Continuous Innovation: the Best Reactions Come from the HEART

Corning Reactor Industrial Progress Report and 10,000 metric tons per year G5 Reactor New Product Release

Based on an article published by China Chemical Industry News (CCIN) in Chinese by Hongying Chen, Feixia Zhang on June 22, 2020.

Corning Incorporated recently announced that its Advanced-Flow™ Reactors (AFR) business has made significant progress advancing its flow reactor technology for large-scale industrial production of chemicals and active pharmaceutical ingredients.

To celebrate this important milestone, Corning Advanced-Flow Reactor Technology Co., Ltd. held an “Industrial Progress Report and 10,000 ton per year G5 New Product Release” conference in Shangyu, Zhejiang Province, China on June 18.

On-site and Virtual Global Product Launch

Customers, government and industry leaders joined the conference in-person and through online live broadcast via China Chemical Industry News (CCIN) and CCINTV platforms. Invited speakers who were not able to attend on-site delivered speeches through pre-recorded video messages or in-person representatives. Below are excerpts of some remarks delivered at the event:

Mr. Fu Xiangsheng, vice president of China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation (CP&CIF), congratulated Corning AFR on its industrial achievements and the introduction of its new G5 reactor. He emphasized that "the release of Corning’s 10,000 metric tons annual throughput G5 reactor marks the maturity of AFR Technology and the continuous improvement of its application.” He went on to say, “AFR Technology is no longer limited to small-volume chemical production but can also be expanded to tens of thousands of tons or even hundreds of thousands of tons of base chemicals. The application of AFR Technology and the G5 reactor can convert traditional batch production to continuous flow production with automation, and help manufacturers reduce safety risks and achieve inherently safer chemical production systems.”

In his remarks, Mr. Lu Nianming, secretary general of China Chemical Safety Association (CCSA), said, "AFR Technology offers continuous flow reaction processes with very low liquid chemical hold-up in the reactor. This can minimize the chemical production system footprint, reduce the possibility and magnitude of accidents to achieve inherent safety.” He urged chemical manufacturers "to adopt AFR Technology widely for the green and safe development of fine chemical manufacturing in China."

Mr. Cui Xuejun, president of China Chemical Industry News (CCIN), praised Corning AFR’s achievements in China. He said, "in the past ten years, Corning AFR Technology has become widely recognized in China and has realized the continuous synthesis of chemicals in many places in China, bringing phenomenal economic and social benefits to customers.”

In his video message, Marty Curran, executive vice president and Corning innovation officer, congratulated Corning AFR on this important milestone, saying, “our collaboration with Zhejiang Weihua New Materials Co., Ltd. has not only created an inherently safer production platform with an annual throughput of 10,000 metric tons per unit, but also achieved significant economic and environmental benefits as a result of using AFR technology.” Marty also acknowledged Corning’s global AFR teams in China, France, India and the United States that helped make this project a success.

Mr. Li Fang, president and general manager of Corning Greater China, said, "Corning has a history of 169 years. As a company focused on continuous innovation, Corning has been working hard and strongly supporting innovation that can change people’s lives. Corning's optical communication business helps make life more convenient; Corning's display technology helps make colors more vibrant; Corning's environmental technology helps make the sky bluer and the air cleaner. Likewise, Corning AFR is an innovative business that is helping make the chemical industry better. Corning AFR is changing traditional chemical R&D and manufacturing, making chemical manufacturing inherently safer and more diversified, while improving people’s lives."

Disruptive technology for 10,000 metric tons annual flow throughput per reactor

Corning’s Advanced-Flow™ Reactors are a disruptive technology that is changing research and development as well as manufacturing processes across the chemical industry. As the core component of continuous flow technology, Corning AFR provides a more controllable environment for chemical reactions. Although the size of the reactor is very small, its inherent continuity enables it to support industrial-scale applications. Compared with traditional batch reactors, Corning’s reactors can lead to inherently safer processing and higher output for manufacturers.

Zhejiang Weihua New Materials Co., Ltd. (Weihua) specializes in the research, development, and production of chlorotoluene and trifluoromethyl benzene series products for global pesticide and pharmaceutical enterprises. Weihua recently collaborated with Corning Advanced-Flow Reactor Technology Co., Ltd, and Shanghai Hybrid-Chem Technology Co., Ltd. to achieve 10,000 metric tons annual throughput with Corning’s new G5 reactor for large-scale agrochemical production. This represents the highest production capacity achieved to-date using Corning AFR Technology on a single production line.

