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Pure Appl. Chem., 2002, Vol. 74, No. 12, pp. 2271-2276

Microreactors. Prospects already achieved and possible misuse

Holger Löwe*, Volker Hessel and A. Mueller

IMM Institut für Mikrotechnik Mainz GmbH, Carl Zeiss Strasse 18-20, D-55129, Mainz, Germany

Microreactors as a no el concept in chemical technology enable the introduction of new reaction procedures in chemistry, pharmaceutical industry, and molecular biology. Miniaturized reaction systems offer many exceptional technical advantages for a large number of applications. The large surface-to-volume ratio of miniaturized fluid components allows for significantly enhanced process control and heat management. Moreover, the unique possibilities of microchemical systems pave the way to a distributed point-of-use and on-demand production of extremely harmful and toxic substances.
On the other side of the coin,miniaturization of complete set-ups for chemical syntheses to a suitcase or even to a shoe-box size opens several possibilities to possibly use them as tools for terrorist attacks and to facilitate the clandestine manufacture of chemical agents. Microfabrication techniques are common and allow the machining of special materials (e.g., high-alloyed steel, titanium, ceramics, or glass). Meanwhile, micromachining techniques are available anywhere in the world. Therefore, these techniques are no longer unique nor proprietary and they cannot pre ent construction or distribution of microreaction systems by people with allegiance to a terrorist organization.