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Both types can be used as continuous reactors or batch reactors, and either may accommodate one or more solids (reagents, catalysts, or inert materials), but the reagents and products are typically fluids (liquids or gases). Reactors in continuous processes are typically run at steady-state, whereas reactors in batch processes are necessarily operated in a transient state. When a reactor is brought into operation, either for the first time or after a shutdown, it is in a transient state, and key process variables change with time.
There are three idealised models used to estimate the most important process variables of different chemical reactors:
Many real-world reactors can be modeled as a combination of these basic types.
Key process variables include: