A continuous process for hydrogenating nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) was developed and its performance was experimentally investigated. A Kenics® KMX static mixer (SM) is used in the process as a gas–liquid reactor in which gaseous hydrogen reacts with NBR in an organic solution catalyzed by an organometallic complex such as an osmium complex catalyst. The Kenics® KMX SM was designed with 24 mixing elements with 3.81 cm diameter and arranged such that the angle between two neighboring elements is 90°. The internal structure of each element is open blade with the blades being convexly curved. The dimensions of the SM reactor are: 3.81 cm ID 80 S and 123 cm length and was operated cocurrently with vertical upflow. The NBR solutions of different concentrations (0.418 and 0.837 mol/L with respect to [CC]) were hydrogenated by using different concentrations of the osmium catalyst solution at various residence times. The reactions were conducted at a constant temperature of 138°C and at a constant pressure of 3.5 MPa. From the experimental results, it is observed that a conversion and/or degree of hydrogenation above 95% was achieved in a single pass from the designed continuous process. This is the first continuous process for HNBR production that gives conversions above 95% till date. Optimum catalyst concentration for a given mean residence time to achieve conversions above 95% were obtained. Finally, a mechanistic model for the SM reactor performance with respect to hydrogenation of NBR was proposed and validated with the obtained experimental results. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2009
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