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Review

Recent Advances in Microflow Photochemistry

1
School of Pharmacy and Molecular Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
2
School of Chemical Sciences, Dublin City University, Dublin 9, Ireland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Molecules 2011, 16(9), 7522-7550; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules16097522
Received: 12 August 2011 / Revised: 31 August 2011 / Accepted: 31 August 2011 / Published: 5 September 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Flow Chemistry)

Abstract

:
This review summarizes recent advances in microflow photochemical technologies and transformations. The portfolio of reactions comprises homogeneous and heterogeneous types, among them photoadditions, photorearrangements, photoreductions, photodecarboxylations, photooxygenations and photochlorinations. While microflow photochemistry is most commonly employed as a micro-scale synthesis tool, scale-up and technical production processes have already been developed.

Graphical Abstract

1. Introduction

Synthetic organic photochemistry uses light as an energy source to initiate chemical transformations. Following this approach, a large variety of photoreactions with high selectivity, chemical yields and photon efficiencies have been developed [1,2,3]. Due to its easy generation, control and handling, light (in particular sunlight) is also considered as a ‘clean and traceless reagent’. Consequently, photochemistry has earned its place among the green and sustainable technologies [4,5,6]. Despite these advantages, however, photochemical reactions in chemical production or R&D processes are rare. Most technical processes are limited to commodity chemicals and have been developed decades ago [7,8]. Recently, miniaturized microflow devices have become widespread in synthetic chemistry [9,10,11,12,13]. The small size of the integrated reaction channel (under a millimeter in at least one dimension), together with favorable heat and mass transport, allows for precise control of reaction time, temperature, pressure and mixing. These key-features commonly result in increased selectivity, conversion and yield, and make microflow reactors advantageous for industrial [14,15] and ‘green’ processes [16,17,18,19]. ‘Microphotochemistry’ combines the advantages of microflow technology and organic photochemistry and has consequently emerged as a new synthesis concept (Figure 1) [20].
Figure 1. Concept of microflow photochemistry.
Figure 1. Concept of microflow photochemistry.
Molecules 16 07522 g001

2. Reactor Comparison

Conventional laboratory-scale photoreactions are generally performed as batch processes using immersion well or chamber reactors (Figure 2) [7]. The total reaction volume of these laboratory systems rarely exceeds one liter. In chamber reactors, the reaction mixture is irradiated using an external array of fluorescent lamps, while immersion well systems accommodate a single low-, medium- or high pressure mercury lamp. Small scale reactor systems incorporating LEDs have also been designed and are commercially available (Figure 2c). For photoreactions in parallel, merry-go-round accessories have been developed for both reactor types.
Figure 2. (a) Immersion well system (UV-LRS-1; courtesy of UV-Consulting Peschl); (b) Rayonet chamber reactor with merry-go-round accessory (RPR-100 with RMA-500; courtesy of Southern New England Ultraviolet Company); (c) Small scale reactor with light guide attachment (LUMOS 43; courtesy of Atlas Photonics).
Figure 2. (a) Immersion well system (UV-LRS-1; courtesy of UV-Consulting Peschl); (b) Rayonet chamber reactor with merry-go-round accessory (RPR-100 with RMA-500; courtesy of Southern New England Ultraviolet Company); (c) Small scale reactor with light guide attachment (LUMOS 43; courtesy of Atlas Photonics).
Molecules 16 07522 g002
Depending on the photophysical properties of the absorbing species, light penetration is commonly limited to a narrow layer within the reaction mixture (as expressed in the Beer-Lambert law; Equation 1). Consequently, high dilutions or narrow reaction vessels are typically applied to allow for improved light penetration. Reactions performed on micro scales can somewhat circumvent this effect due to the small size of the reaction vessels or entire reactors [21,22,23,24]:
Molecules 16 07522 i001
An additional limiting factor is the quantum yield at a given wavelength Φλ (Equation 2), which describes the photon efficiency of a photochemical process and needs to be determined using actinometry [7,25]:
Molecules 16 07522 i002
The quantum yield is unity (Φλ = 1) if each photon absorbed by the absorbing species or chromophore yields a product molecule. Most common photoreactions have quantum yields below this optimal value due to photophysical deactivation processes (Φλ < 1). If the quantum yield is smaller than 0.01, the conversion is very slow and exhaustive irradiation times may be required (the chemical yield of the product may still be high!). Photoinduced chain reactions can possess very large quantum yields (Φλ >> 1) since light is only needed for the initiation step. Photochemical syntheses have a number of additional, practical limitations. Conventional lamps are rarely monochromatic and instead, show multi-wavelengths or broad (±50 nm) emissions. To avoid unwanted side or follow-up reactions, optical filters must therefore be applied. The pronounced heat release of traditional lamps furthermore requires intensive cooling procedures during operations. This, together with the limited lifetime of most lamps (~2,000 h), causes significant installation, maintenance and operation costs. Excimer lamp systems [26], lasers [27] and light emitting diodes (LEDs) [28] avoid some of these disadvantages but have other practical limitations, for example, restricted wavelengths or low power output. In addition, the batch mode with fixed volumes cannot be easily automated and follow-up reactions or decompositions due to ‘over-irradiation’ are frequently encountered. Likewise, the formation of polymeric films and iron deposits on immersion wells is commonly observed. While some smart reactor designs [29], for example falling-film [30,31], ‘liquid bell’ [32] or spinning-disc reactors [33,34], can overcome some of these drawbacks, these more sophisticated reactor types have not been widely utilized yet.
In contrast, the design and operation features of continuous flow microreactors are particularly beneficial for photochemical transformations, especially if combined with miniaturized light-sources. Figure 3 shows a selection of commercially available microflow devices. The photochemistry module by Future Chemistry consists of a microchip and an enclosed UV-LED array on top of a cooling system. The thin layers of the reaction channels (<1,000 µm) generally ensure extensive penetration of light throughout the reaction medium even at higher concentrations of the absorbing species. The continuous flow operation furthermore prevents or reduces side reactions or decompositions caused by ‘over-irradiation’. Likewise, the irradiation period is precisely controlled via the flow rate of the pumping system. For rapid reaction monitoring, online UV- [35,36] and IR-analysis [37] have both been realized. On demand, microflow systems can be automated, up-scaled or run in parallel. Due to the efficient control of temperature, pressure and residence time, microreactors are also safer in conducting highly exothermic or potentially ‘explosive’ reactions [38].
Figure 3. (a) Dwell device (courtesy of mikroglas chemtech); (b)Cylindrical falling-film microreactor and its standard version (FFMR-cyl and FFMR; courtesy of IMM); (c) Photochemistry module (courtesy of Future Chemistry).
Figure 3. (a) Dwell device (courtesy of mikroglas chemtech); (b)Cylindrical falling-film microreactor and its standard version (FFMR-cyl and FFMR; courtesy of IMM); (c) Photochemistry module (courtesy of Future Chemistry).
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‘Closed’ microreactors as those shown in Figure 3 have the reaction channel(s) embedded in a solid mold, for example glass, metal or plastic. The two main types are serpentine channel and falling film reactors. Serpentine channels can range from centimeters to several meters in length and may have several inlets. Some models, for example the dwell device, have additional cooling channels embedded in the reactor body (the top, parallel cooling channels are clearly visible in Figure 3a); others, for example the photochemistry module by Future Chemistry, are combined with an external cooling device (Figure 3c). Falling film reactors were specifically developed for gas-liquid reactions and contain a reaction plate with parallel microchannels [39]. The reagent gas is flowing over the liquid, falling film generated in these channels. The large interfacial area (up to 20,000 m2/m3) ensures effective saturation of the liquid film with the gas. Scale-up has been achieved using cylindrical reactor models (Figure 3b) or larger channel plates. In contrast to these ‘closed’ systems, ‘open’ reactor models use flexible microcapillaries as reaction channels [40]. Although a large range of microreactors is now commercially available, ‘in-house’ devices are still commonly constructed and utilized for photochemical studies. The reactor materials, microchannel dimensions and operation protocols can vary significantly for these ‘in-house’ systems.

