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Keywords:

  • automation;
  • continuous-flow;
  • integrated microchemical systems;
  • microreactors;
  • process optimization

Abstract

Will microreactors replace the round-bottomed flask to perform chemical reactions in the near future? Recent developments in the construction of microstructured reaction devices and their wide-ranging applications in many different areas of chemistry suggest that they can have a significant impact on the way chemists conduct their experiments. Miniaturizing reactions offers many advantages for the synthetic organic chemist: high-throughput scanning of reaction conditions, precise control of reaction variables, the use of small quantities of reagents, increased safety parameters, and ready scale-up of synthetic procedures. A wide range of single- and multiphase reactions have now been performed in microfluidic-based devices. Certainly, microreactors cannot be applied to all chemistries yet and microfluidic systems also have disadvantages. Limited reaction-time range, high sensitivity to precipitating products, and new physical, chemical, and analytical challenges have to be overcome. This concept article presents an overview of microfluidic devices available for chemical synthesis and evaluates the potential of microreactor technology in organic synthesis.