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Experiment Title : Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor (CSTR)

Subject : UEMK3431 Chemical Engineering Laboratory II

Course : Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) Chemical Engineering

Name of Student & Tan Eit Hsia 1306585

ID : Teo Yi Fei 1306611
Wong Doh Sheng 1204344 Received by:-
Yap Zheng Shen 1402809
Yeoh Kai Xhen 1205040 ________________
Lab Assistance / Lab
Date of Experiment : 14th June 2016 Officer
Name of Lecturer : Dr Woo Kwan Kit

Receipt of Lab Report Submission (to be kept by student)

Experiment Title : Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor (CSTR)

Subject : UEMK3431 Chemical Engineering Laboratory II

Course : Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) Chemical Engineering

Name of Student & Tan Eit Hsia 1306585 Received by:-

ID : Teo Yi Fei 1306611 ____________________
Wong Doh Sheng1204344
Yap Zheng Shen 1402809 Lab Assistance / Lab
Yeoh Kai Xhen 1205040 Officer

Date of Experiment : 14th June 2016 Date:


Continuous Stirrer Tank Reactor (CSTR)

To observe and control the operation of a continuous-stirrer tank reactor.
To determine the effects of flow rate on conversion rate in a continuous-
stirrer tank reactor.


CSTR is a type of reactor that commonly used in industrial processing. CSTR

normally operated at steady state and assumed to be perfectly mixed; hence there is
no time dependence of the concentration, the temperature or reaction rate inside the
CSTR. Therefore, the variables are the same at each point of the reactor, because of
the concentration and temperature are identical within the reactor (Fogler, 2014).

CSTR can use to perform the reactions for all fluids which are liquids, gases, and
slurries (Schmidt, 1998). CSTR can use to handle the reaction that in different phase,
for example liquid phase, gas-liquid phase reaction and solid-liquid phase reaction
(University of Michigan, n.d). The feeds stream of the CSTR assumes provide a
uniform flow rate or composition throughout the whole process and the exit stream
has the same composition as in the tank.

The reactions occurring in the reactor is a function of residence time and rate
of reaction. Residence time, , is the average amount of time a discrete quantity of
reagent spends inside the reactor. The theory of residence time distributions
generally includes three assumptions (Residence Time Distribution, n.d):

1. The reactor is at steady-state

2. Transports at the inlet and the outlet take place only by advection

3. The fluid is incompressible (v = constant).

An ideal CSTR has an exponential residence time distribution:

1 1
() =

However in reality, it is impossible to obtain such rapid mixing, especially in the

industrial scales where reactor vessels may differ in size between one and several
tens of cubic meters, and hence the RTD of a real reactor will deviate from the ideal
exponential decay (Fogler, 2014).


This CSTR unit is used to demonstrate the basics of chemical processing in

continuous flow reactors. The apparatus comprised of two glass feed tanks, a
chemical reactor, a cooling/heating water reservoir, pumps and a process control
console. The reactant tanks are provided with heating coils to bring reactants to
reaction temperatures before dosing into the reactor. The dosing peristaltic pumps are
fitted with speed controls to adjust the feeding rate while the control console is fitted
with a temperature control, conductivity meter and a stirrer control unit.

Figure 4.1: Continuous Stirred Tank Reactor

Material Apparatus
15 L of 2.3% sodium Beaker: 2 L 2,
hydroxide, NaOH 250 mL 2
15 L of 5.0 % ethyl acetate, Measuring cylinder: 100mL 1
Et(Ac) Glass rod
1 L of distilled water, H2O Conductivity meter
Standard solution (0%, 25%, Electric Stirrer
50%, 75%, 100% conversion) Stopwatch

Experiment 1: Calibration Curve Conductivity versus Conversion

Table 5.1: Data of Conductivity under specified Conversion

Conversion (%) Conductivity (mS)

0 10.12
25 8.59
50 6.91
75 5.41
100 4.05

Graph of Conductivity versus Conversion



Conductivity (mS)


y = -0.0613x + 10.08

0 20 40 60 80 100 120

Conversion (%)

