State multiplicity in PFR - separator - recycle polymerization systems

Anton A. Kiss, Costin S. Bildea, Alexandre C. Dimian, Piet D. Iedema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the non-linear behaviour of isothermal and non-isothermal plug-flow reactor (PFR)-separator-recycle systems, with reference to radical polymerization. The steady-state behaviour of six reaction systems of increasing complexity, from one-reactant first-order reaction to chain-growth polymerization, is investigated. In PFR-separator-recycle systems feasible steady states exist only if the reactor volume exceeds a critical value. For one-reaction systems, one stable steady state is born at a transcritical bifurcation. In case of consecutive-reaction systems, including polymerization, a fold bifurcation can lead to two feasible steady states. The transcritical bifurcation is destroyed when two reactants are involved. In addition, the thermal effects also introduce state multiplicity. When multiple steady states exist, the instability of the low-conversion branch sets a lower limit on the conversion achievable at a stable operating point. A low-density polyethylene process is presented as a real plant example. The results obtained in this study are similar to CSTR-separator-recycle systems. This suggests that the behaviour is dictated by the chemical reaction and flowsheet structure, rather than by the reactor type.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2973-2984
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


  • Kinetics
  • Non-linear dynamics
  • Polymerization
  • Reaction engineering
  • Recycle systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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