Lab-on-a-Chip Micro Reactors for Chemical Synthesis
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Micro reactors, in their simplest form, consist of a network of micron-sized channels (typical dimensions are in the range 10–300 µm) etched into a solid substrate (see Refs. for introductory overviews). The ability to move chemical reagents around the channel network enables spatial control of reactions, which can be exploited to alter yield and product selectivity in synthetic chemical processes. This extra dimension of reaction control, not achievable in bulk reactors where concentrations are uniform, is comparable with compartmentalized biosynthetic processes in biological cells. Hence, in addition to their applications in analysis, micro reactors open up new horizons for the controlled synthesis of fine chemicals. This article discusses the current and future applications of micro reactors in the fields of chemical synthesis and drug discovery. The fabrication and physical characterization of micro reactors, together with details of their use and operation, is described. Examples of liquid and gas phase reactions are used to illustrate some key advantages of performing chemical reactions in micro reactors.