COSMIC, the European Training Network for Continuous Sonication and Microwave Reactors
The chemical industry is one of the most important manufacturing sectors in Europe. In 2015 the annual sales revenue was € 519 billion . Despite, this huge figure, the picture is not that bright. In 10 years time Europe has lost his top spots in chemical sales in the world to China. The EU share in the global chemical market dropped from 28.2% in 2005 to 14.7% in 2015 . In addition, the number of people employed in this industry dropped by 25% compared to 1998.
A key root cause of this decline has been the advent of lower-labour-cost markets in the emerging global economies and in particular those in Asia and the Near East. This labour-cost differential is unlikely to be redressed in the near future. One of the key strategies for halting this decline and subsequently re-establishing European growth is to develop competitive technologies. These competitive technologies should deliver performance – in terms of resource efficiency and product quality – beyond that of Europe’s rivals. In order to design and operate these new technologies, new competencies and different skills from scientists and engineers are required. The introduction of revolutionary technologies can indeed only succeed if sufficient professionals trained in these novel technologies are available on the market.
COSMIC is a key instrument for supporting and training the chemical process industry – and in particular the fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries – in their transition from batch to continuous production.
Currently, the conventional technologies in these sectors tend to be batch-type, combined with mechanical mixing and conduction-based heat transfer, inherently leading to poor process control. COSMIC’s vision is that of intensified processes, where continuous technologies use alternative energy sources to achieve the localized ultrasound and microwave actuation of multiphase, milliflow reactors for the purpose of high-value product synthesis. COSMIC focuses on the synthesis of organic molecules and nanoparticles for use in organic syntheses, catalyst preparation and health applications. All of these applications are important domains in the fine-chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries today and into the future. As such, COSMIC trains 15 ESRs in the transition from chemical reactions with poor resource – both material and energy – efficiency and poor product quality to processes with high resource efficiency and excellent product properties. The training of 15 ESRs will lead to further understanding of the knowledge gaps through responsible research and innovation. Furthermore, the potential of flow processes actuated by alternative energy sources for the chemical industry will be disseminated. Developed technologies will also be transferred into real applications via the involved industrial participants (both technology suppliers and end-users).
COSMIC’s specific objectives
COSMIC’s science and technology objectives are to develop:
- Resource-efficient multiphase reactions in the fields of organic synthesis (C–H, C=C and C≡C bond activation) and nanoparticle synthesis (for use in catalysis and health applications);
- Intensified reactors that efficiently integrate milliflow technology with ultrasound and/or microwave actuation;
- Knowledge-based assessment and decision methodologies to evaluate and select process-intensification technologies.