Graph 5.1: Calibration Curve - Conductivity versus Conversion

Experiment 2: Determine the Effects of Flow Rate on Conversion Rate

Table 5.2.1: Conductivity, Conversion and Reaction Temperature at 20 % Dosing Rate

Reaction Conductivity Conversion, X

Temperature, T1 (mS/cm) (%)
() 1 2 1 2
0 44.1 4.4 2.2 97.33 99.06
3 45.9 9.1 2.6 93.63 98.74
6 46.4 50.2 2.6 61.32 98.74
9 46.7 49.2 2.6 62.11 98.74
12 46.7 48.5 2.5 62.66 98.82
15 47.0 47.3 3.0 63.60 98.43

Table 5.2.2: Conductivity, Conversion and Reaction Temperature at 30 % Dosing Rate

Reaction Conductivity Conversion, X

Temperature, T1 (mS/cm) (%)
() 1 2 1 2
0 47.0 14.0 2.8 89.78 98.58
3 47.5 39.8 3.0 69.50 98.43
6 47.8 38.1 3.0 70.83 98.43
9 47.9 37.3 3.0 71.46 98.43
12 47.9 36.6 3.0 72.01 98.43
15 47.8 36.6 3.0 72.01 98.43

Table 5.2.3: Conductivity, Conversion and Reaction Temperature at 35 % Dosing Rate

Reaction Conductivity Conversion, X

Temperature, T1 (mS/cm) (%)
() 1 2 1 2
0 42.3 12.3 3.9 91.12 97.72
3 44.7 32.3 3.6 75.39 97.96
6 46.1 30.9 3.5 76.49 98.03
9 47.0 29.8 3.2 77.36 98.27
12 47.4 28.8 3.0 78.14 98.43
15 47.7 29.2 3.0 77.83 98.43
Table 5.2.4: Conductivity, Conversion and Reaction Temperature at 40 % Dosing Rate

Reaction Conductivity Conversion, X

Temperature, T1 (mS/cm) (%)
() 1 2 1 2
0 41.9 8.6 3.3 94.03 98.19
3 44.9 33.6 3.2 74.37 98.27
6 47.5 36.1 3.2 72.41 98.27
9 47.5 30.4 3.0 76.89 98.43
12 47.3 29.1 3.1 77.91 98.35
15 47.9 29.2 3.0 77.83 98.43

Table 5.2.5: Conductivity versus Conversion at Different Dosing Rate

Dosing Rate Conductivity (mS/cm) Conversion (%)
(%) 1 2 1 2
20 47.3 3.0 63.60 98.43
30 36.6 3.0 72.01 98.43
35 29.2 3.0 77.83 98.43
40 29.2 3.0 77.83 98.43

Graph of Conductivity versus Dosing Rate

Conductivity (mS)

0 10 20 30 40 50

Dosing Rate (%)

Graph 5.2.1: Conductivity versus Dosing Rate

Graph of Coversion versus Dosing Rate
Conversion (%)

0 10 20 30 40 50
Dosing Rate (%)

Graph 5.2.2: Conversion versus Dosing Rate

Sample Calculations

Calculation of conversion (%):

( )
= [1 ] 100 %
( )

where = measured value for conductivity (mS/cm)

o = initial conductivity for 2.3% sodium hydroxide solution (128.2 mS/cm)

e = conductivity of the end product (1 mS/cm for a 5% sodium acetate solution)

From the experimental data at time = 15 min of 20 % dosing rate,

= 47.3 mS/cm

= [1 (128.21)] 100 %

= 63.60 %

In experiment 1, the standard solutions are used to plot the calibration curve.
The calibration curve is drawn to study the relationship between conversion and
conductivity. It was found that the conductivity decreases as the conversion of
sodium acetate, Na(Ac) increases according to the calibration curve. As the reaction
taking place, the high conducting H- ions are replaced by less conducting acetate ion
(C2H3O2-) in the mixture (Das et al. 648-656). This calibration curve is important as
it assists to obtain percentage conversion of Na(Ac) at different temperature by using
the gradient and y-intercept for further calculation.