3. Photochemical Reactions in Microreactors

Early examples of photochemical reactions under microflow conditions have been summarized independently by Oelgemöller [41] and Matsushita [42,43], respectively. This review presents an update on this exciting new methodology and features reactions reported since 2008. Wherever known, details of the batch vs. microreactor system are presented in tables for easy comparison. The reactions described are divided into two main categories: Homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions. While a number of (heterogeneous) catalytic applications of microflow reactors have been reported, none was used for synthesis [44,45,46,47,48,49].

3.1. Homogeneous Reactions

3.1.1. Synthesis of Vitamin D3

The industrially relevant synthesis of vitamin D3 (3) from provitamin D3 (1) under microflow conditions was described recently by Takahashi and coworkers [50]. The two-stage procedure involved a photochemical and a thermal reaction step (Scheme 1). The initially formed previtamin D3 2 may undergo further cis-trans photoisomerization to tachysterol (4) or photoinduced electrocyclization to lumisterol (5).
Scheme 1. Synthesis of vitamin D3.
Scheme 1. Synthesis of vitamin D3.
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The photochemical ring-opening of 1 to previtamin D3 (2) was initially investigated in a quartz microreactor using 1,4-dioxane, toluene and butanol as solvents, respectively. These high-boiling solvents were necessary for the subsequent thermal isomerization of 2 to vitamin D3 (3). After irradiation for 2 min or 5 min with a 400 W high-pressure mercury lamp, the crude reaction mixtures were analyzed by HPLC. Of the three solvents investigated, 1,4-dioxane gave the highest conversion (>95%) and selectivity (2: 45–48%; 4: 38–39%). The formation of the undesired photocyclisation product lumisterol 5 was furthermore suppressed below 10% in this solvent. In contrast, an analogue reaction under batch conditions showed much lower selectivity (combined 2+4: 23%; 5: 25%) and conversion (recovered 1: 50%).
The two-step synthesis was subsequently examined in two microreactors in series (Table 1) using a single 400 W high-pressure mercury lamp equipped with a Vycor filter (313–578 nm). The second reactor was additionally irradiated through a glass UV filter (360 nm) and was placed in an oil bath at 100 °C. The combined application of photochemical and thermal conditions within the second stage shifted the equilibrium of the competing photoisomerisation to tachysterol (4) to previtamin D3 (2) and reduced the formation of the undesired lumisterol (5).
A solution of provitamin D3 (1) in 1,4-dioxane (20 or 30 mM) was introduced at various flow rates with a syringe pump and the compositions of the crude reaction mixtures were determined by HPLC analysis. The highest yield of vitamin D3 (3)—60% (HPLC) or 32% (isolated)—was obtained when a 30 mM solution of 1 was used at the lowest flow rate of 5 μL min−1 (corresponding to an irradiation time of 10 min in the photo-microreactor and 20 min in the photo/thermal-microreactor).
The yields obtained under microflow conditions were significantly higher if compared to the industrial process, where the yield of vitamin D3 (3) is typically below 20% [7]. The continuous two-step process additionally prevented the need for purification of intermediates or high dilution conditions.
Table 1. Key parameters of microreactors used (no batch reactor details provided).
Table 1. Key parameters of microreactors used (no batch reactor details provided).
Photo-μ-reactorPhoto/thermal-μ-reactor
Custom-made (quartz) 1,000 μm × 200 μm × 25 cm (W × D × L) 50 μL (Vchannel)Custom-made (quartz) 1,000 μm × 200 μm × 50 cm (W × D × L) 100 μL (Vchannel) Submerged in oil bath (100 °C)
400 W high pressure mercury lamp (Vycor filter)400 W high pressure mercury lamp (Vycor and glass UV filter)

3.1.2. Barton Reaction

The synthesis of the steroidal oxime 7 from the nitrite precursor 6 under microflow conditions has been reported by Ryu and coworkers (Scheme 2) [51,52]. Oxime 7 is a key intermediate in the preparation of myriceric acid A, a potent endothelin receptor antagonist.
Scheme 2. Barton reaction.
Scheme 2. Barton reaction.
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The authors initially optimized the experimental setup using a glass-covered, stainless steal microreactor (Table 2). Various glass tops were investigated using a 300 W high-pressure mercury lamp at a distance of 15 cm. An acetone solution of 6 containing catalytic amounts of pyridine was pumped through the reactor at a fixed residence time of 6 min and the crude product was analyzed by HPLC. The experiment using a soda lime cover showed the highest selectivity (19% of oxime 7; 46% of unreacted 6), which was explained by its favorable cut-off wavelength of >320 nm, thus avoiding photodecomposition. The optimal distance between the microreactor and the light source was subsequently examined using the soda lime top. A distance of 7.5 cm was found to be optimal and 7 was obtained in a yield of 59%. The authors additionally investigated the temperature dependence of the reaction by placing the microreactor into a temperature bath. With the soda lime cover and a distance of 15 cm between reactor and lamp, the yields of oxime 7 remained almost constant over a temperature range of 0–40 °C. Above the critical temperature of 50 °C, however, pronounced thermal decomposition of 7 was observed.
To circumvent these thermal and photochemical decomposition processes, a more compact and selective 15 W black light (UVA) lamp was chosen for further optimization studies. Subsequently, Pyrex glass and an extended residence time of 12 min gave the desired oxime product 7 in a high yield of 71% (by HPLC). Despite its lower power, the black light source gave a 10-times higher energy efficiency than the more powerful mercury lamp. A batch vs. microreactor comparison study was conducted in the absence of pyridine. Under microflow conditions, 7 was obtained in 56% (by HPLC) after just 6 min, whereas the batch reaction required a prolonged irradiation of 3 h to reach a similar yield of 58%. The authors furthermore examined a UV-LED panel (48 × 35 mW) as an alternative light source for the microreactor setup. Despite the low overall power output of 1.7 W, the desired product 7 was obtained in a yield of 70% (by HPLC) after a residence time of just 12 minutes.
Table 2. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 2. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
BatchSingle-lane μ-reactor
20 mL Pyrex round bottom flask 10 mL (Vsolution)Dainippon Screen (stainless steel, glass window) 1,000 μm × 107 μm × 2.2 m (W × D × L) 0.2 mL (Vchannel)
15 W black light15 W black light or 1.7 W UV-LED array

