The industrial process of producing fiber-molded articles involves remove large quantities of water in hot air impingement dryers. The front end of these dryers are generally mated with high speed molding machines that mold profiled articles at speed of 30 to 60 steps per minutes with multiple parallel molding arms forming multiple columns of articles feeding into the dryer. These dryers receive freshly molded article at approximately 2.4 lb of water/lb of fiber dryness and produce dried article with less than 0.1# of water/# of fiber. The capacity of these dryers, which are generally custom designed to accommodate the molding capability and article specifics, may range from 10 to 20 TPD of dry fibers.
Water is removed from the article by evaporation. Thermal energy in the hot air, which impinges on the articles at a high velocity, is transferred to the article facilitating evaporation. However, there is a great deal of parasitic losses associated with drying, including heat loss from dryer surface, air filtration from openings, heat losses from the conveyor belt, loss associated exhausts.
For a premier dryer manufacturer, ChemicaLogic developed a comprehensive test protocol and analytical procedure to quantify the performance of molded article impingement dryers. This analysis permits the both the dryer designer and dryer operator to assess the energy consequence of changes in hardware or operating parameters.
Since approximately 2/3 of the thermal energy input is carried off the dryer in the dryer exhaust, recovering the dryer exhaust energy and finding suitable in-plant use for it are highly relevant operating issues.
ChemicaLogic completed a series of client projects assessing the status of technology development and competitiveness of several leading GTL processes to convert natural gas into liquid transportation fuels.
For an organization developing a new GTL process featuring a steam-reforming front-end using high CO2-content natural gas as feed, ChemicaLogic was retained to provide a critical evaluation of this new process and to assess its competitiveness against selected GTL process competitors. Based on thermodynamics, pilot plant data and rigorous process simulation techniques, we independently estimated the efficiency and economics of the process.
A GTL process transforms natural gas into longer carbon-chain hydrocarbons ranging from fuel gas, diesel fraction, to wax. The core step in a GTL technology is the Fischer-Tropsch reaction which allows the hydrogen and carbon monoxide molecules in a synthesis gas (syngas) mixture to form the "-CH2-" methylene chains and grow into higher carbon-number hydrocarbons. The basic technology was developed and practiced in Germany during WWII using synthesis gas produced from coal. (The original process is now termed coal-to-liquid (CTL) process to differentiate from the natural gas based GTL process.)
A generic GTL process consists of the following major process blocks:
· Methane reforming – natural gas can be reformed into syngas (H2 + CO) by several different methods including steam/methane reforming, autothermal reforming, partial oxidation and carbon dioxide reforming; with the exception of carbon dioxide reforming, all large scale methane reforming process requires the use of pure oxygen in the reformer.
· F-T conversion – implementing the highly exothermic Fischer-Tropsch reaction in tubular or slurry phase reactors; the heat transfer capability of the reactor design and the catalyst productivity are both keys to the successful F-T reactor engineering.
· Product refining – catalytic hydrocraking, hydrotreating and fractionating F-T product into selected product fractionations for the market.
In 2007, a global chemical manufacturer interested in the prospects of bio-butanol as a fuel retained ChemicaLogic to develop a conceptual plant design for a butanol fermentation facility to produce butanol for the fuels market and to access the competitive economics with bio-ethanol plants. In this assignment, ChemicaLogic developed an Aspen PLUS process simulation model and an economic model using Aspen ICARUS for a conceptual corn-to butanol plant as well as those of a state-of-the-art corn to ethanol plant for comparison.
Prior to engaging ChemicaLogic, the company had conceded that a butanol fermentation facility based on conventional technologies would not be economically feasible due to high energy costs. Thus, novel process technologies, both in the bio-conversion of agriculture feedstock to sugars, advanced butanol fermentation techniques and solvent recovery technologies may combine to importantly reduce the cost of the bio-butanol.
The conceptual design of the bio-butanol fermentation facility was based on plausible processing schemes to recover ABE solvents (acetone, butanol and ethanol) from the fermentation broth and to upgrade the ABE solvents to a quality consistent with marketed products. We also generated and evaluated design alternatives for each plant section with the objective to minimize the total investment and plant costs.
