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In a tubular reactor, fluids (gases and/or liquids) flow through it at high velocities. As the reactants flow, for example along a heated pipe, they are converted to products . At these high velocities, the products are unable to diffuse back and there is little or no back mixing. The conditions are referred to as plug flow.

This reduces the occurrence of side reactions and increases the yield of the desired product.

With a constant flow rate, the conditions at any one point remain constant with time and changes in time of the reaction are measured in terms of the position along the length of the tube.

The reaction rate is faster at the pipe inlet because the concentration of reactants is at its highest and the reaction rate reduces as the reactants flow through the pipe due to the decrease in concentration of the reactant.

Tubular reactors are used, for example, in the steam cracking of ethane, propane and butane and naphtha to produce alkenes.

Fixed bed reactors :
  • A heterogeneous catalyst is used frequently in industry where gases flow through a solid catalyst (which is often in the form of small pellets to increase the surface area).
  • It is often described as a fixed bed of catalyst Among the examples of their use are the manufacture of sulfuric acid (the Contact Process, with vanadium(V) oxide as catalyst)
  • The manufacure of nitric acid and the manufacture of ammonia (the Haber Process, with iron as the catalyst).