3.1.3. [2+2]-Cycloadditions of Coumarin Derivatives

A novel flow-based photochemical reactor named LOPHTOR was recently developed by Abbott Laboratories [53]. The reactor used a pressurized fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) membrane to seal off the micro reaction channels. Quartz glass was utilized as a cover plate and irradiations were performed using a 450 W medium pressure mercury lamp. The reactor was connected to an automated syringe pump (auto-sampler) system that allowed for in series operation of experiments.
The performance of the reactor was evaluated using the intramolecular [2+2]-cycloaddition of coumarin derivative 8 as a model reaction (Scheme 3; Table 3). A residence time optimization under microflow conditions was achieved using the auto-sampler unit and a 0.085 M solution of 8 in benzene. Following this approach, an optimal residence time of 2 h was established and the polycyclic product 9 was obtained in an excellent yield of 98%. A 10-fold scale-up was demonstrated for these optimized conditions with no change in the yield of 9. In contrast, an analogue reaction performed under batch conditions in a conventional round bottom flask required 24 h of irradiation and gave product 9 in a much lower yield of 30%. The authors also launched a concentration study using a fixed residence time of 2 h. Remarkably, the conversion rates remained high with >95% over the entire concentration range of 0.085–0.425 M, thus offering a convenient access to scale-up.
Scheme 3. Intramolecular [2+2]-cycloaddition of coumarin derivative 8.
Scheme 3. Intramolecular [2+2]-cycloaddition of coumarin derivative 8.
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Table 3. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 3. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-reactor
10 mL quartz Round bottom flask 1 mL (Vsolution)LOPHTOR (stainless steel with FEP membrane cover, quartz window) 1,000 μm × 250 μm × 3.93 m (W × D × L) 0.98 mL (Vchannel)
450 W medium pressure mercury lamp450 W medium pressure mercury lamp (with elliptical concentrator and integral UVEXS cold mirror)
In an extension of the work, additional coumarin derivatives were investigated under microflow and batch conditions using a fixed concentration of 0.12 M (Scheme 4; Table 4). In all cases, the LOPHTOR reactor gave higher yields and conversion rates after significantly shorter irradiation times. The diastereo- and regioselectivity were comparable in both reactor modes.
Scheme 4. [2+2]-Cycloaddition of other coumarin derivatives.
Scheme 4. [2+2]-Cycloaddition of other coumarin derivatives.
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Table 4. Comparison of LOPHTOR vs. batch reaction modes.
Table 4. Comparison of LOPHTOR vs. batch reaction modes.
TransformationLOPHTORBatch
Time [h]Yield [%]Time [h]Yield [%]
10 → 114994867
12 → 13750 (1:1 a)2430 (1:1 a)
14 → 15 + 16540 (7:1 b)2425 (8:1 b)
a Diastereoselectivity; b Regioselectivity (15 vs. 16).

3.1.4. Diastereoselective [2+2]-Cycloaddition of a Chiral Cyclohexenone

Kakiuchi, Ryu and coworkers have investigated the diastereoselective addition of cyclopentene 18 to the cyclohexenone derivative 17 (Scheme 5), which incorporated a chiral (−)-8-(phenyl)menthyl auxiliary [54]. Batch and microflow experiments were performed simultaneously in Pyrex vessels, which were emerged in a cooling bath, with a single 500 W high pressure mercury lamp (Table 5).
Scheme 5. Diastereoselective [2+2] cycloaddition of cyclohexenone 17 with cyclopentene.
Scheme 5. Diastereoselective [2+2] cycloaddition of cyclohexenone 17 with cyclopentene.
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Table 5. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 5. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-Reactor
Pyrex test tube 13 mm (ID) / 17 mm (OD) 2 mL (Vsolution)Dainippon Screen (stainless steel, Pyrex window) 1,000 μm × 100 μm × 2.2 m (W × D × L) 0.2 mL (Vchannel)
500 W high pressure mercury lamp (inside a quartz immersion well)500 W high pressure mercury lamp (inside a quartz immersion well)
Toluene and dichloromethane were tested as suitable solvents at low temperatures of 0 °C, −20 °C and −40 °C, respectively. The photoreactions in the microflow reactor generally reached completion after 30 min, whereas the batch reactions required 1 h (Table 6). The ratios of the stereoisomers 19 and 20 were determined by HPLC analysis and were almost identical for both setups in either solvent at any temperature. The preference for the formation of the cis-anti-cis stereoisomeric pair 20 dropped upon lowering of the temperature. At −40 °C, 19 and 20 were obtained in equal amounts for almost all reactions. The highest d.e. values of 82% in favor of 19a and 54% in favor of 20a were observed for the microflow experiment at −40 °C in toluene. In contrast, the analogue reaction performed in the test tube gave lower d.e. values of 72% (19) and 44% (20), respectively. The improved diastereoselectivity of the microflow synthesis was rationalized by a more accurate temperature control in combination with a significantly larger surface-to-volume ratio within the microreactor.
Table 6. Comparison of microreactor vs. batch reactions.
Table 6. Comparison of microreactor vs. batch reactions.
ReactorTemp. [°C]SolventTime [h]Ratio19:20d.e. [%]
1920
μ-reactor0toluene0.539:617153
‑20 41:597253
‑40 50:508254
batch0 138:626037
‑20 41:597042
‑40 50:507244
μ-reactor0CH2Cl20.538:626530
‑20 50:507032
‑40 51:497134
batch0 135:655727
‑20 46:546030
‑40 50:506733

