Chemical products involving specialty chemicals and microstructured materials are often multicomponent systems. A number of five to 20 molecules is not unusual, comprising a range of different chemical compounds e.g. polymers, surfactants, solid particles and water. Milk is an example of such a product involving both solid-liquid phases and (non-equilibrium) metastable states. Thus, many of these products are colloidal systems of different types, e.g. liquid-liquid emulsions, suspensions, powders, solid and liquid dispersions, aerosols and sprays. The physical chemistry (thermodynamics, stability) of such products is often as important as their manufacture, while a number of non-traditional manufacturing/ separation processes are of relevance, e.g. emulsification, foaming, gelation, granulation and crystallization. Today, serious gaps exist in our thermodynamic modelling abilities when we try to describe and understand chemical products with traditional thermodynamic models, typically applicable to problems of petrochemical industries. The purpose of this article is two-fold: first to present some current and future challenges in thermodynamic modelling towards chemical product design, and then to outline some specific examples from our research activities in the area of thermodynamics for chemical products. The examples cover rather diverse areas such as interrelation between thermodynamic and engineering properties in detergents (surfactants), paint thermodynamics and the development of models for gas solubility in elastomeric polymers.
Chemical Engineering Research and Design, 2004, Vol 82, Issue 11, p. 1505-1510