The hardware selection and design aspects for RD columns are not the same as for conventional distillation columns. In RD columns we need to aim for high liquid or catalyst hold-ups in the column, whereas in conventional distillation columns we usually aim for high throughput and high vapor-liquid interfacial area. For homogeneous RD, we would prefer to operate the tray column at very low superficial vapor velocities in the bubbly flow regime. For heterogeneous RD columns, the choice of hardware is even more difficult because it is nearly impossible to reconcile the conflicting requirements of high catalyst hold-up, low pressure drop and good vapor-liquid contact.
Many of the conflicting hardware issues can be resolved by de-coupling the separation and reaction function by employing the side-reactor concept.
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