firmly rooted in the manufacture of IP protected, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API’s). However, most elements of our reasoning are equally valid for the fine chemical and generic pharmaceutical industries.

During the process of scaling up traditional batch chemistry, the process chemist has to adjust the chemistry to the available equipment. This almost always results in a compromise of some kind, ultimately leading to less than stoichiometric yields and increased impurity formation. The adoption of flow chemistry gives the process chemist the opportunity to fit the equipment to the chemistry, indeed further, it allows greater choice over the routes and reagents used, since the chemist’s choice would not be restricted by the limitations of large, industrial scale, batch process equipment.

It is often said that the development of a flow process is expensive and only warranted when production volumes are high. This may be true for trivial petrochemical processes or making doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. In contrast, active pharmaceutical ingredients (as an example) are very expensive and complicated to manufacture. Development of suitable, robust synthetic routes takes significant amounts of time and resources and non-trivial regulatory commitments further increase costs. These differences may indeed make enabling flow processes more attractive for high value, low volume manufacturing, especially in the pharmaceutical industry.

This is just the first in a series of articles where we will explore and justify the possibilities of dedicated flow processing.

Future topics will include:

What materials do we make this process flow equipment out of? What can we do with flow chemistry that we can’t do with existing batch?

What does the regulatory and strategic landscapes look like?

What is a holistic process anyway?

Scale up or scale out…. that is the question!

How can we flow the chicken wire?

How much will it cost?