Thursday, July 30, 2009

Large scale cellulosic ethanol

According to a recent report, several companies are already producing large scale cellulosic ethanol. The news comes form a recent ethanol workshop attended by representatives of Coskata, Dupont/Danisco, Iogen, Lignol, Poet and PureVision.
the companies process around 1 ton of biomass per day, which is converted into 70-85 gallons of biofuels.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cosmetic formulas

Eckart America has many formulations for personal care products. They include ingredient lists and directions to make:

Eye shadow
Hair gel
Skin lotion
Nail polish

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Free Chemical Engineering Journals

A user from the forum todoquimica (in spanish) supplied a list of chemical engineering publications that are freely avilable. They can be accessed through DOAJ (Directory of open access journals).

The journal names are listed below:

Journal of Chemical Engineering of Japan
Journal of Corrosion Science & Engineering
The Journal of Food Technology in Africa
Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications
Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods
Journal of the Brazilian Chemical Society
Journal of the Ceramic Society of Japan
Journal of the Chilean Chemical Sociaty
Journal of the Japan Petroleum Institute
Journal of the Korean Chemical Society
Journal of the Serbian Chemical Society
Polymer Journal
Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Quarterly
Platinum Metals Review
Oil and Gas Business
Journal of Water and Environment Technology
Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos
Electronic Journal of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Chemistry

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New material harder than diamond

Researchers from Bayerisches Geoinstitut, Universitat Bayreuth, Germany, created a substance denser and less compressible than diamond. It was obteined by compressing fullerene (c60) molecules at a pressure of 10 GPa and a temperature of 2200 degrees Celsius. Attempts to measure the micro hardness failed, since a diamond indenter was unable to make a dent in the new material. The material however was able to scratch the surface of diamonds. It is beleved that the new material would be more effective than diamond for tools and other industrial uses.

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Photos of industrial plants

Those who appreciate giant structures, tanks, piping and large abandoned buildings, may like these photographs. The plants are closed, unused or in the process of being teared down. Buildings include sulfuric acid plants, steel furnaces and others.

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Excellent laboratory website

Chemistry teaching websites are often of poor quality. That's not the case for Chemlab, the website of Darthmouth college's chemistry lab.
Laboratory procedures are clearly explained, as are some topics in chemistry. I highly recommend it to anybody teaching or concerned with the design of a chemistry teaching website.

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Origins of FORTRAN

I'd like to invite computer programming enthusiasts to view this video about the team that created the first version of the FORTRAN computer language. It's 12 minutes long and consists of interviews with the main protagonists of the story. The interviews reveal how excited they were of working on the (at the time) innovative project.

Even today, Fortran is one of the most widely used languages for numerical and scientific applications.

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Heat engines without moving parts

Whenever something does not have moving parts, engineers get excited. Absence of moving parts means less parts that require lubrication, or can break down, and therefore the system has less maintenance.

Heat engines such as the internal combustion engine, compression refrigeration cycles or steam turbine cycles are widely used, but have great mechanical complexity and require many parts. Is it possible to make heat engines without turbines, pumps, pistons or hydraulic seals?

Yes, one such technology are the so called thermoacoustic engines. They use a compressible gas that vibrates inside a cavity at a resonance frequency. Invented long ago, the first models had poor efficiency, but recent advances achieved increases in efficiency that make them more attractive.

They can operate in direct mode, producing work from a temperature difference, or in reverse mode, as coolers that transfer heat from a cold reservoir to a hot one at the expense of work.

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List of good free math software

Below is a selection of high quality free math software. Many of them are distributed under a GNU license and work on multiple platforms (Linux, Windows, etc)

Maxima Algebra system with emphasis on symbolic computations.

Octave High level language, mostly oriented to numerical methods. It's fairly compatible with MATLAB. It was created for use in chemical engineering problem solving.

R Statistical and graphics package.It's similar to the "S" system developed at Bell labs (The main author of "S", is part of the development team of "R")

Scilab User friendly numerical package.

Gnuplot Very comprehensive scientific plotting program. Can be used from a command line or via scripts that allow automation of many tasks.

We found the links in GnuWin, a website dedicated to software of the GNU kind.

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Composites for aircraft

Composite materials are a material of great interest for aircraft. According to Frost & Sullivan, as soon as the materials improve their cost-benefit ratio, they will replace parts currently made of aluminum alloys or steel in civilian and military aircraft.

One of the research trends is adding carbon nanotubes to composites. It is estimated that by 2020 nanotubes will be used widely in aircraft such as the Airbus A380 or Boeing 747.

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Chemistry dissertations in spanish

Many PhD dissertations with chemistry related topics can be found online at universidad complutense de madrid. They describe procedures, research techniques, etc. Here's a link to another website with links to thesis.

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Formulations for personal care

ITDF is a supplier of ingredients for cosmetics and household chemicals. Their website has interesting documents regarding regulations for manufacturing cosmetics.

There is also a section with formulations, or recipes to make a large number of ingredients.

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Cost of chemicals

Market prices of chemicals are useful for economic studies and chemical engineering design projects. This information can be hard to find for students.

To help with these task we found a website from ICIS with prices of a large number of chemicals. Although they might be a bit dated, thay can be useful for student papers or projects.

Another source of estimated prices of chemicals can be found here (prices in UK pounds)

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Laboratory glassware

Chemical labs use a great variety of glass equipment, including, flasks, burettes, etc. We found a couple links thay may amuse those who spend many hours a day using glassware.

1)The original design of the Erlenmeyer flask.

2) A hybrid between a flask and an erlenmeyer, called fleaker. It combines the conical and cylindrical shapes providing the advantages of both. It might be so, but it also seems that it might be hard to clean if anything happens to stick to the interior walls.

