Process industries rely heavily on a reactor vessel or batch reactor because it's their primary equipment for managing chemical reactions and producing practical, everyday consumer products. Steel, alloy, or glass-lined steel typically makes up reactor vessels.

While glass-lined steel reactors offer the same benefits as stainless steel reactors, processing companies use the latter the most because of their versatility and economical price point. As such, it's worth investing in a stainless steel reactor if you're planning to enhance your manufacturing processes while staying on a budget. 

Read on to learn more about stainless steel reactors and their common applications.

What is a stainless steel reactor?

A stainless steel reactor is a vessel that consists of a tank with an agitator and an integral heating or cooling system. Depending on the size, this vessel can handle from less than 1 liter to 15,000 liters of matter. Some manufacturers also refer to stainless steel reactors as crystallizers or bioreactors, depending on their use.

The top of the reactor charges liquids and solids and discharges vapors and gases. Meanwhile, the bottom of the vessel releases liquids.

Stainless steel reactors are of two types based on their material alloy configuration: SS304 and SS316. SS304  contains up to 18% chromium and up to 8% nickel. Different industries, such as food and healthcare, use this stainless steel material the most because it costs less, allows for fabrication like bending and stamping, and resists heat and corrosion.

Meanwhile, SS316 contains up to 2% molybdenum, which makes it more resistant to corrosion and oxidation. These features make SS316 ideal for maritime, gas refining, healthcare, and paper industries.

What are the uses of a stainless steel reactor?

Process industries have many practical and complex uses for stainless steel reactors that can be beneficial for your business.

1. Batch distillation

Batch distillation involves boiling and vaporizing, then cooling two liquids with different boiling points to create a highly concentrated product. Batch chemical processing, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries use this separation method the most compared to other distillation techniques.

Food and beverage manufacturers, for instance, use batch distillation to produce alcoholic beverages. Distillers pour a fermented grain and water mixture into a still or heating vessel to produce an alcohol-water mixture. They then raise the initial product's alcohol content through additional batch distillations and age it to create a final alcoholic beverage.

Pharmaceutical companies also use batch distillation to manufacture and check small quantities of drugs against product specifications and avoid producing large quantities of off-quality products.

2. Crystallization

Crystallization is the second most frequently used separation process after distillation. It involves removing the water-dissolved inorganic compounds of a liquid, solution, or gas to form a crystallized product. The solid result comprises an organized arrangement of molecules, ions, or atoms.

Process and pharmaceutical industries use this process to crystallize metal salts from highly concentrated solutions, treat wastewater, and remove free fluoride ions, calcium, magnesium, magnesium-ammonium, or potassium-magnesium phosphate. Crystallization is also a generic term for evaporative or cooling crystallization, precipitation, and melt crystallization.

3. Polymerization

Also known as polymer synthesis, polymerization combines monomers to produce polymers essential in making plastic products. Industrial polymer manufacturers use two classes of polymerization: condensation polymerization and addition polymerization.

Every step of the condensation polymerization process involves forming a molecule of simple compounds like water. Meanwhile, additional polymerization doesn't require by-products. It uses catalysts that control the structural details of monomers and, ultimately, affect the properties of polymers.

Industrial polymer manufacturers use different polymerization reactors, such as continuous, semi-batch, and batch reactors, in their production. They typically use batch reactors for small to intermediate batches of polymers or specialty grades. On the other hand, they use continuous reactors for large batches of commodity polymers such as polyolefins and high-impact polystyrene.

4. Hydrogenation

Food, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries use hydrogenation to process raw products, materials, or ingredients. They use nickel, platinum, and palladium catalysts to create the desired chemical reaction between molecular hydrogen and an element or compound. The process needs elevated temperatures and pressure to increase the hydrogen density and reaction rate.

Hydrogenated products include vegetable oil, ammonia, diesel, gasoline, isopropyl alcohol, drugs, margarine, polyols, various polymers, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen peroxide.

5. Alkylation

Alkylation involves transferring an alkyl group from one molecule to another to produce petroleum. Here, the alkyl group turns into an alkyl carbocation, free radical, or carbanion.

This process also uses sulfuric or hydrofluoric acid catalysts to combine olefins with isobutane and create an alkylate product. The end product will have high-octane, branched-chain paraffin hydrocarbons that blend into a gasoline pool.

Elevate Your Stainless Steel Reactors

Stainless steel reactors offer many cost-effective benefits. However, your manufacturing processes may not improve using generic stainless steel reactors. Remember to purchase lab equipment only from trusted suppliers to get the most out of your investment, produce high-quality products, and enhance your operations as your business grows.

Across International offers durable stainless steel reactors and accessories in different capacities and price points to accommodate all processing needs. We also provide research centers, universities, and corporations with laboratory, heat treatment, and material processing equipment to support their research and development efforts.  

Our ISO certification and over 30 years of lab equipment market experience demonstrate our products' quality and reliability. Check out our catalog of stainless steel reactors or request a quote today!