What if we could make the Great Pacific Garbage Patch just disappear? What if plastics didn’t accumulate in our landfills? What if we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions while replacing up to 30% of the world’s plastics with a biodegradable substitute? Researchers have tried for decades to achieve these goals. One approach being taken is the development of an efficient production process for poly-hydroxyalkanoate (PHA) — a biodegradable polymer similar to the polypropylene used to make yogurt containers.
Chemical manufacturing facilities housing green plants perform all of the processes formerly handled by stainless steel equipment. Production is energy efﬁcient, fueled by photosynthesis, as living plants secrete raw materials (e.g., high-purity spider silk proteins) for downstream production and processing. Thanks to Wisconsin-based ag-biotech startup PhylloTech, this surreal vision may not be so far-fetched.
Although I recently returned from a vacation and would love to tell you about the hiking we did, that’s not the topic of this editorial. Previously, I wrote about jump-starting creativity through relaxation and trying something new (Dec. 2013) and by incorporating play into your day (Jan. 2014). Here’s another powerful creativity booster to add to your toolbox — walking. Your walk doesn’t have to be an eight-mile trek from the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the rim nearly a mile higher. Walking can be as simple as doing laps around the office, or getting off the bus or train a stop or two early and walking the rest of the way to your destination.
Crunching the Numbers on Grid-Scale Storage; Microbes Convert Waste into Electricity; Solar Cells Make the Right Connection; Engineered Tissue Mingles with Blood Vessels; and more.
Elliot Wolf, Robert Wasileski
Focusing too much of our attention in a particular area can cause us to miss the obvious. Simply being aware of the phenomenon of inattentional blindness is an important ﬁrst step toward reducing its effects.
Read about new products and services in the areas of bioprocessing; instrumentation; environmental, health, and safety; laboratory equipment; and materials and chemicals.
Gregory M. Bohlmann
With oil and natural gas prices surging, bio-based feedstocks are becoming increasingly competitive. This article examines, in depth, the technical and economic aspects of the biorefinery concept.
Nanoparticles Detect Sulfur Content in Crude Oil; Putting Waste Heat to Work; New Process Prints Personalized Drugs; EPA to Cut CO2 from Power Plants; Microbes Convert Biodiesel Waste into Valuable Chemicals
Some process safety incidents have occurred because operating personnel failed to recognize that a process was not responding as expected. They attempted to keep a process in operation by deviating from standard procedures, or put themselves in danger by attempting to correct an out-of-control process condition rather than evacuating.
Shelby Hegy, Ron Beck, Tom Ralston
Embedding a rigorous heat exchanger model within an established simulation environment can help engineers increase process yields, while minimizing heat exchanger energy consumption and capital expenditures.
M. Henry Heines
Co-inventorship on a patent provides several advantages to an individual, but a proper listing of inventors is both critical to the patent’s validity and can be challenged at any time. A recent case involving a General Electric patent illustrates some of the requirements of a co-inventor and the hurdles that an individual can face when asserting co-inventorship status after a patent has been issued.
This essential cybersecurity text for executives in all sectors and at all levels provides practical advice that equips executives with the knowledge they need to make the right cybersecurity decisions. In plain language, you’ll learn how to recognize and act on threats to you and your business, along with how to act decisively to mitigate and recover from cyber incidents.
Chemical engineers are primarily known for their tech-nical expertise. While this engineering know-how has played a key role in developing technologies essential for modern society, it will not be enough to solve the increasingly complex challenges of today’s world. Solutions to these issues, including the development of safe and sustainable food and water supplies, economical alternative energies, and more-effective pharmaceuticals, will require a multidisciplinary approach that considers political, social, and economic constraints, as well as the obvious technical challenges.
Kristine Baranski, Bailey Underwood
Catalytic oxidation and catalytic reduction control emissions by chemically transforming pollutants. Learn what equipment is available and how it works to treat exhaust streams from stationary sources.
R Russell Rhinehart
The article “How Well Are We Preparing ChE Students for Industry?” in the Update section of the April issue of CEP (pp. 4–5, 14–15) meshed with my career-long concern about engineering education. I graduated in 1968, with pride in my skills, from “a strong program” that “was about to break into the top ten,” as we were told. It was a good program in many ways, but after two years in industry, I came to realize the misdirected perspectives I had acquired as a student. After 13 years in industry and 28 in academia, I have concluded that neither the academic perception of excellence nor the tasks students are required to complete align with the perceptions and tasks that lead to success in industry.