3.1.5. Photochemical Reduction of Flavone

An example of a photoreduction on a non-preparative scale was reported by Ouchi and coworkers (Scheme 6; Table 7) [55]. Under batch conditions in ethanol and in the absence of light, flavone 21 remained stable in the presence of NaBH4. Earlier studies on the photochemistry of 21 using conventional light sources revealed the preferred formation of photodimers [56]. Upon irradiation with an excimer laser, however, photoreduction to flavanone 22, flavanol 23 and ethyl salicylate (24) was observed instead. On standing after irradiation, the amount of 22 decreased due to ongoing thermal reduction to flavanol 23. The formation of 24 increased upon prolonged irradiation indicating that it was formed by secondary photolysis from flavanone 22. Its generation could be completely suppressed by using a single laser shot. The consumption of flavone 21 furthermore increased with increasing NaBH4 concentration and gave different selectivity due to competing thermal over-reduction of flavanone 22. Consequently, no photoreduction was observed in the absence of the reducing agent. Using optimized conditions (0.5 mM of 21; 10 mM of NaBH4; 1 mm optical path; 3 XeCl laser shots with 10 min intervals) the photoreduction became highly chemoselective. 93% of flavone 21 were consumed and flavanol 23 was obtained as the sole product in 57% selectivity. Reactions were additionally conducted in a masked quartz microreactor over a length of 16.5 mm. Compared to their counterparts under batch conditions, the photolyses experiments were considerable accelerated and the photoproducts 2224 were formed with different selectivity.
Scheme 6. Photoreduction of flavone.
Scheme 6. Photoreduction of flavone.
Molecules 16 07522 g011
In particular, the selectivity of 22 and 23 was slightly decreased compared to the batch reaction. These effects were explained by the differences in the optical pathlengths.
Table 7. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 7. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-Reactor
Synthetic quartz cell (10 mm width and 1 mm optical path); 50 μL (Vsolution)IMT Co. Ltd. (quartz) 100 μm × 40 μm × 16.5 mm (W × D × L a)
KrF (248 nm) or XeCl (308 nm) excimer laserKrF (248 nm) excimer laser
a Microreactor masked except for a 16.5 mm × 10 mm (L × W) window.

3.1.6. Photodecarboxylations Involving Phthalimides

Sensitized photodecarboxylations involving phthalimides have been established as a versatile procedure for alkylation and (macro)cyclization reactions [57,58]. Selected model reactions were also realized on semi-technical scales using an advanced falling-film reactor equipped with a 308 nm excimer lamp [30,31]. The photodecarboxylative benzylation of phthalimide 25 to the benzylated hydroxylphthalimidines 27 was subsequently investigated by Oelgemöller and coworkers under batch and microflow conditions (Scheme 7; Table 8) [59]. The sensitizer acetone functioned as a co-solvent and was thus available in large quantities (50 vol-%).
Scheme 7. Photodecarboxylative benzylation of phthalimide.
Scheme 7. Photodecarboxylative benzylation of phthalimide.
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Despite its lower lamp power, the experiments conducted in the dwell device gave improved yields of 97% (27a) and 98% (27b) after a residence time of 2 h. In contrast, the batch reactions conducted in a conventional Schlenk flask furnished somewhat lower yields of 92% (27a) and 80% (27b) despite a prolonged irradiation period of 3 h. The superior performance under microflow conditions was rationalized by the better light penetration for the chromophore (and co-solvent) acetone through the narrow solution layer.
Table 8. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 8. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-Reactor
Pyrex Schlenk flask (32 mm ID) with cold finger (24 mm OD) 100 mL (Vsolution)mikroglas chemtech dwell device (Foturan™) 2,000 μm × 500 μm × 1.15 m (W × D × L) 1.68 mL (Vchannel)
Rayonet chamber reactor (RPR-200) equipped with 16 × 8 W UVB lampsLuzchem UV panel equipped with 5 × 8 W UVB lamps
In an extension of this work, Oelgemöller et al. investigated additional intra- and intermolecular photodecarboxylation reactions involving phthalimides (Scheme 8) [60]. A commercially available dwell device was again adopted as a microreactor. The volume of the batch reaction vessel varied depending on the transformation examined. In almost all cases examined, the experiments performed under microflow conditions gave superior results in terms of conversions or isolated yields (Table 9). To allow for a more precise comparison, all reactions were additionally compared using an identical light power of 40 W. Under these conditions, the microreactor setup gave between 3.5- and 6-times higher yields or conversions, respectively. The enhanced efficiency was again explained by the extensive light penetration through the narrow microchannel (500 μm). For the given acetone concentration at 300 nm, complete adsorption was achieved after approximately 1.5 mm, way below the effective pathlength of the Schlenk flask (4 mm).
Scheme 8. Photodecarboxylation reactions involving phthalimides.
Scheme 8. Photodecarboxylation reactions involving phthalimides.
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Table 9. Comparison of dwell device vs. batch reaction modes.
Table 9. Comparison of dwell device vs. batch reaction modes.
TransformationTime [min]Dwell deviceBatch
Yields/Conv. [%] aYields/Conv. [%] a
28 → 293.452
11237
214419
407439
609259 (22 b)
30a → 31a213346
406953
607769 (19 b)
30b → 31b213936
407059
608072 (21 b)
29 + 32a → 33a148346
219793
40100100
60100100 (29 b)
29 + 32b → 33b1442
213420
406644
6010086 (17 b)
a Conversions for reactions 2829 and 29 + 3233. Yields for reactions 3031; b Batch reactor with 5 × 8 W lamps.
A concentration study was furthermore conducted using the photobenzylation of N-methyl phthalimide 29 as a model reaction. To achieve this, the co-solvent acetone was replaced with acetonitrile. Under these conditions, direct excitation of phthalimide 29 occurred. The reaction time was set to 1 h and the concentration of both reagents 29 and 32a were increased systematically. The microreactor gave complete conversions at concentrations of 29 of 15 and 30 mmol L−1, whereas the batch system solely showed total consumption at the lowest concentration of 29 of 15 mmol L−1, respectively.
The same photodecarboxylation reactions were investigated using UVA light, aqueous acetonitrile solutions and 4,4’-dimethoxybenzophenone (DMBP) as sensitizer [61]. Conversion rates, isolated yields and selectivity were again compared to experiments conducted under batch conditions. In line with previous results, the dwell reactor showed superior performances. In contrast to the acetone-sensitized transformations, however, side- and follow-up reactions were additionally observed. The solid sensitizer DMBP also had to be removed by column chromatography and was sensitive towards photoreduction

3.1.7. Photodecarboxylative Addition to Methyl Phenylglyoxolate

Oelgemöller et al. additionally examined the photodecarboxylative addition of sulfur containing carboxylates to alkyl phenylglyoxolates under batch conditions [62]. As part of this study, the model reaction between potassium 2-(methylthio)acetate 32b and methyl phenylglyoxolate (34) was examined under microflow conditions (Scheme 9). A commercially available dwell device was again selected and compared to a larger Rayonet chamber reactor (Table 10). Using a fixed residence time of 1 h, the irradiation in microflow mode showed complete conversion and furnished the addition product 35 and the dimerization product 36 in a ratio of 76:24. When conducted in the batch reactor, an almost identical 77:23 35/36 mixture was isolated. Although there was no visible difference in performance, the microreactor required significantly less lamp power and therefore showed a higher light efficiency.
Scheme 9. Photodecarboxylative addition to methyl phenylglyoxylate.
Scheme 9. Photodecarboxylative addition to methyl phenylglyoxylate.
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Table 10. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 10. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-Reactor
Pyrex Schlenk flask (32 mm ID) with cold finger (24 mm OD) 50 mL (Vsolution)mikroglas chemtech dwell device (Foturan™) 2,000 μm × 500 μm × 1.15 m (W × D × L) 1.68 mL (Vchannel)
Rayonet chamber reactor (RPR-200) equipped with 16 × 8 W UVA lampsLuzchem UV panel equipped with 5 × 8 W UVA lamps

3.1.8. Organo-Photocatalytic Addition to Diethyl 2-Bromomalonate

An example of an ‘organic asymmetric cooperative photoredox organocatalysis’ has been briefly described by Neumann and Zeitler [63]. The stereoselective addition of octanal (37) to diethyl 2-bromo-malonate (38) was compared under microflow and batch conditions (Scheme 10; Table 11).
Scheme 10. Organo photocatalytic addition to diethyl 2-bromomalonate.
Scheme 10. Organo photocatalytic addition to diethyl 2-bromomalonate.
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Eosin Y functioned as a photocatalyst and enabled the reductive dehalogenation of 38. A chiral imidazolidinone was utilized as organocatalyst and resulted in high enantioselectivity through the formation of an enamine intermediate [64]. Irradiations were performed with green LED light at −5 °C and in the presence of lutidine. When irradiated under microflow conditions, the addition product 39 was obtained in 86% yield and with an enantiomeric excess (e.e.) of 87% after a residence time of 45 min. Under batch conditions, a comparable yield of 85% and a similar e.e. value of 88% were achieved after exhaustive irradiation for 18 h. The reduction in reaction time for the microstructured reactor was rationalized by a maximum population of excited photocatalyst within the channel.
Table 11. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 11. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-reactor
Borosilicate vial (18 mm ID) 5 mL (Vsolution)Future Chemistry photochemistry module with M-111 basic μ-reactor (Borosilicate) 600 μm × 500 μm (Wmax × D) 100 μL (Vreaction)
1 × 1 W 530 nm LED2 × 1 W 530 nm LEDs

3.1.9. Isopropanol Addition to Furanones

The DMBP sensitized addition of isopropanol (41) to furanones 40 has been intensively studied by Oelgemöller and coworkers (Scheme 11) [65,66,67]. The simple protocol used isopropanol as reagent and solvent, which made this transformation especially feasible for a detailed microreactor comparison study (Table 12). Three continuous-flow systems were utilized with different dimensions of the microstructure: a dwell device, a microchip and a dual-microcapillary reactor. Various residence times were investigated and the conversion rates to 42a–c were determined by NMR-spectroscopy. The results obtained in microflow mode were compared to those obtained in a batch chamber reactor.
Scheme 11. Sensitized isopropanol addition to furanones.
Scheme 11. Sensitized isopropanol addition to furanones.
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The batch setup, the dwell device and the microcapillary reactor gave high to quantitative conversions of furanones 40a–c after 5 min of irradiation. Despite the much weaker power of its UV-LEDs, the microchip reached high conversions already after 2.5 min (Table 13). Reactor geometry, energy efficiency and space-time-yield (STY) calculations were additional conducted and clearly demonstrated the general superiority of all three microreactor systems over the conventional batch setup [67]. Of the three microflow designs, the LED-microchip showed the best overall performance and reaction characteristics. For example, the microchip gave the highest STY values, whereas the dwell device and the capillary reactor showed comparable STY numbers to the batch system. This finding was supported by light transmission calculations, which was most efficient for the very narrow reaction channel of the microchip (150 μm depth). Despite its improvised design, the capillary reactor was considered as the most suitable setup in terms of handling and future potential.
Table 12. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactors used.
Table 12. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactors used.
batchμ-Reactorμ-Chipμ-Capillary tower
Pyrex test tube 9 mm (ID) / 10 mm (OD) 15 mL (Vsolution)mikroglas chemtech dwell device (Foturan™) 2,000 μm × 500 μm × 1.15 m (W × D × L) 1.68 mL (Vchannel)Micronit Microfluidics (Borofloat®) 150 μm × 150 μm × 757 mm (W × D × L) 13 μL (Vchannel)PTFE capillary (wrapped around a Pyrex cylinder) 558 μm × 460 cm (ID × L) 2 capillaries 2 × 1.12 mL (Vcapillary)
Rayonet chamber reactor (RPR-200) equipped with 16 × 8 W UVA lampsLuzchem UV panel equipped with 5 × 8 W UVA lamps6 × 75 mW 365 nm UV-LED array1 × 8 W UVA lamp (inside the Pyrex cylinder)
Table 13. Comparison of microreactors vs. batch reaction modes.
Table 13. Comparison of microreactors vs. batch reaction modes.
Batchμ-Reactorμ-Chipμ-Capillary tower
Time [min]Conv. [%]Time [min]Conv. [%]Time [min]Conv. [%]Time [min]Conv. [%]
42a5905811582.535
20100101002.589575
51007.595
42b5905991602.550
20100101002.5100596
51007.599
42c5875981592.564
20100101002.5100599
51007.5100

