Novel Catalytic Reactive Distillation Processes for a Sustainable Chemical Industry

Anton A. Kiss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


Reactive distillation (RD) is a great process intensification concept taking advantage of the synergy created when combining (catalyzed) reaction and separation into a single unit, which allows the concurrent production and removal of products. This feat improves the productivity and selectivity, reduces the energy usage, eliminates the need for solvents, and leads to highly-efficient systems with improved sustainability metrics (e.g. less waste and emissions). This paper provides an overview of the key features of RD processes, with emphasis on novel catalytic/reactive distillation processes that can make a difference at large scale and pave the way for a more sustainable chemical process industry that is more profitable, safer and less polluting. These examples include the production of: acrylic and methacrylic monomers, unsaturated polyesters resins, di-alkyl ethers, fatty esters, as well as other short alkyl esters (e.g. by enzymatic reactive distillation). The main drivers for such new RD applications are: economical (large reduction of costs and energy use), environmental (lower CO2 emissions, no or reduced waste) and social (improved safety and health due to lower reactive content, reduced footprint and run away sensitivity). Hence RD technology strongly contributes to all three pillars of sustainability in the chemical process industry. Nonetheless, the potential of RD technology has not been fully tapped yet, and there is still undergoing research to improve it further by various means: e.g. ultrasound or microwave assisted RD, use of high-gravity fields (HiGee), internally heat integration, cyclic operation, or coupling RD with other operations such as membrane separations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1132-1148
Number of pages17
JournalTopics in catalysis
Issue number17-20
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Catalytic distillation
  • Eco-efficiency
  • Process design
  • Reactive distillation
  • Sustainability


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