Plastics with a Circulatory System for Regeneration; A Smart Hydrogel Never Overstays its Welcome; Nanoparticle Drugs Deliver 1-2-3 Punch; and more
Are you considering starting your own engineering consulting practice? One of my best career moves was leaving my corporate position to open my own consulting firm. Perhaps, like me, you were bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, or perhaps your current employer is downsizing and a severance package will provide you with the opportunity you have been waiting for — not to mention the cash reserves you need to get through your first year. Consulting may seem like a glamorous career, one in which you get to work when you want and make lots of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. You must be able to work without having the structure and accountability that being employed by someone else provides.
Read about new products and services in the areas of enviromnetal, health and safety; materials and chemicals; fluids and solids handling; and instrumentation.
Our discussion of chemical engineering education began in the April issue, with the news story “How Well Are We Preparing ChE Students for Industry?” and my editorial, “Getting ChE Education Right.” This month, we look at education again, with two more articles. The April articles resonated with Russ Rhinehart, a professor at Oklahoma State Univ., and inspired him to write a letter to the editor, which became this issue’s Commentary, “Educating Students to Become Engineers” (pp. 14–15). By coincidence, the AIChE Journal Highlight, “A Broader Role for the Evolving Engineer” (p. 13), also focuses on education.
Gordon H. Hart
From rigid boards, blocks, and sheets, to flexible blankets and foams, thermal insulation comes in a variety of forms as well as different materials. Here are some of the latest developments to help you choose the right insulation.
Any safety device can create a new hazard. Any change to equipment, even one intended to improve safety, can create new hazards or make other existing hazards more severe. This is particularly true if the safety device is not properly installed.
Before you choose a pressure-measuring instrument, make sure that you fully understand the ins and outs of the manufacturer-provided data.
Energy is a very important factor in process automation. Improvements in energy efficiency gained through process automation played a key role in justifying the pioneering automation projects of the early 1960s and have grown in stature over the ensuing decades. Automation-enabled improvements in energy usage have made critical contributions to worldwide prosperity over the last 35–40 years.
Edelmira D. Gálvez, Luis A. Cisternas
With abundant mineral resources, Chile’s chemicals industries are dominated by mining, with many of its operations among the world’s most productive and important.
One of the biggest hurdles to treating disease in developing countries is the lack of portable and cheap diagnostic instruments, such as microscopes. Manu Prakash, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Bioengineering at Stanford Univ., believes that frugal science is the key to enhancing global health and science education. Prakash is creating simple, economical tools to pique interest in science exploration and even perform field-testing for specific diseases, such as malaria. One such invention, the Foldscope, is a completely functional microscope that merges the principles of origami and optical design.
Advances in energy-storage devices are a must for the widespread use of electric and hybrid vehicles, the integration of renewable energy with the electric power grid, and the development of smaller, faster, more-powerful consumer electronics. While progress has been made, several challenges remain, including limitations of nonaqueous electrolytes, which have poor transport properties and are highly flammable. The answer to this challenge: A new class of higher-performance electr-olytes being developed by Boulder Ionics Corp. (BI) for longer-lived, safer batteries and ultracapacitors.
Sujata Bhatia, Shruti Sharma
From implant design to scaffold development and prosthetic construction, 3D printing offers unique solutions for complex problems in the biomedical sciences.
The familiar ring-shaped stain left behind after spilled coffee has dried represents a complex engineering problem involving principles of heat and mass transport, fluid mechanics, and surface phenomena (among others) whose solution has value well beyond spilled coffee, including the analysis of DNA microarrays, inkjet printing, and coating. In the May AIChE Journal review article, “Transport and Deposition Patterns in Drying Sessile Droplets,” Ronald Larson of the Univ. of Michigan examines this engineering problem — understanding the processes by which a liquid drop (containing nonvolatile solute or colloidal particles) on a surface evaporates and leaves behind the particles that form a stain.
From Apple to Coca Cola to Nike, we are surrounded by corporate branding. But did you know that branding is important to you and your career as well?
Stick-On Health Tracker Twists, Stretches, and Bends; No Corn Needed: Ethanol Is Produced from CO; Engineered Bacteria Turn Switchgrass into Jet Fuel; Reversing Evolution Promises Cheaper Pharmaceuticals; and more.
Read about new products and services in the areas of instrumentation; materials and chemicals; fluids and solids handling; and heat transfer.
Refineries may appear complicated at first glance. Breaking them down into a series of units makes them easier to understand. This article describes the basic building blocks of a fuels refinery, from crude oil inlet to fuels distribution.
One year ago, I was putting the finishing touches on my senior design project, taking my last round of undergraduate final exams, and preparing to move to Cincinnati to start my new job in an engineering and operations rotational program at General...