3.1.10. Photodimerization of Maleic Anhydride

The photodimerization of maleic anhydride (43) was examined by Horie et al. as an industrially relevant but problematic photoreaction (Scheme 12; Table 14) [68].
Scheme 12. Photodimerisation of maleic anhydride.
Scheme 12. Photodimerisation of maleic anhydride.
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The photodimer cyclobutane tetracarboxylic dianhydride 44 is known to precipitate during irradiation, which can cause blockage of the reaction channel in conventional microreactors. To overcome this problem, Horie and coworkers utilized fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) tubes in combination with slug flow and ultrasonication. The tubing was wrapped around a tall quartz glass beaker, which was placed inside an ultrasound bath. N2 gas was introduced into the solution flow via a T-piece to create liquid segments of about 2–5 cm and gas segments of about 0.5–1 cm. The N2 segments pushed any precipitated product through the tube. Ultrasound vibrations simultaneously prevented the adhesion and sedimentation of precipitate to the tube walls. A 400 W high pressure Hg lamp in a conventional Pyrex immersion well was employed as a light source.
The impact of the tube dimensions, maleic anhydride concentration and residence time on product formation was subsequently examined. At a temperature below 15 °C and using ethyl acetate as solvent solely the trans-isomer of 44 was obtained, as confirmed by 1H-NMR analysis. A satisfactory 70% conversion of maleic anhydride (43) was achieved with a 10% (w/w) solution, a residence time of 22 min and an inner tube diameter of 0.8 mm, respectively. SEM analysis and subsequent polymerization experiments showed that the quality of the dimer 44 was superior over that obtained from the corresponding batch experiment. This feature was explained by the precise control of the reaction time within the microreactor, which reduced undesired side and follow-up reactions. In contrast, the batch reaction gave the desired dimer in a much lower yield of 26% after 6 h of irradiation.
Table 14. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 14. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Batchμ-Reactor
Cylindrical glass vessel 75 × 300 mm (ID × H) 600 g (msolution)FEP tube (wrapped around a quartz beaker) 0.5–1.6 mm × 6.4–19.2 m (ID × L) 0.8–12.9 mL (Vcapillary)
400 W high pressure mercury lamp (inside a Pyrex immersion well; immersed in glass vessel)400 W high pressure mercury lamp (inside a Pyrex immersion well; placed inside the quartz beaker)
In an interesting extension of the study, the slug flow microreactor was operated in continuous mode for over 16 h without clogging. This was achieved by inline filtration to remove the solid product 44 and reintroduction of the filtrate into the microflow reactor. A total of 300 g of a 10% solution of 43 was used for this experiment. The continuous operation mode allowed for an improvement of conversions and reduction in maleic anhydride waste.

3.2. Heterogeneous Reactions

Heterogeneous gas-liquid reactions require adequate supply of a reagent gas, most commonly oxygen or chlorine. This is most conveniently achieved by pre-saturation of a stock solution prior to introduction into the microreactor. Specialized reactors, for example falling film types, have furthermore been developed and successfully applied [39,69,70].

3.2.1. Photooxygenation Reactions

The photochemical synthesis of ascaridole (46) from α-terpinene (45) has been recently reported by Carofiglio and coworkers (Scheme 13; Table 15) [71]. The glass-polymer microstructured reactors were fabricated by the authors. C60 fullerene or its covalently linked form (Tentagel-C60) were chosen as singlet oxygen sensitizers.
The first reactor design utilized for soluble sensitizer consisted of a simple serpentine channel and two separated inlets for the substrate solution and oxygen gas, respectively. The T-mixer configuration of the gas inlet generated a microbubble flow within the channel. With the soluble sensitizer, the highest conversion of 45 of 97% (by GC) was achieved at −5 °C after a ‘correlated’ residence time of 3 min. The isolated yield of ascaridole (46) was, however, significantly lower with 51% and this discrepancy was explained by partial (photo)decomposition of the endo-peroxide (caused by lamp). At 10 °C and 50 °C conversions and isolated yields dropped significantly, which was rationalized by the lower solubility of oxygen in toluene at these temperatures.
The second reactor model was specifically designed for the solid-supported Tentagel-C60. Oxygen saturation was initially realized in a serpentine channel (so-called oxygenation zone). This solution was introduced into a wider chamber containing the solid sensitizer material. On demand, two addition chambers could be linked in series via suitable tubing. A series of reactions was subsequently conducted at −5 °C with different ‘correlated’ residence times of 27 to 109 s. Independent of the irradiation time, high conversions of 45 of >90% (by GC) and similar isolated yields of 46 of 52–53% were determined. Attempts to further reduce the residence time were unsuccessful. Likewise, irradiation with a 15 × 110 mW white LED array gave no reaction, which was attributed to its unfavorable emission spectrum in combination with the short lifetime of singlet oxygen in toluene.
Under comparable reaction conditions, the batch protocol required a significantly longer irradiation time of 1 h to reach complete conversion of 45. The improved performance of the microreactors was explained by the favorable singlet oxygen diffusion within the narrow microchannel.
Scheme 13. Photooxygenation of α-terpinene.
Scheme 13. Photooxygenation of α-terpinene.
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The same authors investigated the S-oxidation of L-methionine methyl ester (47) to its corresponding sulfoxide 48 in the microflow chamber reactor (Scheme 14; Table 15) [71]. Tentagel-C60 and a functionalized fullerpyrrolidine-silica hybrid (Si-C60) were applied as sensitizing materials. The reaction was carried out in D2O which allowed for direct analysis by 1H-NMR spectroscopy. For Tentagel-C60 and irradiation with a conventional 300 W tungsten halogen lamp at 0 °C, conversions increased from 38–85% with extended ‘correlated’ residence time of 32–102 s. Under similar conditions with the Si-C60 sensitizer, complete conversions were achieved after just 33 s. When irradiated with a 15 × 110 mW white LED array at room temperature, the same silica-supported sensitizer furnished high conversions of 89% and 95% after 30 s and 42 s, respectively.
The analogue reaction under batch conditions need prolonged irradiation for approximately 1 h to achieve similar results. The improved diffusion of singlet oxygen within the microstructure was again used to explain the difference in reactivity.
Scheme 14. Photooxidation of L-methionine methyl ester.
Scheme 14. Photooxidation of L-methionine methyl ester.
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Table 15. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactors used.
Table 15. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactors used.
BatchSerpentine μ-reactorChamber μ-reactor
Glass photochemical reactor 10 mL (Vsolution)In-house (glass-thiolene) no channel dimensions given 0.152 mL (Vreactor)In-house (glass-thiolene) serpentine oxygenation zone500 μm (L) with chamber 3 mm × 30 mm (W × L) 0.152 mL (Vreactor)
300 W tungsten halogen lamp300 W tungsten halogen lamp or 15 × 110 mW white LED array
An interesting new reactor design concept was presented by Park and coworkers and tested for a range of photooxygenations (Scheme 15; Table 16) [72]. A dual-channel microreactor with a separating gas permeable membrane was constructed from poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS).
Scheme 15. Photooxygenation reactions.
Scheme 15. Photooxygenation reactions.
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The top reaction channel was coated with solvent resistant polyvinylsilazane (PVSZ) to prevent swelling of the reactor material. This ‘shielded’ material retained an optical transparency >85% between 350–700 nm. By maintaining a continuous oxygen flow, the internal pressure prevented solvent diffusion into the non-coated gas channel. For scale-up studies, a second dual-channel reactor with the liquid channel volume of 285 μL was furthermore constructed. A simple mono-channel reactor was additionally produced and was operated in plug-flow mode. Contact area-to-volume ratio calculations were subsequently conducted for the batch system, mono-channel and dual-channel reactor. The highest value of 50.9 cm−1 was obtained for the dual-channel, followed by the mono-channel (14.9 cm−1) and the batch system (0.76 cm−1). Three model photooxygenations were subsequently investigated in acetonitrile at 5 °C using methylene blue as sensitizer and a 16 W LED spot as light source.
Table 16. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
Table 16. Key parameters of batch vs. microreactor used.
BatchMono-channel μ-reactorDual-channel μ-reactor
50 ml round bottom flask 4.4 cm (ODmax) 20 mL (Vsolution)In-house (PDMS, PVSZ coating in reaction channel) concave reaction channel 220 μm × 0.9 m (W × L) 38.9 μL (Vchannel) segment flowIn-house (PDMS with PDMS membrane, PVSZ coating in reaction channel) concave reaction channel 220 μm × 0.9 m (W × L) 38.9 μL (Vchannel)
16 W white LED spot light16 W white LED spot light16 W white LED spot light
Due to its industrial importance [7,73], the Schenk ene-reaction of citonellol (49) was studied for two concentrations of 49 of 0.1 M and 0.35 M. After reduction of the initially formed hydroperoxides with NaBH4 to the corresponding allyl alcohols 50 and 51, yields and compositions were determined by 1H-NMR analysis vs. an internal standard. In all cases, 50 and 51 were obtained in a ratio of 1:1.5. The dual-channel reactor gave almost quantitative yields of 97% for both starting concentrations after just 3 min of irradiation. Gas and liquid flow could be furthermore controlled separately. Because of its lower contact area-to-volume ratio, the mono-channel system required longer residence times of 15 min and 31 min to reach high yields of 95% and 94%, respectively. The gas-liquid flow also proved to be difficult to control. In contrast to the microflow setups, it took 3 h and 8.5 h to achieve yields of 92% and 89% in the batch system. Daily output calculations were furthermore conducted for all three setups showing that the dual-channel reactor could generate more than 5-times (0.1 M of 49) and over 10-times (0.35 M of 49) the amount produced by the mono-channel. A scale-up was examined with a larger dual-channel reactor. Using a 0.35 M solution of 49, a yield of 95% was achieved after a residence time of only 3 min. The daily output was calculated to 45.49 mmol d−1, even exceeding the values of the batch system (14.7 mmol d−1 and 17.6 mmol d−1).
The [4+2]-cycloaddition of α-terpinene (45) to ascaridole (46) was additionally carried out in the dual-channel reactor to investigate the effect of various reaction parameters. Using an optimized flow rate of O2 of 105 μL min−1, a starting concentration of 45 of 0.35 M and a residence time of 3 min, a yield of ascaridole (46) of 91% was achieved. The analogue batch reaction showed a reduced yield of 82% despite a prolonged irradiation period of 3 h.
The ene-reactions of the allylic alcohols 52 to the allylic hydroperoxides 53 were furthermore chosen to investigate the durability of the dual-channel reactor over an extended time period. After 4 days of continuous running, the reactor showed no drop in reaction efficiency and no operation problems. Using 1.17 M solutions of 52, near complete conversions of ≥97% were accomplished after a residence time of 122 s. The hydroperoxide 53b was obtained in a diastereoisomeric mixture of 75:25 (syn/anti).