A client asked us to provide cost estimates of a liquid cleaner (solvent) material of potential interest to them. The client had only a small sample, and knew nothing about the composition. Using our background in chemical materials and knowledge of analytical techniques, we sent samples to selected commercial laboratories (whose work quality meets our criteria) requesting specific chemical and instrumental analyses, and performed certain functionality analyses ourselves because these tests were not available from any of our service labs. Our interpretation of data enabled us to associate the cleaning functionality of the sample with the wetting ability of one of the minor component as opposed to the solvency capability of the bulk ingredient. With this finding as a clue, we were able to match the compositional analysis of the sample with a specific commercial product. We concluded this sample was likely to have been prepared by adding a particular masking fragrance to the commercially available product.
Based on that characterization, we then developed several alternative formulations, obtained samples of commercial components, and prepared test batches of prototype products for client's review and selection. These formulations matched the cleaning performance of the client's sample, avoided an undesirable clouding problem present in that material, and provided the client with alternative fragrances. To complete the project, we provided estimates for manufacture based on quotes from materials suppliers near to the client's facilities.
ChemicaLogic conducted a valuation study of a polymer modified asphalt technology in the U.S. paving and roofing applications. The valuation methodology involved a combination of adjusted book value method, potential income approach and market comparable approach. In applying the income approach, we assessed the market potential of the U.S. paving market, which is undergoing a structural change as a result of the US Department of Transportation Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP), competitive economics, and client's marketing plan in developing a cash flow forecast.
ChemicaLogic participated in a study to develop a valuation for a venture business which has been investing aggressively in research and development activities, production assets, and commercial relationships. The assignment included a broad spectrum of due-diligence investigations on the merits of the technology, market quantification, verification of client developed cash flow forecasts and determination of fair market values for fixed assets and intellectual properties.
For a program sponsored by the Department of Energy to develop hydrogen fuelling options for fuel cell powered vehicles, Mr. Cheng and Dr. Saini, during their tenure with Arthur D. Little, Inc., conducted a landmark study assessing the feasibility of on-board hydrogen generation. They adapted conventional fuel reforming technologies including steam reforming, autothermal reforming and non-catalytic partial oxidation to meeting the unique requirements of vehicle application. Mr. Cheng and Dr. Saini conducted comparative analysis of systems integrating proton exchange membrane (PEM) and phosphoric acid (PAFC) fuel cells with each of the fuel reforming technologies for a number of fuel candidates, such as, natural gas, gasoline, methanol, and ethanol. Based on this study, a hardware demonstration program of a multi-fuel reformer is being pursued at Arthur D. Little.
ChemicaLogic performed a study for an international vehicle producer on the development status on the catalytic aspects of the fuel processing as related to the vehicular fuel cell application. In this study, we outlined major progresses as revealed in the public literature on:
- Steam reforming and autothermal reforming catalysts development or demonstration for methane, methanol and gasoline
- Catalyst research on selective oxidation of carbon monoxide in a hydrogen atmosphere
- Hydrogen membrane reactor for fuel processing
For a producer of ammonium nitrate using a prilling tower tehcnology for product forming, Mr. Cheng and Dr. Saini developed a mathematical model to characterize the performance of the prilling tower. The computer model, which includes a mathematical description of the prill formation mechanism, was used to understand the impact of process conditions on ammonium nitrate fume generation. This study helped the client reduce emissions and also improve the prilling operation.
For a major alkali producer, ChemicaLogic participated in a project to prepare a global supply-demand balance for chlorine, caustic soda and soda ash. An in-depth interview program was conducted in North America, Latin America, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China and Australia to develop a thorough understanding of the market-growth drivers, technology shifts, product substitution and regulatory threats impacting chlorine and sodium oxide demand. Markets examined included chlorinated solvents, chlorofluorocarbons, detergents, urethane chemicals, pulp and paper, alumina, glass, water treatment, desulfurization, petroleum refining, and inorganic chemicals.
As part of this project, ChemicaLogic constructed a global demand forecast model which included a 25-year database of country-by-country demand for chlorine, caustic soda and soda ash. The model correlates the demand data with country specific demand drivers. This model makes accurate forecasts for soda ash demand on a country-by-country basis.
For a supplier of gas separation equipment, Mr. Cheng assisted in the redesign of a cryogenic adsorption system to improve its process performance. This adsorption system was an integral part of a high-purity helium production system at one of the Bureau of Mines' Helium production facilities. The task involved evaluation of the performance different adsorbents, the effect of operating pressure and temperature as well as regeneration conditions on the performance of the system.
