The role of kinetics in the design of plasma microreactors

Chemical Engineering Science, volume 65, Issue 17, September 2010, pages 4925-4930

Jaime H. Lozano-Paradaa and William B. Zimmerman Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 3JD, UK

Miniaturization of plasma reactors has the potential of low power operation. In general, the electric field strength in the gap between two electrodes increases proportionate to inverse of the gap width, so that it is possible to overcome the first ionization potential of the gas with a low voltage. However, plasmas are extinguished primarily by recombination at the walls. Wall collisions are enhanced by the greater surface area to volume ratio in microchannels, which also increases proportionate to the inverse of the gap width. If the plasma were well mixed, then the plasma creation in the bulk would be balanced by extinction at the wall, providing no particular advantage with regard to low voltage/low power operation. However, the plasma is transferred from the bulk to the wall by ambipolar diffusion. If the operation of the plasma microreactor is essentially transient or batch, whether or not the reaction kinetics are comparable to or faster than ambipolar diffusion determines if there is a regime of operation in which a low voltage plasma discharge can generate a high yield of product. In this paper, this question is investigated with regards to the ozone formation reaction and a particular design of a microchannel plasma reactor, with parameters so chosen to arguably achieve low voltage operation. The focus of this paper is the simulation of the kinetics of the plasma reactions leading to ozone formation, which shows a time to completion that is comparable (10−2 s) or faster than the estimate of ambipolar diffusion time at these length scales. Preliminary results of a microchip reactor are consistent with this prediction. More...

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