3.2.2. Photochlorinations of Cycloalkanes

Recently, Ryu et al. have studied the photochlorination of cycloalkanes 54a–d in various microflow setups (Scheme 16; Table 17) [74]. Monochlorination of cyclohexane (54b) to chlorocyclohexane (55b) was initially achieved in a stainless steel reactor with a Pyrex cover using ambient light and molecular chlorine. The reagent gas was introduced via a separate syringe pump and mixed with the cyclohexane stream in a T-shaped micromixer. The reaction mixture was subsequently pumped through the microflow reactor and the product was collected in a flask containing a 10% solution of sodium sulfite. After a residence time of 19 min, high selectivity for monochlorination (>95%) was achieved and chlorocyclohexane (55b) was obtained in a yield of 20% (by GC).
Likewise, the photoinduced chlorinations of various cycloalkanes 54a–d with sulfuryl chloride as a less reactive chlorination agent were successfully realized using a 15 W black light source in combination with a glass based reactor. When a cycloalkane/SO2Cl2 solution of 40:1 was introduced and irradiated for 57 min, the corresponding chlorocycloalkanes 55a–d were isolated in moderate to high yields of 35–87%. As would be expected, a reduction of residence time caused a drop in product yields. The reaction involving cyclohexane was furthermore performed with 2 × 15 W lamps, which gave an improved yield of 55b of 45%.
Scheme 16. Photochlorination of cycloalkanes.
Scheme 16. Photochlorination of cycloalkanes.
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Table 17. Key parameters of microreactors used. No batch reactions were performed.
Table 17. Key parameters of microreactors used. No batch reactions were performed.
Steel based μ-reactorGlass based μ-reactor 2
Dainippon Screen (stainless steel, Pyrex window) 1,000 μm × 300 μm × 2.35 m (W × D × L) 0.7 mL (Vchannel)mikroglas chemtech dwell device (Foturan™) 1,000 μm × 500 μm × 1.9 m (W × D × L) 0.95 mL (Vchannel)
ambient light15 W black light

3.3. Scale-Up and Industrial Applications

The synthetic transformations described above have been mainly performed on micro-scales, demonstrating the feasibility of microflow photochemistry as a novel R&D tool. Simple strategies for scale-up include, among others, ‘numbering up’ or ‘clustering’ of various microreactors in parallel or in series mode, introduction of larger and wider reaction channels, continuous operation for long periods of time, introduction of larger volumes of reaction solutions and higher concentrations of reagents. Adopting these approaches, small laboratory scales have been realized, for example, for the [2+2]-cycloaddition of coumarin derivative 8 using the LOPHTOR system [53] or for the photo-oxygenation of citronellol (49) utilizing the dual-channel reactor [72]. The photodimerization of maleic anhydride (43) in the microcapillary-ultrasound setup was additionally achieved using a large stock solution of 300 g [68]. While current microflow photochemical technology may not be suitable for large industrial-scale productions (>1 t a−1), examples of low-volume processes, including an industrial one, have already been realized.

