I have written over the years about sustainability; you may remember Ford & Jose Cuervo. Today, I’m writing about a new idea grown from the rinds and seeds of Sicily’s most famous citrus fruit — the orange.
The innovation is as impressive as the filtration technology used to give consumers the pulp-free OJ they drink at breakfast on a given morning!
Oranges & Textiles
In 2011, Adriana Santonocito was a design student in Milan and had an idea to make sustainable textiles from Sicilian oranges. People already knew how to extract cellulose from orange rinds, but Adriana developed a process to make fiber which could be blended and the color-dyed with other textiles such as cotton or polyester. She and her classmate Enrica Arena founded Orange Fiber in 2014 and are now selling the silk-like material to the famous Italian fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo.
What else from the oranges?
They are also making baked goods healthier, and stay fresher, thanks to a new procedure which transforms them into an innovative fat-free flour /citrus paste. Pastazzo is flour made from the orange rinds, seeds and part of the pulp not used for juice. The “brioche” from this flour has the same taste and look of brioche made with butter/fats/oils but much healthier.
Although we’ve yet to be employed working with oranges, BHS has applied its leadership in sustainability to feedstocks and applications including:
I’m always looking to collaborate and explore ideas with others in our filtration technology business. Happily, director of Oriental Manufacturers Jigar Patel, has offered this guest blog discussing differences between filtration and centrifugation. I hope you enjoy Patel’s perspective:
Filtration and centrifugation are two distinct separation techniques used for isolating the required components from the mixture. The major difference between the techniques is the nature of the force employed and the separation method used. While filtration uses a sieve or filter media to strain undesired constituents, centrifugation leverages the power of the centrifugal force for the separation.
What is Filtration?
Filtration is a physical separation technique, by pressure, vacuum or gravity, used for segregating one or more components from a mixture for different applications. Depending on the application, the process may employ one or multiple metal perforated layers or filter mesh for solid-liquid separation.
What is Centrifugation?
Centrifugation is a process that employs a centrifugal force to separate the elements of the liquid slurry.The remaining liquid (supernatant) is then transferred from the centrifuge tube or removed without disturbing the precipitate. The precipitating particles left behind depend on the speed of the machine, the shape and size of the particles and their volume, viscosity, and density.
4 Major Differences between Filtration and Centrifugation
#1 Nature of Operation
Large particles in a mixture are unable to pass through the perforated layers of the filter. Yet fluids and small particles easily pass through the filter mesh under the pressure, vacuum, or gravitational force.
The centrifugal machine forces the heavier solids to the bottom creating a firm cake. The lighter mixture that stays above the cake is then decanted.
#2 Separation Techniques
Filtration uses different techniques depending on the expected outcome which can be classified as pressure, vacuum, or gravitational.
Centrifugation techniques can be classified asmicro-centrifuges, high-speed centrifuges and ultra-centrifugations. Microcentrifuge is typically used for research studies that require the processing of biological molecules in very small volumes.High-speed centrifugal machines are designed to handle bigger batches and are mainly used for processing industrial mixtures on a large scale.The ultra-centrifugation technique is used to study the properties of biological particles.
The main function of filtration is getting the desired output by eliminating impurities from any given liquid or isolating solids from a mixture.
The main purpose of centrifugation is fast, efficient separation of solids from a liquid solution or slurry.
Simple filtration techniques take time separating the desired materials, which makes the separation method less efficient.
Centrifugation techniques employ machines that run with the aid of power, so the separation method is faster and more efficient.
Both filtration and centrifugation are solid-liquid separation techniques that use different equipment and have different applications.
My two cents: Deciding which one is best suited to your process will take work. No matter the process in question, engineers are well served by taking the time to gather the information, make their own comparisons, and then develop a process solution.
Thanks to Jigar Patel. The director of Oriental Manufacturers believes in the power of good functional designs and their ability to boost productivity and drive growth. Fueled by his passion for innovation and all things EPC, Jigar writes on topics related to process plant equipments, process machinery production, turnkey solutions, best industry practices, and his personal insights!