ChemicaLogic assisted a client in developing a self-inflating system for protective packaging. The client came to us with the need for a chemical-based gas generator that does not involve the use of hazardous chemicals or air compression systems at the point of packaging articles for shipment. We first examined the need and methods currently used in protective packaging, as well as the application economics. We brainstormed to select a list of potential, cost-effective gas generation systems as formulation candidates. We screened the candidates in initial tests of reaction rate, and then selected systems for further testing of reaction rate and management of reaction residues. After developing procedures for physically holding the reactants for ease of handling, we provided samples and the development results to client for further development in his own facilities.
A material converter was experiencing difficulties in forming a liquid-tight seal between the surface of a plastic fitting and two layers of a thin polymeric film that was laminated to a non-woven fabric. ChemicaLogic examined the physical evidence of the defective joints and requested specific chemical analysis tests by a commercial laboratory, including detailed measurement of the melting characteristics of the materials. Based on our analysis of the resulting test data, we prescribed specific temperature ranges and special mechanical modifications to the seal machine in order to ensure that both temperature and applied pressure in the vicinity of the weld are correctly controlled. These changes have enabled the manufacturer to make acceptable seals.
A client was interested in identifying new applications in fire-resistance fabric market for some newly acquired bi-component fiber spinning technologies. Following the tasks of analyzing the technology and understanding the needs and market potential of the existing fire-resistance fabric market, ChemicaLogic proposed a number of product concept of specific combinations exterior sheath and core filament as promising applications for the client to pursue for prototype manufacture.
At the request of a manufacturer of personal care products, we provided independent testing and evaluation of the effects that thermal and chemical emissions from a prototype self-heating hair curler system might have on the curler users as well as on others in the.
For this evaluation, we needed data on the distribution of air temperatures and vapor concentrations of selected chemical vapors in the air within a simulated usage environment. We installed a mannequin head form (plastic foam) in a large open top container to provide a relatively calm air space around the "head", mounted devices for air sample collection and thermal sensing at pre-selected locations, and then attached curlers as they would be used in the normal activation and use cycles. The test results indicated that the curlers were indeed generating undesirable chemical vapors, which were carried by thermally induced air currents directly to the inhalation zones of users and their helpers. Based on this evidence, the client asked us to recommend an alternative chemical system that could be activated by addition of water, but would not emit any undesirable vapors. We identified some potentially usable systems (based on oxidation of iron) that, while less energetic than the original system, appeared to be satisfactory for the application.
A toy manufacturer interested in developing a toy humanoid, of which the color of the face and certain other body parts could be changed by activating a mechanical actuator. The client requested assistance in formulating the color changing fluid. Based the extremes of the environmental conditions that the toy may endure during the life cycle of the toy (i.e. manufacturing, shipping, storage, active use, inactive use and disposal), we proposed a formulation from industrial chemicals, a actuation mechanism from commercially available components and conducted a failure mode analysis for the client to carry-out further prototyping by the client's own development group.
A manufacturer of solid-state chemical oxygen generation systems used for emergency breathing sources in aircraft was experiencing potentially serious product problems due to the sudden appearance of unacceptably high concentrations of trace contaminants in the oxygen product gas of QC test units. The generation reactions involve thermal decomposition of molten chlorate salts. No change in raw materials or manufacturing processes could be found to account for the change. Working as a third party, independent of their internal QC and research activities in the problem area, we carried out an independent investigation of their materials and processes at our laboratories, using both their materials and alternative sources, and exploring the range of processing conditions around those used by the client. We instrumented our test equipment so that we were able to monitor temperatures and gas atmospheres in various processing steps. The test data generated enabled us to identify likely causes of the undesirable impurity and to recommend changes to their raw materials and processes that could decrease the chances of forming the impurity. Our efforts and results have formed the basis for subsequent issuance of two new U.S. patents, which were assigned to the client.
Mr. Cheng was retained by a major pharmaceutical company, which was developing a novel drug material based on a water-soluble polymer, to assess the technical and economic feasibility of the developing processes based on results of a bench-scale development effort. Under Mr. Cheng's direction, the project team conceptualized a process flow sequences, developed a preliminary design of the plant, based on detailed heat and material balances, which provided a basis for estimating the capital investment and production cost. It was concluded that the process technology examined would be not able to yield the desired product with required reproducibility due to the chemical nature of the polymer backbone. It was suggested that an alternative chemistry be used to provide a structurally defined polymer backbone.