Weihua currently has two continuous production lines in operation using Corning’s G5 reactors. The lines have been running steadily since November 2019, resulting in:

•  Seamless Scale-up from lab (G1 reactor) to mass large-scale industrial production (G5 reactor)
•  Higher yield, less waste and better economic benefits
•  Inherently safer production – the liquid holding capacity of diazotization reaction was reduced by
    99.99%, and the liquid holding capacity of hydrolysis reaction was reduced by 96.47%
•  More efficient in space and labor

Dr. Qiangbiao Pan, general manager, Weihua, praised the collaborative effort between Corning, Hybrid-Chem and Weihua. "Compared with traditional batch processing, Corning’s continuous flow technology is convenient to start and stop, saves time in loading and unloading, and also reduces potential damages caused by human error. Less chemicals are in the reaction process with precise DCS control, and the process is reliable and inherently safer. The two-step consecutive reaction is carried out continuously, which greatly improves the process and production efficiency.”

Dr. Pan also went on to say, “Originally, we planned nine batch reactors to achieve the same capacity. Now, we have implemented an AFR integrated system with G5 reactors and made an amazing transformation with this disruptive innovation.”

Maximizing customer benefit with excellent capabilities

Shanghai Hybrid-Chem Technology Co., Ltd. is an innovative startup company and is also one of Corning's certified labs in China, specializing in continuous flow process development for clients using Corning reactors and other flow chemistry tools.

“Corning’s unique AFR equipment proved to be critical for this chemical system,” said Dr. Bing Ma, founder and general manager, Shanghai Hybrid-Chem Technology Co., Ltd. “The ability to seamlessly scale-up from our team’s process developed in Corning’s G1 reactor to industrial production in the G5 reactors was particularly important for us. In addition, Weihua’s process system has strong corrosiveness and high requirements for reactor materials. The excellent performance of Corning’s silicon carbide material has been proven in this tough chemical system. The process developed by our team in Corning’s G1 reactor was quickly and seamlessly transformed to production and met the corrosion requirements of the system. The success of this project is a result of the collaboration among three parties – Corning AFR, Hybrid-Chem and Weihua.”

For more details on Zhejian Weihua, Hybrid-Chem and Corning’s successful collaboration, read the press release.

In his remarks, Dr. Yi Jiang, president and general manager, Corning Advanced-Flow Reactor Technology Co., Ltd., celebrated the release of Corning’s G5 reactor, which indicates that the application scope of continuous flow technology has been greatly expanded.

“AFR Technology can not only be used in the production of chemicals with high value-added and small volume in pharmaceutical and fine chemicals, but also can be extended to the production of chemicals with large volume,” Yi said. “From traditional batch production to continuous flow automatic production, which is inherently safer, it will not only improve the safety of chemical production, but also improve efficiency in space, energy consumption, labor and waste reduction. We are helping the chemical industry to shift to an inherently safer continuous process, implement a more environmentally conscious system, and respond more actively to changing market requirements. At the same time, AFR Technology helps customers increase profits and achieve sustainable development.”

Yi also shared that continuous flow chemistry has become one of the top-ten advanced chemical innovation technologies in recent years. “The seamless scale-up, inherently safer, continuous flow synthesis technology, with Corning AFR Technology as the core and integrated system automation, has successfully realized the transformation from the traditional volume-driven production capacity structure to the reaction-rate driven production capacity structure,” Yi said. “Thus, we can mitigate the investment and safety risks from laboratory results to industrial scale-up and break through the key barriers in current production, learning and research development collaboration platforms.”

Corning continues to collaborate with key customers in pharmaceutical, fine chemical and new material industries. At present, hundreds of lab research and development platforms, and dozens of Corning AFR industrial production lines have been installed in Asia, Europe and the United States.


Setting up benchmark for continuous flow application in China

Corning AFR Technology entered the China market in 2010. Over the past decade, Corning has accelerated the industrialization and promotion of AFR Technology. At present, multiple 10,000 metric tons industrial production units are installed in China, which have achieved seamless scale-up from small-scale lab test to large-scale industrial production and maintained safe and stable operation. Among them, the installations in Zhejiang Medicine Co., Ltd. have been in stable operation for nearly three years and have achieved significant social and economic benefits.

To further celebrate this accomplishment, Corning awarded three companies with the "Corning 10,000 metric tons Industrial Application Excellence" award: Zhejiang Medicine Co., Ltd., Shandong Efirm Biochemistry and Environmental Protection Co., Ltd., and Zhejiang Weihua New Material Co., Ltd. The success of these enterprises set a benchmark for the application of continuous flow technology in China. In addition, Hybrid-Chem’s Dr. Bing Ma was awarded the "Ten Years Achievement Award of Corning AFR Application" for his team’s process development work on the Weihua project.

In this era of chemical process refinement and big data intelligence, Corning is willing to help transform and upgrade the chemical industry, enhance the innovation capability of chemical companies, and achieve inherently safer production. Corning is also committed to develop global talent, and build a high-quality continuous production industry, so that more chemical and pharmaceutical customers can benefit from this innovation.

As Mr. Fu Xiangsheng, said in his speech, “…in the future, we can build a magnificent blueprint of a new era, new technology and new application. We believe that Corning AFR will take on these challenges, work hard, take the lead in the industry, and contribute to the innovation and development of the petrochemical and fine chemical industry at home and abroad.”