From the result obtained in experiment 2, the conversion increased as the

dosing rate (flow rate) increase in isothermal CSTR. Theoretically, the conversion
rate should be decreasing, when the dosing rate increased in isothermal CSTR, as the
residence time for the chemical decrease respectively ("Effect of Operating
Conditions on CSTR Performance: An Experimental Study"). The only reason to
explain the occurrence is that there are limiting chemical in the mixture solution
during the reaction in lower dosing rate CSTR. The limited concentrations of
chemical affect the conductivity for every process in CSTR by limiting the reaction.
So, when the dosing rate increased, the concentration of the limiting chemical is also
increased. Thus, it causes higher conversion of the reactants toward products.

Residence time, also called space time, holding time, , is defined as the time
required for fluids or reactants to enter the reactor completely. Therefore, it can be
obtained by volume of the reactor divided by the volumetric flow rate of the fluids
entering the reactor (Fogler, 2013). The equation is defined as following where is
the residence time, V is the volume of reactor and 0 is the volumetric flow rate of
the fluids entering the reactor.

From the equation above, residence time are affected by both volume and volumetric
flow rate. Residence time is directly proportional to volume of reactor, which mean
the bigger size of reactor, the residence time for fluids completely entering the
reactor also increases. On the other hand, the residence time is inversely proportional
to the volumetric flow rate of fluids entering the reactor which mean the higher flow
rate, the shorter time is needed.

For a CSTR, an assumption of steady state is required so that the residence

time of all species of fluids is equal (Fogler, 2013). When the volume is constant, the
only factor affected the residence time of CSTR reactor is volumetric flow rate.
Since CSTR reactor is modelled as well mixed reactor, the residence time can be
simply obtained by the equation above.

The designed equation of CSTR:

( )

The equation shows the relationship of volume add conversion of CSTR. As

mentioned before, this reactor is perfectly mixed which can be assumed that the
composition is equals for both inside the reactor and exit from the reactor. Moreover,
the equation highlighted the rate of reaction is determined at the exit conditions
(Fogler, 2013). The volume is affected the composition directly and no integration is
needed because the reactor is well-mixed.

Figure 6.1: Levenspiel CSTR plot (Fogler, 2013).

From Figure 6.1, a plot of 0 versus X graph is showed. The volume of CSTR is the

area under the curve represented in the graph, thus when the conversion is increasing
by a certain ratio, the volume of CSTR is increasing in that particular ratio too.
Moreover, reaction between ethyl acetate and sodium hydroxide is known as
endothermic reaction where the rate of reaction is increasing as the temperature
increases. Based on the results, most of the conversion is greater when the
temperature is getting higher. The reason behind is due to the sodium hydroxide is
reacted with ethyl acetate to produce sodium acetate. The concentration of sodium
acetate is increasing with time when the temperature is getting higher. Moreover,
increasing in heat energy leads to higher conversion rate no matter is in endothermic
or exothermic reaction (The Performance In Any Chemical Process Biology Essay,
2015). Thus, the temperature does affect the conversion and conversion rate.

Generally, temperature is one of the factors affecting rate of reaction on

chemical reaction ("The effect of temperature on rates of reaction", n.d.). The
following equation indicates that the higher the rate constant, k, the higher the rate of
reaction, -rA.

The rate constant is highly depends on temperature rather than concentration of

species involved in the chemical reaction. This can be explained by Arrhenius
equation as shown below, where A is the pre-exponential factor of frequency factor
and E is the activation energy ("Arrhenius Equation - Chemwiki", 2013).

() = ( )

Rate of reaction is faster when the temperature increases due to the high kinetic
energy. As temperature increases, particles move faster and collide more vigorously.
As a result, greater collision frequency will lead to a higher rate reaction ("The effect
of temperature on rates of reaction", n.d.). Thus, chemical reaction is faster at higher
temperature and expected to be lower at lower temperatures.

