The research focus is primarily on the development of alternative production methodologies for downstream chemicals and chemical products through the development of alternative technologies to traditional batch and semi-batch production technologies and focusing specifically on opportunities to grow and develop the South African downstream chemicals sector. Effective chemical process development (for downstream chemicals) is an amalgam of synthetic organic methods, physiochemical properties, purification technologies, and chemical engineering (reactor and separation technologies) orchestrated in a manner that will produce the desired chemical product safely, in high quality, reproducible, and cost efficient.


In the RSA there is common acceptance across government and industry role players that the key challenge to the future growth and sustainability of the chemical industry is to increase beneficiation in the downstream chemicals sector, which is significantly under-developed in comparison with the basic chemicals sector.


InnoVenton Technology Demonstration aims to provide semi-technical production, scale-up, and economic evaluations of production processes in a multi-purpose kilo-lab facility. The Kilo-Lab is a facility for the scale up of small scale (milligram and gram quantities) laboratory developed chemical processes to kilogram quantities. The facility may be used for the demonstration and proving of technology at the kilogram scale as well as for the production of kilogram quantities of samples.

Multi-purpose kilo-lab facilityLocation

The facility is housed at the InnoVenton premises located at 1-11 Gomery Avenue, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth.




The Kilo-Lab consists of a common control system with utilities infrastructure (nitrogen, compressed air, cooling water, chilled water, hot oil, vacuum, air circulation) that serves several processing units: Section 10 (50L Buchi Chemreactor CR51), Section 15 (50L 6barg Glass lined Lampart reactor), Section 20 (30L Buchi Chemreactor CR30), Section 40 (QVF Glass packed distillation column, 50L reboiler), Section 50 (Stainless Steel packed distillation column, 50L reboiler).

In addition, a Pilodist 200, imported from a specialist instrument manufacturer in Germany, adds significantly to the Kilo-Lab in terms of creating a capability to undertake liquid/liquid separations using distillation at very low pressures (down to 0.1 millibars). This is particularly important when dealing with temperature sensitive products such as natural oils and higher boiling organic liquids, including hydrocarbons where degradation may occur at their normal boiling points. The thin film, or short path, distillation technology also lends itself to very fine temperature cuts of complex mixtures and can operate at a rate of up to 5 liters per hour. In the context of the Kilo-Lab's reactor technology projects, the Pilodist will also be used to separate pure reactants from residual materials.

Pilodist 200  

Benefits to the chemical industry

The equipment is housed in a purpose built facility and is of significant value. The equipment and facility may be regarded as a National Asset for the chemical industry and is the only one of its kind in South Africa at a Higher Education Institution. It is regarded as a strategic capability of the Downstream Chemical Technology Station (DCTS) and InnoVenton that will enable their envisioned activities within chemical processing support and development.

The capability to prove chemical processes on a kilogram scale and also to provide kilogram sample quantities of products bridges a strategic gap that could not otherwise be overcome by small operations with limited resources, facilities and technical capabilities. The DCTS can and will utilize this facility to play a key role in stimulating and enabling especially SMME’s in developing chemical manufacturing processes that would otherwise require investment that is beyond their available resources, in order to prove concept and thus attract the required project support. The facility is therefore a key enabler for projects that would otherwise not be attempted or considered by InnoVenton/DCTS on behalf of SMME clients.


Services provided within this InnoVenton activity include:

  • Scale up of bench chemical processes
  • Confirmation of laboratory (gram) scale chemical technologies on a kilogram scale
  • Preparation of kilogram quantity samples for evaluations
  • Training of students in the operation of larger scale chemical processing equipment