In this blog, ATBEST researcher at QUB, Rawan Hakawati tells us about her experience of attending an IChemE conference with some of her colleagues.
On the 17th and 18th of September, 2014, The Institute of Chemical Engineers, IChemE, organized a conference titled as “Applied Catalysis and Reaction Engineering”. It took place in one of the most prestigious universities ranking second on the QS World University Ranking for the year of 2014, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. The program included various presentations covering topics from catalyst development to reactor design. The presenters were PhD students and Post-docs from different universities in the UK such as University College London , Bath University, Newcastle University, Manchester University, Cardiff University, Heriot-Watt University, Liverpool University and of course our beloved Queen’s University Belfast. The two-day program also included three invited presenters who gave their time to share some industrial experiences; Professor Freek Kapteijn from TU Delft talked about “Large Scale Reactors” and their ongoing research in optimizing their activity . Dr. Adeana Bishop from ExxonMobil talked about the “Role of Basic Science in Industrial Experience” and Professor David Cole Hamilton from the University of St. Andrews took the time to introduce the importance of producing “Chemicals from Waste Bio-oils.”
Personally, I was very interested in one specific piece of work presented by Mr. Paulo Brunengo, Vice President- Reaction Technologies at Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies Ltd, entitled as “Interdependence Between Reactor Design and Catalyst Development: An Innovative Reactor Design Opens Opportunities to Enhance Catalyst’s Activity”. Mr. Paulo talks about the industrial heterogeneous catalytic reactors’ limitations in terms of heat transfer and pressure drop. The latter imposes using “non-optimum” catalysts when a reaction that is limited by heat/mass transfer is scaled up to the industrial scale.1 He also talks about the factors that affect the efficiency and selectivity of the catalyst and the product yield. Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies Ltd, a Johnson Matthey Plc. company was able to develop a new design for a catalyst carrier which is configured to fit in the reactor tube in a tubular reactor. This innovation optimizes heat and mass transfer with acceptable pressure drop due to its small pore size which means that the reactor can be operated at high productivity. The catalyst carrier allows the use of catalysts with less than 1 mm particle size irrespective of their strength meaning that they can be fragile or powder state. The carrier allows much better control of temperature and can be readily removed and transported for disposal or regeneration. The carrier may be used in a wide range of processes such as methanol and ammonia production, methanation reactions, endothermic reaction such as dehydrogenation and also in Fischer-Tropsch reactions.
Aside from the technical side of the trip, Fabio, Leanne and I were happy to support our colleague from QUB, Colin McManus, who presented his work on TAP systems, “Expansion of Temporal Analysis of Products (TAP) Pulse Responses for More Accurate Data Analysis.” The two-day trip drew us closer to one another and allowed us to meet students from different places like Mexico, United States of America and Germany etc… and hear their random stories about living abroad. We roamed the streets of Cambridge, dined in a must-try Baked Potato place called “Tatties”, probably one of the best stuffed baked potatoes we have ever had (mine was stuffed with goat cheese and marinated chicken breasts on a bed of spinach leaves, YUM.)
On the second day during one of the coffee/tea breaks, I couldn’t but notice a tall-aged grey-haired man sitting in the far corner of the room. As I approached him, he greets me with a simple “hello”, yet I can sense he is very shy. I notice a few books (on the table beside him) all aligned perfectly and replicas of each other, so I assumed there was a mini book-signing event. However, the man did not say a word. Then I asked him what these books were for; this was the start of a very interesting conversation. He explained that he is trying to make people read so I tell him that this is a wonderful thing as I point towards the books and ask him whether these books were for borrowing. He says that he is trying to sell them and starts talking about the biography of this man in the book, and then to my surprise it appears that he is the author of the book so my interest escalated, and I asked more about the book and about his source of inspiration. The author’s name was Peter Varey; deeper into the conversation, I learn that he graduated from Chemistry at Cambridge University, he taught industrial processes and was the editor of “The Chemical Engineer” magazine. He published books and organized events for the Institution of Chemical Engineers. He now decided to become a freelance writer and write a book about a man he knew personally, a very inspirational character in the name of Peter Danckwerts. “Peter Danckwerts was a leading protagonist of a more scientific approach to chemical engineering during the 1950s. He became Executive Editor of the new journal of “Chemical Engineering Science”, and when he was appointed to a new chair at Imperial College, he became the first Professor of Chemical Engineering Science.” (Danckwerts Memorial Lecture, Engineering science—or scientific engineering?, Chemical Engineering Science 57 (2002) 1075 – 1077, R. W. H. Sargent )
I bought the book and promised to email him with my feedback about the book which I’m very excited to start reading! Overall, I had a very fruitful trip to Cambridge and I enjoyed every bit of it.
Rawan Hakawati, ATBEST Researcher, Queen’s University Belfast