Discover the Three Top–Trends in Mixing Technology

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Trend 3: Customization

New processes and products, but also new or frequently changing raw materials require specific customization of mixers for their respective task. In bio-refineries, for example, the polymeric structures of biomass containing cellulose and lignin can be broken up and down to sugars with the help of enzymes. Ekato has developed an alternative approach to a continuous stirred reactor for this process.

After a thermal pre-treatment, the moist biomass is filled into the top of the reactor and mixed with the enzymes. This mixture then flows through the stirring tank, gets thinner with increasing breakdown rate and leaves the reactor almost watery thin. The aim is to create a piston flow to achieve a narrow residence time distribution and thus a full breakdown in the smallest possible volume.

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A multi-stage stirring system allows for a targeted local power feed tailored to the present viscosity. The special shape of the stirring unit leads primarily to a radial flow of the stirrer blade with inward and outward flow parts and thus ensures a good cross mixing with intense contact between enzyme and biomass. The suppression of longitudinal mixing brings the residence time behavior closer to the desired principle of a piston flow. Another challenge in mixing and drying is process development — particularly when working with expensive products.

Bolz-Summix presented their laboratory system BS-minidry at Achema. This comprehensive system processes small amounts of 0.15 to 1.5 liters and thus allows simulating drying processes, like homogenizing, mixing with close wall clearance, or drying under vacuum, with little loss of product The laboratory software and hardware ensure that all important data is captured, evaluated and processed and available for necessary scale-up calculations.

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Coperion K-Tron has also developed a compounding system suited to the requirements of small-scale production, but also for formula development and research. The ZSK 18 Megalab laboratory extruder is a twin screw extruder with an 18 mm screw diameter. It can compound for example powder coating and toner, pressure-sensitive adhesives, hot melt adhesives and catalysts or catalyst carrier masses at throughputs of 200 g to 40 kg/h. Another area of application is reactive extrusion.

Why a Mixer Must do More than Just Mixing

Even if the trends lead to very specific customization and developments in mixing technology, one thing is clear: Secure, homogeneous mixing performance is no longer the only what is expected from a mixer.

It must also support the efficiency and profitability of the whole process. Certainly many other mixers take into account the trends presented here. Overviews like this can only be exemplary. We will keep an eye on developments and will regularly report about further innovations.