Advanced Manufacturing Progress: Processes of the Future Should Emphasize Conservation of Exergy | AIChE

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Advanced Manufacturing Progress: Processes of the Future Should Emphasize Conservation of Exergy

Advanced Manufacturing Progress

In 1995, Colin Ramshaw defined process intensification (PI) as dramatic miniaturization and integration of unit operations so that cash savings by a chemical plant are achieved (1). Ramshaw estimated that the size reduction must be on the order of 100 to achieve this goal. Despite higher production capacity relative to equipment size, Ramshaw acknowledged that PI equipment may have inherently higher capital cost. A large portion of the cash savings would arise from reduction or elimination of support structures, concrete foundations, and long insulated pipe runs (2).

Andrzej Stankiewicz later reframed Ramshaw’s definition of PI to include other important goals, saying:

“Process intensification consists of the development of novel apparatuses and techniques that… are expected to bring dramatic improvements in manufacturing and processing, substantially decreasing equipment-size to production-capacity ratio, energy consumption, or waste production, and ultimately resulting in cheaper, sustainable technologies” (3).

The shift of focus to sustainability is an important distinction that is more relevant now than ever for society. Clearly decentralized, compact, efficient chemical processing can reduce mankind’s impact on the planet. However, Stankiewicz is brief in his description of how energy use is related to sustainability. He describes technologies that use alternative forms or sources of energy, but he offers no foundation or tools for achieving sustainability inside PI. He uses the phrase “energy-efficient” many times without a definition.

Today, AIChE categorizes PI efforts into four domains: spatial, temporal, functional, and thermodynamic. Each category is presented in isolation. In their mini courses on PI in the thermodynamic domain, AIChE provides examples of alternative energy used in PI, but they do not teach strategies to reduce thermodynamic imperfection. The audience is not guided toward the simple and...

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