3.3.1. Barton Reaction

Ryu and coworkers achieved a multigram synthesis of the steroidal oxime 7 using a DMF solution of 6 (Scheme 2; Table 18) and two stainless steel reactors in series coupled with 8 × 20 W black light lamps [52]. After continuous operation for 20 h with a residence time of 32 min, the isolated amount of product 7 was 3.1 g, equal to a yield of 60%. In an extension of this work and in collaboration with Dainippon Screen Mfg, the authors developed a prototype of a fully automated photo-microreactor system (DS-AMS-1) [52]. This reactor system offered easy operation and monitoring via PC-software together with other important safety features. The setup incorporated a single multi-lane stainless steel reactor with a Pyrex top. Irradiation was achieved with six evenly positioned 15 W black light sources. After constant operation for 40 h with a residence time of 20 min, the desired oxime 7 was obtained in an amount of 5.3 g, corresponding to an isolated yield of 61%.
Table 18. Key parameters of the advanced microreactor systems developed.
Table 18. Key parameters of the advanced microreactor systems developed.
Multi-lane μ-reactorAutomated Multi-lane μ-reactor
Dainippon Screen (stainless steel, Pyrex window) 1,000 μm × 500 μm × 0.5 m (W × D × L) 16 lanes, 2 reactors in series8 mL (Vchannel)Dainippon Screen DS-AMS-1 (stainless steel, Pyrex window) 1,000 μm × 500 μm × 0.5 m (W × D × L) 16 lanes 4 mL (Vchannel)
8 × 20 W black light6 × 15 W black light

3.3.2. Paternò-Büchi Reaction

The [2+2]-photocycloaddition between 2,3-dihydrofuran (56) and benzaldehyde (57) in an automated and computer controlled microreaction plant has been briefly described by Freitag et al. (Scheme 17; Figure 4) [75]. The system had two inlet channels for reagents, one for inert gas and one for solvent (used for ‘rinsing’). The reagents and the inert gas were mixed in a premixer and pumped into the reaction loop. This loop incorporated a dwell device attached to a compact 308 nm excimer cube. An integrated IR-sensor with a flow cell attached to an external FT-IR spectrometer continuously recorded the progress of the reaction. At maximum conversion, an automated valve opened and the product mixture was eluted from the loop and collected at the outlet. On demand, temperature control was achieved with an external cooling circuit. Using this device, a daily output of approximately 1 kg d−1 of the oxetane 58 has been estimated.
Scheme 17. Paternò-Büchi reaction involving 2,3-dihydrofuran.
Scheme 17. Paternò-Büchi reaction involving 2,3-dihydrofuran.
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Figure 4. Automated microphotoreaction system (courtesy of mikroglas chemtech).
Figure 4. Automated microphotoreaction system (courtesy of mikroglas chemtech).
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3.3.3. Photoisomerization of Camptothecin-N-oxides

The first industrial photochemical process involving a multi microphotoreactor setup was realized by Heraeus Noblelight [76]. The plant is currently used for the kg-scale synthesis of 10-hydroxycamptothecin (60a) and 7-ethyl-10-hydroxycamptothecin (60b) from their corresponding N-oxides 59 (Scheme 18).
Scheme 18. Synthesis of camptothecin derivatives.
Scheme 18. Synthesis of camptothecin derivatives.
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The product compounds 60 serve as precursors to the anti-cancer drugs irinotecan and topotecan with an annual demand below 1 t a−1. The photochemical production plant was able to meet this need as it allowed for a production of 2 kg of 10-hydroxycamptothecin (60a) per day, utilizing 330 kg of reaction solution. Under microflow conditions, the conversion of 59a and yield of 60a were high, 95% and 90%, respectively. A starting concentration of 0.6 weight-% of 59a was furthermore feasible. In contrast, a conventional batch reactor gave a much lower conversion of 59a and yield of 60a of 85% and 50%, respectively. In addition, the batch mode required a 6-times higher dilution of 0.1 weight-% of 59a. The developed plant consisted of twelve microreactor units operated in parallel and incorporating individual lamps (Figure 5) [76]. Each microreactor was made of two parallel quartz glass plates separated by a thin spacer. This design feature created a very thin film of the reaction solution (40–100 μm). Compact high pressure mercury lamps with spectral filters (350–400 nm) and an optical power output of 250 W were positioned on both sides of the microfilm reactor.
Figure 5. Photochemical production plant (courtesy of Heraeus Noblelight).
Figure 5. Photochemical production plant (courtesy of Heraeus Noblelight).
Molecules 16 07522 g005

4. Conclusions

Microflow photochemistry efficiently combines the advantages of microspace and flow conditions. Consequently, a broad range of photochemical transformations has been successfully realized. Microchemical processes commonly result in the reduction of irradiation times, enhanced selectivity and increased light efficiency, thus unambiguously demonstrating the superiority of microflow photochemistry over conventional techniques. It is envisaged that this new synthesis concept will emerge as an important future R&D and production methodology. The industrial Heraeus Noblelight process evidently demonstrates this potential. Since the submission of this article, additional examples of photochemical reactions in microflow devices have been published, thus demonstrating the growing importance of microflow photochemistry [77,78,79,80,81]. Ultimately, microflow photochemistry may emerge as ‘the New Photochemistry of the Future’ [82].

Acknowledgments

Financial support for our work on microphotochemistry was provided by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI, 07/RFP/CHEF817), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2008-ET-MS-2-S2) and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG, 2008-S-ET-2). We also thank Thomas Dietrich (mikroglas chemtech), Bernd Werner (IMM), Günther and Alexander Peschl (UV-Consulting Peschl), Kaspar Koch (Future Chemistry Holding), Ronald Paolella (Southern New England Ultraviolet Company), Clara Villamil (Abbott Laboratories), Matthias Neumann (University of Regensburg), Olivier Graber (Atlas Photonics) and Silvia Werner (Heraeus Noblelight) for useful discussions and support.

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Oelgemöller, M.; Shvydkiv, O. Recent Advances in Microflow Photochemistry. Molecules 2011, 16, 7522-7550. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules16097522

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Oelgemöller M, Shvydkiv O. Recent Advances in Microflow Photochemistry. Molecules. 2011; 16(9):7522-7550. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules16097522

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Oelgemöller, Michael, and Oksana Shvydkiv. 2011. "Recent Advances in Microflow Photochemistry" Molecules 16, no. 9: 7522-7550. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules16097522

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