Chemical reactor stability and sensitivity



The purpose of this paper is to consider the well agitated continuous reactor from the standpoint of stability of the steady state. It has been shown in the past that chemical-reaction systems may be unstable in the sense that on slight perturbation they tend to move to a more stable state or that they are stable in their steady states, small perturbations being self-correcting so that the system possesses autoregulation. In this paper methods of developing criteria for the quantitative determination of stability or instability or presented and applied to some simple problems. In order that the effect of large perturbations on the system may be determined, complete solutions of the rigorous equations are obtained on the analogue computer (R.E.A.C.). A complete plot of reaction paths in the concentration-temperature plane may be obtained in this manner. Because of the nonlinearity of the system one cannot predict with certainty what steady state will be approached after a given large perturbation, multiple steady states being assumed possible. From the phase plot of reaction paths the regions in the plane which lead to certain steady states are delineated. Also it is shown that the natural behavior of a reactor is not to approach an unstable state. So far as the reactor is concenrned, the unstable state does not exist. The stability of the system is important to the engineer, as control will be easy or difficult and product quality will be satisfactory or not depending upon the relative stability of the steady state. An unstable state would require more elaborate control than a stable state.