ALFRED speeds up process R&D at Degussa

Related tags Degussa Chemical reaction Chemistry

Specialty chemicals company Degussa has developed an put in place
an automated workstation that should speed up process development
and scale-up projects for its clients.

The system, called ALFRED (Advanced Level Fast Reaction Engineering Device) is designed to allow multiple chemical reactions to be carried out in parallel and with minimum operator involvement. It is sited at Degussa's site in Hanau-Wolfgang, Germany, and built as part of a joint project between the company and Accelab, a specialist in lab automation.

The system comprises eight jacketed lab-scale reactor units, an industrial robot and a stationary liquid-handling system. Each reactor unit features individual temperature measurement and control (between -20 and +140 °C), pH measurement and control, parallel dosing of up to two liquids, (vacuum) distillation, liquid-phase detection and separation of layers and controllable mechanical stirring.

In addition, ALFRED's robot is capable of taking samples from the reaction vessels, of further processing them, and of transferring them to multititre plates that are compatible with automated analytical equipment.

Software allows process scripts to be predefined and experiments run 24 hours a day. Important process parameters can also be recorded by the software, so the system can run unattended after a sequence of experiments has been started.

"With ALFRED, relevant process parameters may be distinguished from irrelevant ones, and the optimum and the acceptable ranges are determined for those parameters identified as critical,"​ said Degussa.

"Using ALFRED, we can respond to customer demands more quickly and further increase our development efficiency,"​ said Klaus Stadtmüller, who headed the project to develop the workstation.

ALFRED has already been used successfully for the development and optimization of several processes since it started operations in 2004.

Expands R&D in India

Meanwhile, Degussa's Exclusive Synthesis & Catalysts business unit is planning to establish an R&D lab near Mumbai, India, this spring. The lab will conduct contract research for lab and kilolab samples and develop syntheses and processes for the business.

In the first phase, built with an investment of €1 million, analytical and kilolab equipment will be installed in a 7,000 square foot facility. By the end of 2005, 15 to 20 chemists and technicians will be hired.

Dr Rudolf Hanko, recently appointed vice president of Degussa's Exclusive Synthesis unit, said: "We view India as a key region for growth in API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) manufacturing. Our customers are moving there."

Degussa has also established production for amino acids in China through its joint venture with Rexim Only Time Pharmaceuticals, and yesterday announced a new joint venture with Cathay Biotechnology to make L-lysine for the animal feed markets. The company said the lab in India represents a further strengthening of its position in Asia.

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