Furthermore, Le Chateliers principle states that chemical reactions favour

the direction which opposes changes to a system in equilibrium. According to Le
Chatelier, if a system at equilibrium is subjected to a change of pressure, temperature
or the number of moles of a component, there will be a tendency for a net reaction in
the direction that reduces the effect of this change. For example, the chemical
reaction between nitrogen, N2 and hydrogen gas, H2 is known as Haber process ("Le
Chatelier principle", n.d.). This reaction is an exothermic and reversible reaction. To
maximize the amount of ammonia, the reaction should be carried out at low
temperature and high pressure as it is favoured in exothermic reaction ("The Haber
Process for the manufacture of ammonia", n.d.). Yet, the rate of reaction could be
lower at low temperature due to the collision of particles is slower. Therefore, a
catalyst such as iron catalyst is used to speed up the reaction in order to increase the
conversion rate in a specific time ("Lle Chatelier principle", n.d.). By adding catalyst,
it will only affect the reaction rate but there is no any effect on composition of the
equilibrium state. Hence, the conversion is greater when the reaction rate is higher.

In this experiment there are some precaution steps taken to ensure the
experiment conduct in a safety and health environment. The first precaution step is
when handling the hazardous chemical such as sodium hydroxide and ethyl acetate,
gloves was wore by the student so that, there are no skin contact to the skin and
cause itchy. Every inlet and outlet of the pipes is connected well when setting up the
CSTR. If the pipes did not link well, the chemical and hot water might split out cause
accident. The last precaution step is the disposal of the product from the CSTR. The
products should be drained out by using the cement made drain. If dispose the
products by using sink, it may corrode the sink.

There are some recommendations to improve the result of this experiment.

The first recommendation is the location of the conductivity sensor in the CSTR.
This is due to the conductivity probe could not sense the conductivity of the product
which lower than the hole where the products will flow through the conductivity
sensor at certain level. Yet, the conductivity of product is measured when they
reached the certain level and it flows through the pipe where the conductivity sensor
is placed. Hence, the result taken may not accurate. Next, the pipes of the equipment
have to be set up nicely, and the pipes cannot be twist or fold. The pipes have to be
straightening so that the reactants can easily flow into the CSTR according to the
flow rate that has been set. Furthermore, the dosing rate should be set higher to
ensure that the flow rate of the reactants is large enough for the reactions begin.
Besides, the stirrer is set at higher frequency in order to make sure the reactants are
mixed well.

CSTR is the most basic continuous reactors used in chemical processes. High
production rate (reactant constantly introduced into reactor, and product continuously
removed), had made this type of reactor more preferred to be used in production line.
Normally, these reactors are functioned under low or medium pressure and
homogeneous liquid phase reaction ("Reactors Design And Types: Its Advantages
And Disadvantages"). Besides that, CSTR are widely being used in industrial
applications, such as waste water treatment unit (activated sludge reactors)(Artin
Hatzikioseyian) . CSTR can also being used as bioreactors, which also being used for
waste water treatment in treating high hydrocarbon waste water (Gargouri et al. 427-


In conclusion, the operation of continuous stirred tank reactor is observed and

controlled. In a CSTR, reactants and products are continuously added and withdrawn.
In practice, mechanical or hydraulic agitation is required to achieve uniform
composition and temperature. Besides that, effects of flow rate on conversion rate in
a CSTR are determined. The conductivity of products are directly proportional to
conversion which shown in the calibration curve. Moreover, the conversion is
increasing with dosing rate but decreasing with conductivity.


Schmidt, Lanny D. (1998). The Engineering of Chemical Reactions. New

York: Oxford University Press.

Continuous Stirred Tank Reactors. (2016) Retrieved 15 June,


Residence Time Distribution. (n.d.). Retrieved 15 June, from National Tsing

Hua University:
Arrhenius Equation - Chemwiki. (2013). Retrieved 17
June 2016, from

Lle Chatelier principle. (n.d.). Retrieved 17 June 2016, from

The effect of temperature on rates of reaction. (n.d.).

Retrieved 17 June 2016, from

The Haber Process for the manufacture of ammonia. (n.d.).

Retrieved 17 June 2016, from

The Performance In Any Chemical Process Biology Essay. (2015). Retrieved

17 June 2016, from