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Process Analytical Chemistry In Perspective

F. McLennan
Published 1995 · Engineering

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Process Analytical Chemistry (PAC) is the application of analytical science to the monitoring and control of industrial chemical process [1,2]. This information may be used to both control and optimise the perform­ ance of a chemical process in terms of capacity, quality, cost, consistency and waste reduction. PAC is not new. It has been applied in the petroleum and petrochem­ ical industries since the 1950s but is presently going through a reincarna­ tion and is a rapidly developing field in all areas of chemical production petroleum, fine chemicals, commodity chemicals, petrochemicals, bio­ technology, food, pharmaceuticals, etc. being fuelled by technological advances in analytical chemistry together with changing needs within the chemical industry. In a traditional chemical manufacturing plant, samples are taken from reaction areas and transported to the analytical laboratory which is typically centralised. Here the samples are analysed by highly qualified technical staff using state-of-the-art equipment producing results typi­ cally in a few hours to a few days. Such analysis is generally used retrospectively to measure process efficiency, to identify materials which need to be reworked or discarded or in a multistage batch synthesis to assess the charge for the next stage. Where these results are critical to the continuation of the process, the process is usually designed to accommo­ date this time delay giving rise to longer cycle times and reduced plant utilisa tion. Process control in this environment is effected by an experimental correlation of physical parameters during the process such as flow rates, times, temperatures, pressures with chemical composition, quality and yield of the derived material followed by subsequent control of these physical parameters. Implementation of PAC dramatically changes this scene. PAC analy­ sers are situated either in or immediately next to the manufacturing process. They are designed to withstand the rigours of a manufacturing environment and to give a high degree of reliability. They are operated either automatically or by non-technical staff such as process operatives

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