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Chemical Manufacturing

The Chemical Manufacturing Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about process equipment and control, biotech & environmental, specialty chemicals and nano-engineering. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Ammonia Demand to Grow with Food Need

Posted August 14, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

With the world population expected to grow by another 1 billion people over the coming years, feeding this burgeoning population will require new agricultural technologies and cultivating more marginal land. As a result, production of ammonia, one of the world's most widely used crop fertilizers, is expected to increase significantly, according to IHS Chemical. To keep pace with demand, a number of recent advances have been made in ammonia manufacturing processes to boost energy efficiency and output and lower operating costs.

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2 comments; last comment on 08/20/2015
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Boon for Europe's Chem Makers

Posted July 07, 2015 2:10 PM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Despite oil price volatility and a weakened euro, it's a good time to be a petrochemical producer in Europe. Buyers of naphtha, olefins, aromatics, and other petrochemicals are facing a once-in-a-generation supply squeeze, according to market analysis by IHS Chemical. This is the result of classic supply and demand fundamentals swinging back in favor of producers who are seeing improvement in European consumption, reduced imports due to the devalued euro, and petrochemical purchasers desperate to restock after waiting months for oil prices to continue falling.

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Pot Puts Chemists in High Demand

Posted May 14, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Legalization of marijuana use, both for medical and recreational purposes, is creating high demand for chemists. According to one industry consultant at the American Chemical Society's spring conference - held in Denver, CO, where the legal marijuana industry is booming - more chemists are needed to provide the burgeoning industry safer and better cannabis-based products. These products include oils, extracts, and edibles. Demand for chemists is expected to continue to surge as other states move to legalize pot.

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6 comments; last comment on 05/18/2015
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Aerogel - How it Can Change Material Science

Posted March 19, 2015 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

Aerogel is a synthetic and manmade porous ultralight material composed of a gel, with the liquid component of the gel having been replaced with that of a gas. Created in 1931 by Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931, the substance is produced by extracting the liquid component of a gel through supercritical drying, allowing the liquid to be gradually dried off without causing the solid matrix in the gel to collapse from capillary action.

The result of this modification is a solid with extremely low density and low thermal conductivity.

It's also known as frozen smoke, solid smoke, solid air, or blue smoke, because of the translucent blue hue it has been known to emit, as well as the way light scatters through the material's microscopic pores. Its touch has been described as feeling like super-fragile Styrofoam, and it can be made from a variety of chemical compounds not yet very limited.

Put simply, aerogel is a material wonder with a variety of real-world application and use.

In 2004 alone $25 million of aerogel insulation product was sold, with that number skyrocketing to $500 million by 2013. The public interest and investment in aerogel as an effective source of insulation for aerospace use is staggering, as well as the unavoidable potential to completely replace conventional insulation used by the building, construction, and industrial sectors. Overall, aerogel has surpassed its expected use and is expected to increase in value over the following years as more applicable uses are exploited for this wonderful material.

The beauty of aerogel lies in the way it is made versus conventional insulation. Without chopping down trees for lumber, without shearing sheep for wool, and without using any otherwise nonrenewable resource, the market for aerogel - a relatively simple to make material in most laboratory environments - is based on its effectiveness and vast appeal to become a renewable source of insulating material.

Its durability has been known to support the frames of its more conventionally solid counterparts as well - demonstrations have been done to show that it can maintain the weight of a 2.5 kg brick (suspended by a thin strip of aerogel only weighing in at 2 g.)

According to Extreme Tech, "The graphene aerogel can recover completely after more than 90% compression, and absorb up to 900 times its own weight in oil, at a rate of 68.8 grams per second… Graphene aerogel is seven times lighter than air [and] can balance on a blade of grass."

Although aerogel is still fairly expensive compared to the tried-and-true conventional insulation mentioned previously, scientists have been working to make the process cheaper and less hazardous for those involved to significantly lower the price and make it more accessible for everyone. Once that becomes a reality, the applications to be found for this miraculous wonder material will no doubt double, perhaps even triple in its uses.

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8 comments; last comment on 03/26/2015
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Mushroom Tech Could Be the Next 3D Printing

Posted March 11, 2015 7:08 AM by HUSH

Humans have a long history of building shelters out of whatever is available. Mud and straw. Bamboo. Sticks and leaves. These were acceptable shelter materials for early humans and are good enough when stuck on Survivor or irretrievably lost in the forest. Wood and stone continue to be relied on today. All of these represent the pinnacle in sustainable building materials. No emissions, no manufacturing, no construction machinery-just lots of labor and sweat effort.

Fast forward hundreds of years, and now 3D printers promise a future of perfectly-manufactured and customized houses. One day, people could literally design their house on a PC, and then print out real-life Lego bricks to build a modular home.

As such, the idea of living in toadstools seems a) archaic, and b) unrealistic. Mushrooms are destroyed with a kick of the toe or chomp of the jaw. Though we occasionally depict cartoons or fairy tales living in toadstools, we've never considered the building codes of the Smurfs. However some construction innovations may lead to structures and homes surviving solely on mushroom tech.

Clearly the cap and stem of a mushroom isn't enough to be a viable construction material. Besides, once a mushroom goes from bulb to cap, the mushroom is preparing to die. However, some developers envision a house made of mycelium bricks-the cellular organization that sprouts mushrooms. To do so, first bricks of substrate must be prepared. They include the proper nutrients, water and growing materials needed for the mycelium to flourish. These substrates are pressed into a mold and the spores are introduced, which colonize the substrate with an off-white, cottony texture (the mycelium).

Once colonized the brick is removed from the mold and dried out. This kills the mycelium and mushrooms therefore wouldn't grow. A fiber shell of recycled aluminum or other material is placed over the bricks to improve appearance and abrasion resistance. Engineering tests have rated the material as strong as wooden support beams and it's also nontoxic, fire-proof, mold-resistant, water-resistant, and more insulative than fiberglass. The mycelium can be even grown on substrates such as corn husks, plant material that can't even be fed to animals. It's as sustainable as it gets-the only energy is human effort.

The idea is mycelium bricks could grow in a couple weeks anywhere in the world where the conditions are right (80° F, high humidity, and enough growing substrates). Rather than using plastics, this technology could "bio-print" just about anything. One company is offering a grow-it-yourself kit that allows you to grow your own mycelium structure and then shape it into whatever you want.

There is no certainty that fungal structures will ever take hold. Yet last June an installation at the New York Museum of Modern Art showcased this technology with an outdoor pavilion of mycelium structure. Unfortunately it was removed last fall, but there is little doubt the structure would have lasted through the winter. Even if mycelium structures don't catch on, it is certainly an interesting concept that shows some of the oldest materials remains the best materials.

3 comments; last comment on 03/11/2015
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Chemical Demand Heats Up

Posted March 11, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Demand for chemicals is heating up nicely this year, although the steep fall in crude oil prices clouds the forecast for pricing and margins. For the first time in four years, demand growth is expected to top 3% in 2015, both globally and in the U.S., according to the annual market outlook by IHS Chemical Week. Pricing will remain volatile, however, and inventory destocking could have an impact on the first part of the year as buyers wait for prices to settle.

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