Keep the sharing going — let me know what you want to write about in this spot next!
With graduation season coming there will be many chemical engineers on the market looking for their first jobs. There are many opportunities with operating companies, engineering companies, startups, venture capitalists (yes, engineers in the financial industry), and consulting firms. Nevertheless, my first choice is technical sales.
Why technical sales? It’s an interesting field for process engineers for several reasons as you get the opportunity to:
Combine technical expertise with people skills and business knowledge to help customers solve problems
Define customer’s technical requirements
Explain, test, and demonstrate the company’s products to meet the requirements and solve the customer’s problems
Employ a flexible approach to technical/commercial situations
Interact with a variety of people and positions
The best process engineers for technical sales possess a desire to get involved in the business aspects of many different industries/application and are willing to cultivate long-term selling relationships with varied types of people.
But Will I Still be a Process Engineer?
In school you learned all of the technical skills. Now, in technical sales, you use all of your process engineering skills. How so?
Selling requires logical analysis and documentation to the client to make them feel comfortable with the product
Performing calculations allows you to be successful in risk taking and feel confident in your decisions
Continuing to trouble shoot the process and solve difficult problems even after you have sold the equipment
Graduating with the technical skills under control, there are certain attributes that can help you transition to a technical sales role as a process engineer. Those looking to hire you for technical sales will want to see:
Are you a good listener?
Are you motivated?
Do you have thick-skin so that if the client is not satisfied you can accept criticisms?
I embarked on this career path with degrees in chemistry and environmental science and technology. I joined the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1976 when we were a young agency. I did air sampling (clean shaven and no beard) and rule development and was able to learn about many industries and applications. After getting by MBA at night (over four long years), I joined Pall Corporation in technical marketing. This role was fun, creative but now here I am working with BHS-Sonthofen. Some 35 years later, technical sales and marketing are ingrained in my psyche.
Let me know if I can help you with your career decisions and training. Good hunting.
As loyal readers already know, I sometimes mention my yoga practice, which includes headstands, shoulder stands, tripod stands, etc. Another important component of yoga is the breathing.
Yoga involves controlled breathing, while the high-risk world of freediving involves holding your breath — these are two different ends of the spectrum with benefits for practitioners of either (or both). BusinessWeek discussed the need for conscious breathing in two 2017 articles.
Patrick Scott, in his June 19, 2017 article “Free Falling,” connects diving and holding one’s breath to a feeling of euphoria unlike any other. Freedivers talk about how the mind and body are altered. Surface cares dissolve — replaced by a profound immersion in the present.
The Guinness World Record for holding one’s breath underwater is 24 minutes and 3 seconds. However, most freedivers plan for 3 – 5 breathless minutes. The key is to relax and override the urge to breathe underwater by learning to embody the energy the flows throughout the universe.
Controlled breathing in Yoga
In yoga, there are many types of breathing all of which focus on the individual. One is Ujjayi breathing. This “victorious breath” has a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system, releases feelings of irritation and frustration, and helps calm the mind and body. With Ujjayi, there are many benefits:
Increases the amount of oxygen in the blood
Builds internal body heat
Relieves tension and regulates blood pressure
Detoxifies mind and body
Another yoga breathing exercise is Sitali (or Sitkari) Pranayama, which literally means “to extend the vital life force.” There are three practices:
Gentle “extended exhale” breathing
A third type is Breath of Fire. You’ll breathe 2-3 times/second through the mouth and up to 120 -180 times/minute.
Lastly, there is alternative nostril breathing. In this case, breathing through the left nostril is calming and breathing through the right nostril has an energizing effect.
Take a Deep Breath by Jennifer Miller outlines five classes explaining the art of inhaling. After all, whether you breathe deeply or hold your breath, the right breath technique can lead to “physical and emotional release.” In the non-stop environment we all work in today — pressured to perform, to innovate, to respond, to deliver, to compete — it’s not a bad idea to take a breath and find the right path with intention.
