Scale up in chemical engineering

Scale up in chemical engineering is a problem which contributes to an increase in the cost of production and also has a detrimental effect on quality due to the lack of control.

Scale up means scaling up from laboratory quantities, proportions and process parameters to pilot plant scale or commercial scale. The implications for scaling are not only quantitative, but qualitative as well.

Scale up has a number of parameters of scale, and these will be demonstrated with examples. It is important to look at the whole process from the time an idea is conceived to the point of being in production. If a good idea has been thought out well then this is essential for success, but also it should be remembered as well that scale up may not always be as successful as originally intended due to inevitable difficulties and altered objectives during the investigation phase.

The following will be described and demonstrated through examples of scales of chemical engineering products, processes and equipment. A process flow will be described which goes from idea to production. Each step can be crucial in defining the final product and also point towards influencing parameters for improvement.

The size of a scale will affect all aspects of the design, construction, operation and maintenance as well as influence the time required for scaling up. The results are then used in different applications so that the quality is preserved or improved.

Scale up progresses from laboratory scale, to pilot plant scale and finally commercial scale. Many processes can be scaled up and down in a continuous process. Therefore the size of equipment does not need to be the same at each stage but it is more important that the process remains the same and there is a smooth transition from one scale to another.

In order to achieve this, then the special properties of fluids should be taken into account, as they determine its behaviour in a continuous processes operation.

Chemical engineering scale up is combined with all disciplines of engineering. The many inter-twined disciplines, knowledge and technologies contribute to the successful scale up processes. Scale up will be considered by the difference between a simple reaction, reaction using condensation or a dehydration process, as opposed to other chemical processes in other fields of engineering.