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Clariant Pushes Microreactors for Pharmaceuticals

by Marc S. Reisch
August 30, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 35

A number of firms are looking into microreactors to produce fine chemicals, but Clariant Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Swiss specialty chemicals maker Clariant, is in an all-out push to develop the modular gram-scale devices to make pharmaceutical intermediates and active pharmaceutical ingredients.

The company will be using experience with the technology gained over three years and formalized in January with the establishment of the Clariant Competence Center MicroReaction Technology. C3MRT's facilities in Frankfurt, Germany, include two microreactor pilot plants and a dedicated laboratory. The use of parallel microreactor modules makes it possible to turn out kilogram or even ton quantities of a product, Clariant says.

C3MRT's mission is to custom-synthesize a wide range of molecules for Clariant's various units. Even so, Ralf Pfirmann, global pharmaceutical market management director, says, "Use of microreactors in pharmaceutical synthesis has the potential to deliver molecules at much better yields, with higher selectivities, and with economics heretofore not possible."

Christian Wille, who is responsible for technical development, believes that microreactor process development "can be done once with the knowledge that it will be effective through the life cycle of a compound, eliminating the risk of encountering unmakeable compounds at the large scale."

Other firms, such as Degussa, have begun to consider commercial use of microreactor technology. And earlier this year, Sigma-Aldrich installed and began to evaluate a microreactor system at its R&D facility in Buchs, Switzerland (C&EN, July 5, page 18).


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