Testing in school has a negative connotation. Students dread tests. Parents bemoan “teaching to the test.” Teachers chafe against the curriculum parameters defined by testing expectations. Yet, the word “testing” should resonate much more positively with process engineers. After all, testing is the key for selecting the most suitable filtration tech for any individual solid-liquid separation task.
Although there is only limited theoretical background available, and even specialized engineering education at universities leaves many theoretical questions open, it is beneficial to have a minimum understanding of the theory of filtration itself. By identifying the role of each influencing part, the process engineer gains a potential tool to work with when it comes to understanding testing findings and developing a path forward in determining the best filtration procedure.
Just from experience, and for the benefit of engineers, some overview observations are necessary:
Don’t stop testing just because the first results suit your target
Don’t accept samples without verifying the parameters in the description
Never change more than one parameter at a time
One result is no result => verification is a must
Take a break and check the conformity of the results before you call it a day
Filtration Testing Requires Decision Making
In testing it’s essential to train yourself to stop and repeat. Don’t succumb to perceived certainty. After all, many parameters of the liquid and the solids have an influence on the filtration process.
Form and size of particles
Particle size distribution (PSD)
Agglomerate building behavior
While all of the above may not be known for all filtration applications, the final target is to find a theoretical approach together with a practical method of testing.
Sampling in Filtration Testing
Filtration tests need to be done with a “representative sample” defined as a sample “as close as possible” to the real production product. Yet the specific characteristics of a slurry from the point of filtration are not obvious to everyone. That’s where testing comes in: the list of parameters is quite extensive and in many cases only a few are available.
Still, the more you can get the better. Although for the first tests, the ph-value, temperature, particle shape, size distribution, etc. are not necessary right from the beginning, these parameters are normally quickly measured and complete the picture of the suspension. It is obvious that solid content and viscosity do have an impact on the filterability.
“Suspending” Judgment in Filtration Testing
The characteristics of suspensions are not only caused by the liquid phase but also by the particles, the other half of a slurry. The solids can be of crystalline nature or amorphous, which means their structure is not really defined. They can also be organic (i.e. cell debris), fibrous, in-organic, compressible or incompressible, generate agglomerates or not, may have a zeta potential or not…. there are many possibilities.
An easy way to verify the type of solids is a sample check. If possible, the original suspension should be checked under the microscope. Then, the behavior of the solids can also be seen:
Do they tend to build agglomerates or stay on their own?
How is the distribution of the solids?
Is the structure of the solids needle-shape, potato shape, snow crystal or even fibrous?
The best practice in filtration testing is to consider all of these angles thoroughly before deciding on a filtration procedure.
I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes who always warns “don’t jump to conclusions.” This is one of the biggest risks we face during tests in the daily work of process engineering. Let me know if you need help!
Loyal readers of this blog know how much I value innovation and creativity. So, you can’t be surprised that I want to share with you a success story in which we partnered with a client to develop an optimized filtration process for a zinc oxide product.
As discussed in a coauthored article for Chemical Processing, Madison Industries and BHS-Sonthofen Inc. worked together on laboratory and field pilot testing. Engineers from both firms showed creativity and “outside-the-box” thinking in looking at the process from new vantage points in their quest to find a better option than the installed batch filter press.
Our efforts led to the selection of continuous vacuum filtration. The continuous filter, which was installed in 2016, provides maximum filtration efficiency and improves product quality while increasing yield and reducing operating and maintenance costs.
Madison Industries, based in Old Bridge, N.J., supplies copper and zinc compounds such as copper sulfate, copper carbonate, zinc sulfate, zinc chloride, zinc orthophosphate and phosphoric acid as well as other chemical products containing copper and zinc. Applications include animal feed, water treatment, dairy farming, food and pharmaceutical processing, and pool and wood preservative chemicals, among others.
