Mass Transfer Fundamentals
As a fundamental chemical engineering unit operation, mass transfer plays a vital role in almost all of Air Products' manufacturing technologies. From gas separations (whether by cryogenic distillation or membrane separation, adsorption, or by other techniques) to chemicals production, a better understanding of the fundamentals of mass transfer operations enhances practically all of our manufacturing technologies. We are also highly interested in the early stages of development of novel techniques which could lead to superior separations technologies in the future. Research into the fundamental aspects of mass transfer supports both of these goals.
An understanding of thermodynamics supports the development of new technologies in all of Air Products' business areas. Whether it be the thermodynamic characterization of precursors and final products or the thermodynamic properties of intermediates for proper design of production operations, Air Products needs an extensive thermodynamic database, frequently of proprietary materials. Opportunities for partnering include direct thermodynamic characterization of materials as well as the development of new measurement methods and techniques.
Membrane separation of gases has become an established technique with even greater promise for future development. Air Products is interested in fundamental research into novel methods for synthesis, novel membrane materials and formulations (and their frequent synergistic interdependence), as well as more fully developed technologies with specifically identifiable gas separation applications.
Gas Separation by Adsorption Technology
Pressure swing adsorption and other physical/chemical adsorption are well-established techniques for isolation and purification of certain gases. Air Products is interested in developing novel adsorbents as well as achieving a better fundamental understanding of adsorption technology. One goal is to extend this technology to the separation of a wider range of gas systems than is currently feasible and economical.
Because of its effects on reaction kinetics, a basic understanding of mixing (and its synergy with chemical kinetics) is vital to improving the manufacturing of many of our specialty chemicals. Applied studies of mixing phenomena, especially in reactive systems, are of great interest.
Gas-Liquid Contacting Systems
Gas-liquid contacting plays an important role in many of Air Products' technology platforms. Conditions encountered range from cryogenic to near-critical, state contacting; and systems range from aqueous solutions through to organic solvents to molten salts. A better fundamental understanding of gas-liquid contacting behavior, especially under extreme conditions, leads to improvements in existing separation technologies. Beyond fundamental research, we are also interested in applications development.
CO/H2 Syngas Processing
Air Products produces CO, hydrogen and syngas mixtures to meet customer specifications via a variety of mature technologies. We are interested both in improving these and in developing new technologies. To accomplish this, we hope to develop fuller understanding of the fundamental reaction engineering and chemistry under a variety of conditions (such as in solvent media, under near-critical and supercritical conditions, in the presence of innovative catalysts, etc.) We are also interested in the performance of nonstandard feedstocks and development of technologies to handle them effectively. To support these goals, we seek to develop our fundamental understanding of the underlying chemistry and catalytic reaction mechanisms.
Properly integrated process control schemes for large-scale processes can frequently improve their stability, efficiency and performance. Small-scale systems that operate in an inherently unsteady-state mode (e.g., pressure swing adsorption) pose difficult control problems for which traditional control techniques are unsuited. Air Products' interests in fundamental research related to process control range from the traditional algorithmic methods, through model-based techniques, to "learning" methods that are capable of developing their own optimal control parameters.
Principles of Optimal Design
Frequently, chemical process design fails to achieve optimal performance. Although techniques are available for optimizing individual components of a process, mathematical optimization strategies usually fail when applied to large-scale, complex systems. This is especially true where multiple design approaches appear to be equally feasible. Systematic approaches to optimizing large-scale integrated chemical process designs would be of great inherent value.
Inherently Safe Design/Environmentally Responsible Design
As a responsible chemical manufacturer, Air Products seeks to protect its workers, the public and the environment from potential hazards. It is far preferable to design processes that are inherently safe and which minimize the creation of materials that could become pollutants, rather than rely solely upon post-construction safety reviews and end-of-pipe pollution controls. The development of systematic methods for safe and responsible original process design is of great interest.
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