The first alternative studied for the thesis involved the use of reactive distillation, with which the researcher has shown that the conversions can be increased by 40 % to 50 %. Dr Agirre applied his experiments to a semi-pilot plant and carried out trials with a number of variables (reaction section height, reflux, feed configuration, and so on), until he came up with the optimum conditions. He also drew up a mathematical model based on the equilibrium stages of the plant, which has been validated by the experimental data. The model has been useful in understanding the behaviour of the system, and in enabling establishing the optimum configuration of the installations without having to undertake experiments previously.
The second innovative system involves the application of dehydration membranes or membrane reactors and, according to the thesis, is the one which gives the best results. In fact, conversions can be increased by 40 % to 70 %. Mr Agirre carried out the experiments in a discontinuous reactor with HybSi brand membranes. In this case, he undertook a number of trials with the reaction and separation within the same reactor (the dehydration membranes separate the water from the diethoxy butane). With these experiments, he developed two mathematical models for this case: the first, discontinuous, for predicting the laboratory experiments (validated); the second, continuous, which has helped in the design of a process.
The best combination
To complete the research, Dr Agirre has drawn up a number of processes at an industrial scale, based on reactive distillation and on dehydration membranes, thus completing the engineering work on conceptual processes and the estima
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