The Madison facility was using a plate-and-frame filter press to filter a zinc oxide slurry made from a mix of various zinc feedstocks. The solids were mixed with water to form a slurry of 20% solids and then filtered. The cake was bagged in 2,000-lb totes, moved to another area of the plant and reslurried in sulfuric acid for further processing.
Madison wanted to expand production and replace the present labor-intensive process with a continuous operation.
BHS process engineers began laboratory evaluation of the process. Madison was open to all ideas and formed a team to brainstorm different approaches.
BHS conducted several weeks of testing and evaluated both pressure and vacuum filtration based upon the specific characteristics of the solids and slurries. The testing led to the following observations:
• Filtrate clarity: The most-appropriate filter cloth is a double-weave 12-micron polypropylene.
• Filtration rate: Vacuum filtration produced the maximum filtration flux rate at a cake thickness of 6 mm.
• Cake washing: Maximum displacement washing was achieved with wash ratios of 2.6:1.
• Cake moisture: Although not a critical parameter because the cake is reslurried, cake moisture is approximately 35%.
Based on its creative testing, BHS’s process engineers recommended continuous-indexing vacuum filtration as the optimum option.
Why Continuous Indexing
The BHS continuous-indexing vacuum belt filter provides for vacuum filtration, cake washing, pressing and drying of high solids slurries. The technology is based upon fixed vacuum trays, a continuously feeding slurry system and indexing or step-wise movement of the filter media (see Figure 1). In practical terms, the belt filter operates similarly to a series of Buchner funnels.
At each indexed belt position, washing and drying efficiencies are maximized with the stopped belt and the mechanism of plug flow for gases and liquids. Cake pressing and squeezing further enhance drying. Finally, the fixed trays allow for the mother liquor and the wash filtrates to be recovered individually and recirculated/recovered/reused for a more efficient operation. The design also can integrate steaming as well as counter-current washing.
Madison and BHS installed the vacuum belt filter in 2016. The unit has met all product quality specifications. Madison has realized a 50% savings in wash liquids per batch as well as a reduction in labor and operating costs because the vacuum belt filter operation is fully automatic. Since the installation, Madison has optimized the operation, improving yields and minimizing costs.
The Madison and BHS collaboration illustrates a successful relationship between client and technology supplier. The BHS approach of lab and pilot testing, coupled with idea-generation, fosters identifying the optimal option for critical and difficult solid/liquid separations.
Filtration selection, if we think back to Sherlock Holmes, means “not jumping to conclusions.” There is no “one size fits all” process solution. Selecting a filtration technology requires a systems approach incorporated with other solids processing such as reactors, dryers, solids handling, etc. You could gain an objective overview by filling out an application data sheet (like the ones I use for new or existing applications) that can help identify what’s involved in the specific solid-liquid separation.
Ultimately, the process has three components:
Material properties, which I’ll describe in more detail below
Separation performance objectives including, for example, filtrate quality (conductivity or residual solids) cake dryness, flowability of the cake, crystal breakage /fines generation and conditioning of the cake for further processing
Mechanical properties — The specification must be clear in terms of material of construction, temperatures/pressures, FDA validation, cleaning procedures, manufacturing codes, etc. Each equipment type will have its own mechanical specifications that must be satisfied.
These three considerations are combined and ranked choices are then evaluated for operational, economic, and plant (internal and external) objectives.
Finding the Best Filtration Procedure
Your examination of material properties considers the solids and the liquids. For solids, the engineer needs to know the total suspended solids (TSS) and solids concentration, particle size distribution (PSD), and particle shape. The PSD should be based upon particle counts at different sizes rather than by weight or volume.
The particle shapes can vary: spheres, rounded, angular, flaky, or thinly-flaked are among the examples. Shape will influence the filtration rates for the process and also impact the PSD due to the nature of particle size measuring equipment.
Knowing this, the solid-liquid filtration system further requires a systems approach to incorporate other solids processing such as reactors, dryers, and solids handling, etc. The full scope should include the actual upstream and downstream.