Margaret W. Hunt
Although corrosion resistance is of paramount importance, many factors must be considered when selecting materials of construction. Follow this four-step process to identify the appropriate material for your application.
We may think of process safety incidents as fires, explosions, and immediate injuries from exposure to toxic, corrosive, or otherwise hazardous materials. However, major spills of hazardous materials, especially into rivers or other bodies of water, are also process safety incidents. They have the potential to impact large numbers of people, including people far away from your plant.
Turn Our Hindsight into Your Foresight This is an expanded version of the Editorial that appeared in the print version of Chemical Engineering Progress, May 2014. Reflecting on the first year of her chemical engineering career, Samantha Schmidt...
Whether we are talking about occupational safety or process safety, normalizing a deviation can result in unsafe practices, conditions, and operations. Getting comfortable with and accepting these deviations can cause a shift in our perception of what is safe. Why does this matter? Moving the target for safe operating limits and tolerating the higher risk s associated with doing so can ultimately lead to a catastrophic incident.
Programming for an AIChE conference — i.e., developing the technical program — takes a lot more than the work put in by the meeting chairs; the details and ideas that go into every session and its roster of speakers take a whole force of volunteers. As a co-chair for the upcoming 2014 Spring Meeting in New Orleans who also happens to be a young professional (YP), I’ve realized that the best way to prepare for programming a large-scale conference is to build relationships across all levels of the organization.
More than 75% of the world's food testing continues to rely on 120-yr-old cell-culture methods, which take days to produce results. New technology developed by scientists at Rheonix Inc., based in Ithaca, NY, is enabling a portable unit that greatly simplifies the testing through automation, providing results in hours instead of days and reducing costs. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has incorporated the Rheonix technology into a new generation of PCRbased rapid analysis for the food- and beverage-testing markets.
How Well Are We Preparing ChE Students for Industry?; Climate FAQs: Science Academies Answer 20 Questions; Electronic Shrink Wrap Conforms to a Beating Heart; Biomass and Sunlight Cooperate to Produce Electricity; and more.
Insulating materials developed for the aerospace industry may soon gain broader acceptance in the chemical process industries (CPI), thanks in part to a Materials Technology Institute (MTI) project. CPI companies are beginning to consider the use of...
The beneﬁcial microbes that convert milk into yogurt and act in our guts to promote digestive health cause big problems in ethanol fermentation tanks. These lactic acid bacteria (LAB) proliferate in ethanol feedstock and inhibit growth of ethanol-producing yeast — which slows down fermentation, reduces biofuel yield by as much as 20% per pound of input material, and results in production shutdowns due to contamination. The most common control measures, chemical antimicrobials such as antibiotics, do not eliminate LAB. Additionally, the potential for antibiotic residue limits the marketability of dried distillers grains, a byproduct of the fermentation process used as animal feed. Ecolyse Inc., based in College Station, TX, is working to address this issue by developing products to treat bacterial contamination.
Sugar could some day be used to power smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices thanks to a recent breakthrough by Blacksburg, VA-based Cell-Free BioInnovations, Inc.
The March 2014 Beacon discussed the relationship between process safety and occupational safety, as well as the importance of both in ensuring a safe workplace. For many years, industry has used established measures of occupational safety...
Best known for his defining book on transport phenomena — in which he provided chemical engineering students with an integrated view of the transport of the three physical quantities (energy, mass, and momentum) at three different scales (molecular, microscopic, and macroscopic) — R. Byron Bird has immensely impacted the field of chemical engineering.
When I was in college, I earned some spending money as a shoe model for a local freelance photographer. Little did I know I would become a cover girl. But a few years later, shortly after I began my career as an editor (at a different magazine), I was tapped for just that role. Wearing a black cap and gown and photographed looking out into a maze of piping in a chemical plant, I represented a young graduate facing my first job in industry. The cover line — “Chemical engineering education: How good is it, really?” — referred to an article that discussed the results of a reader survey conducted by two of my colleagues. That was 31 years ago. Today, we are still pondering the same question.
Read about the new products and services on display at the 2014 Offshore Technology Conference Expo.
Al Goodman, Allegra K. da Silva
Industrial facilities are increasingly turning to water reuse for a wide range of purposes. This article reviews water-reclamation technologies and explains how to determine whether water reuse is a feasible option for your plant.
Read about the new products and services on display at the 2014 International Powder and Bulk Solids Expo.
Accurate process safety information is the cornerstone of effective process safety management. Follow this three-phase approach to create and maintain an effective PSI program.
David Saiia, co-founder of the nonprofit Reuse Everything Institute, Inc. (REII), has always been drawn to the field of sustainable development. His theory on corporate ecology, which seeks to explore the dynamic relationship between businesses and...