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Cellulosic ethanol process

One of the multiple process for cellulosic ethanol is the one of bluefire (Arkenol). In their website they show flowsheets and pilot plant schematics.

One of the reasons in producing cellulosic ethanol as a renewable fuel is to use agricultural residues that would otherwise be burned or disposed of as waste.

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Vapor Liquid Equilibrium

One of the most common separation operations is distillation. Design of distillation columns requires thermodynamic data on vapor liquid equilibrium of the mixture of interest.

Many thermodynamic database exist, some of which are accesible to subscribers only. Some are, however, open to the general public. The best ones are those who provide citations to the original sources, which facilitates evaluating the reliablity of the data.

Today we'd like to point out CHERIC(Chemical Engineering Research Information Center) from Korea. It has vast amounts of data on VLE of binary systems and a database that includes thermophysic properties and equilibrium data for:
2000 hydrocarbons and light gases.
200 polymers and solvents.
2000 electrolyte solutions

Some other sources of thermodynamic data include:

Shuzo One's website.

The COCO package includes thermodynamic data on 150 substances.

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Chemical Engineering design projects

For those looking for chemical engineering design projects, West Virgina University has many interesting ones in DOC and PDF format.

They can be immediately useful as an example of a design project or for future reference. Topics range form optimizations of existing projects to mnore comprehensive large projects.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Chemical plant in Star Trek 2009

Good news for chemical engineering and science fiction fans. The new Star Trek movie (2009), has a very industrial look, and many scenes were filmed in actual plants. More specifically, the engine room of the Enterprise is actually a Budweiser Brewery in which one can clearly see the fermentors and piping.
As an interesting side note, the same plant was previously used as in the 80's Sci-Fi tv show "V".

According to its official site, a power plant was also used as a filming location.
For more on this, please check out the production notes from the official website.

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Free Simulators in Holland

Amsterdam is a chemical "hotspot", where there are not only multiple industrial plants, but also many research centers. In this environment they are creating free tools which are very useful for process simulation.

Thanks to a post from Roberto Carrera in ingenieria, we have found some interesting links.

CoLAN (CAPE-OPEN Laboratories Network) is an organization that promotes the use of open standards for process simulation software. This aims to facilitate the exchange of flowsheets, thermodynamic properties between different programs. Some members of this association include representatives of major companies like Shell, BP, Total, BASF, DOW and IFP.

COCO is a free simulation environment that uses CAPE-OPEN standards. It includes:
*Graphic interfaces for flowsheets.
*Thermodynamic database.
*Unit operations modules.
*Chemical reactor modules.

ChemSep: Free Software for multicomponent separations. It allows the user to calculate distillation columns, thermodynamic properties, etc. The LITE version is free, and there's a paid version with more options.

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Material Physical Properties

Evitherm's web page contains links to various databases of thermodynamic material properties,and also countless other chemical physical properties that may be of interest. Some of these are free.

For example, one of the databases is the material datacenter that contains information on plastics.

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Homemade supercomputer

Professor Joel Adams and his student, Tim Brom of Calvin College, USA, announced that it is possible to build a high performing supercomputer for a really low price (less than $2500.)

The device is called Microwulf and consists of 4 multi-core processors connected by gigabyte ethernet. These are all elements whose price is always decreasing.

In order to test the performance, they used the
“high performance Linpack” benchmark, which yielded a result of a maximum 26 Gigaflops. (…...The most powerful supercomputer today reaches 280 Teraflops, a number approximately 10,000 times larger. While the proposed system is not the most powerful, in terms of Gflops per dollar or per KW it is very efficient.

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New periodic table

A new spiral shaped periodic table is the focus of some controversy. Allegedly it gives a clearer picture of the relationships among elements. On the other hand, it doesn't provide as much information as the classic chemical tables.

As for me I'll stick with Sargent Welch's, because it has atomic weights, etc.

Also note: Why do so many people create computer-based periodic tables? Paper ones are more useful.

In this link there are various PDF or GIF files for printing your own periodic table.
Also, there is a file in SVG format for those who would like to edit or personalize theirs.

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Candy Manufacturing

The Ferrara Pan candy factory offers a Virtual Tour, which shows different stages of the
manufacturing process of making hard candy known as "atomic fireballs." A series of
animated images shows the processing steps that go from raw materials to product packaging. It's not quite the same as a visit to the plant, but it really gives a feeling of what the industrial process looks like.

Hopefully other factories will do the same thing, to satisfy everyone curious about how things are made.

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Google Scholar Scientific search engine

Google Scholar , allows one to find scientific articles on the web.

One of its advantages is the speed and effectiveness that we have come to expect from Google. The results are listed by their relevance, giving priority to the most-cited articles, and at the same time awarding a greater score to the articles cited by those most cited.

One disadvantage is that many publications are not accessible full-text because they require a subscription. It's unlikely that it'll replace academic databases but it is nevertheless an interesting service that's free, and available to everyone.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chemistry images

Good chemistry pictures can be found in wikimedia commons; Below are some chemistry and nanochemistry links:
a. Nanotechnology
b. Laboratory equipment
c. Chemistry
d. Chromatography
Most of the images have a GNU or Creative Commons license, which makes it easy to use or copy the pictures.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Free Chemical Engineering E-Books

In NAP's website, (National Academy Press), there are free electronic books (e-books), some of which are chemical engineering-related. (To find them, search for CHEMICAL ENGINEERING) in the search engine. Other topics of interest are nanotechnology, new materials, etc.

Most of these books focus on science policy as well as defense.

Another source of books is Knovel, including Perry's Handbook and many other classics. It is fee-based but it is possible to download the PDF's by registering for a sample subscription.

The Internet Archive has an old chemical engineering manual. This is in DejaVu format and requires downloading a plugin.
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