Consider this typical example of a chemical process including all of the associated processing steps:
Chemical synthesis and Crystallization:
Types of catalysts
Continuous or batch
Solids and slurry handling in all steps
General Guidelines to Selection
So, the question is where to begin to make the preliminary filtration technology choices for solid-liquid separation? Here are some general guidelines to selection:
Continuous Vacuum and Pressure
Nutsche Filter & Filter-Dryer
Solid content of the suspension (%)
5 to 30
10 to 40
10 – 40
Maximum Pressure Difference
-1 to 6 bar
Cake Thickness (mm)
5 to 50
5 to 150
5 to 300
Average Particle Size
1 to 100 micron
1 to 100 micron
5 to 200 micron
1 to 50 micron
Type of Operation
Good for slow filtration and can produce dry filter cakes;
Excellent cake washing and pre-drying
Good when reactor batch times equal to total cycle times
Disposable for low flows; candle and plate filters for large flows
Let me know if this is helpful to you. My idea is to do a series of types of filtration systems for solid-liquid separation for various applications. What is troubling you?
What do “Star Wars — The Force Awakens,” the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Royals and this blog all have in common? As you might have guessed, they all had special events in 2015. Yes, my blog has been up and running now for over three years! Plus, 2015 is when Star Wars debuted and both New England and Kansas City won their respective championships.
Before thinking about 2018, and this blog’s fourth year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year 2017. What intrigues me is what we know now that we did not know in January 2017, one year ago. There were many surprises ranging from politics, world events, social issues, to business and career, sports, food and entertainment. In the comments below, let’s start a conversation about what you learned in 2017.
Reflecting on 2017 and 2018 Success
Of course, I have many ideas about what I learned last year. Yet, in boiling it down to one theme, I would focus on “speed.” In all of our endeavors, the speed of information flow, decision making, world events, politics, etc., is increasing dramatically. From a business point of view, technology, marketplace, competition, manufacturing, etc. are all changing at breakneck speed. At BHS, for example, we addressed a marketplace request to incorporate “clean-in-place” (CIP) systems which led to changes with our rubber belt filter.
At the same time, if speed is what characterized 2017, for 2018 I’ve decided it’s time to slow down and reflect. For one thing, I have improved my yoga practice. In other areas of my day, I’m taking the time needed to review facts and data, analyze decisions, gather inspiration from many sources, and finally proceed with definite actions. Of course, I still need to be ready to change, as things will continue coming at “breakneck speed,” but I am optimistic about success.
For 2018, I’ve already started thinking with excitement about what posts my readers want to read. There will be more blogs about “problem-solving” with topics on filtration, particle technologies, drying, and solids handling. Yet I always invite you to make suggestions! In fact, I’d welcome guest blogger contributions to improve the chemical process industry. Finally, read often, thick critically, and let’s all prosper in 2018.
I challenge you to think of a job in which communication skills won’t increase your chances of success. Even zoo keepers working with other species benefit from communicating non-verbally with the lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) in their care.
In our engineering/business careers, technical writing skills are an even more important subset of communication, and highly valuable. If you follow this blog regularly, read the BHS newsletter or visit our website, you know already how much I enjoy writing and communicating ideas to the marketplace.
To me, while we may call ourselves engineers and professionals, we are also technical writers. All of us craft e-mails, white papers, reports, proposals, justifications, etc. Thinking about this made me want to share some of my thoughts on clarity of communication (with an appreciative ‘I’m not worthy’ nod to all the editors, some of whom I count as friends, of engineering magazines who have studied technical writing / journalism much more closely than I have).
Consider Your Audience
What language are you using? I do not mean to ask whether you’re utilizing a foreign language. Rather, are you employing the language of your audience? For example, many words are relative and they reflect the experience of the writer. Consider for instance the word “large.” What is a large motor, large pipe diameter, or large filter area? The answer depends upon the marketplace, application, place in the world, company, etc. A large motor for a pharmaceutical engineer is much different than for the engineer working in a refinery. A large filter area is different in the mining industry compared to a specialty chemical. Or what about the word “high”? Think about all of the ways this one word is used…high cost, high efficiency, high pressure, high temperature….I could go on and on.
