The use of automated continuous flow reactors is described, with real-time online Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) analysis to enable rapid optimization of reaction yield using a self-optimizing feedback algorithm. This technique has been applied to the solvent-free methylation of 1-pentanol with dimethyl carbonate using a γ-alumina catalyst. Calibration of the FT-IR signal was performed using gas chromatography to enable quantification of yield over a wide variety of flow rates and temperatures. The use of FT-IR as a real-time analytical technique resulted in an order of magnitude reduction in the time and materials required compared to previous studies. This permitted a wide exploration of the parameter space to provide process understanding and validation of the optimization algorithms.
Ryan A. Skilton, Andrew J. Parrott, Michael W. George, Martyn Poliakoff, and Richard A. Bourne, "Real-Time Feedback Control Using Online Attenuated Total Reflection Fourier Transform Infrared (ATR FT-IR) Spectroscopy for Continuous Flow Optimization and Process Knowledge," Appl. Spectrosc. 67, 1127-1131 (2013)