Going further, when we look at language, we should also look at our own company’s languages. Every vendor, every client, and every software device has its own acronyms and code words. It is like the United Nations without the use of the headphone translations.
Ultimately, clear and concise writing can prevent a safety accident, make a project proceed better, reduce the need for calls in the middle of the night to the process engineer (or worse to the vendor) and improve overall satisfaction. Take care with your writing.
Principles for Better Writing
How do we get better at writing? Write often. Read a lot (you’re off to a great start subscribing to this blog!). I also try to focus on the following:
Accuracy — Don’t get caught up in impressing people will all that you know about a subject. Instead, pay attention to accurately communicating the essential information.
Write to the audience — You draft for you. You revise for your audience. Always look at what you have written with fresh eyes to consider what will make sense to the person reading.
Conversational — Technical writing doesn’t need to be bogged down with jargon. Everything is more interesting to read when the reader is engaged in the story you are trying to tell.
Clear and concise — Don’t try to impress people with multisyllabic words and quotes from great classical minds. Cut the excess in favor of getting right to the point and staying there for only as long as you need — no longer.
Simple — There are many complex concepts we address every day in our professional lives. That’s what keeps it interesting in the office, right? Only you needn’t share all of the nuances with your reader. The job of the writer is to process the information and identify the main point and important takeaways. Do the thinking first and then share your simple observations in your writing rather than rambling on at length about all of the options you might have considered.
These are the techniques that I focus on in my writing. I hope that you’ll see my blog follows these principles.
Have you had any specific experiences or funny experiences where “language “has been confusing? Let me know. I’d love to follow this blog up with one sharing amusing stories from our field.
Years ago, when I was an MBA candidate at the University of Illinois, we were introduced to the MBWA (Management By Walking Around) principle. In Japan, the principle is known as “Genchi Genbutsu.” Toyota, in particular, is known for this “actual place, actual thing” philosophy. Ultimately, in all aspects of engineering — from operational efficiency to process development to system dynamics — this “go and see for yourself” approach is worthy of discussion. No matter how good the information may seem to be, firsthand knowledge is fundamental.
My experience is as a technology supplier, but this action-oriented principle equally applies to the production and processes of our clients. For example, we have a pharmaceutical client that moved from batch processing to continuous processing with BHS technology. The process engineer may be satisfied that the client’s goals and objectives were achieved. However, we insist the next step is to “go see ourselves” and observe the operation. What are the machine efficiencies? Is the design easy to operate and maintain? What is the operator mindset?
In another case, involving a commercial scale-up of a new chemical process, we must know the catalyst; how the scale-up is planned…step-by-step or full in; sequential or parallel technologies…vacuum or pressure; options and costs; and finally value-engineering. The best way for BHS to meet the scale-up needs is to follow the approach of “seeing for ourselves.”
Always be Learning
In looking to always be learning how to best serve customer needs, we also incorporate Jay Forrester’s system dynamics. This technique of feedback and impacts considers questions such as: How does the competition react? What are the consequences — intended or unintended?
Although system dynamics had its beginnings in the physical realm, this method of thinking has moved to areas such as leadership, operational structure, interactions of variables and making decisions for how things are changing for the future. This is easily applied to chemical engineering where “gifted all-arounders” are preferred in a world of increasing complexity.
This idea of exploring a system fully, aiming to truly understand the actual thing functioning in the actual place can greatly impact learning. It poses interesting questions too: How would a car company make pills? How would a chemical company make water bottles? How does a CEO of an airplane company succeed in begin a CEO of a car company? And so on.
Learning in one field can become applicable to others. This blog invites readers and followers to share experiences and improve engineering and innovation processes. Let’s keep this conversation going.