Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Process Wednesday: Hydrolyzing on a boat



I've been following the story of the MV Cape Ray and its Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. Above, a video of one of the operators explaining the FDHS in detail. It makes me cringe a little bit to hear him refer to the reactor as a "titanium mixer", but he's on the ship, not me. Pretty cool.

Also, here's Brandon Bruey, a B.S. chemist on the Cape Ray talking about the laboratory they've set up, fume hood and all.*

*Interesting to note that one of the pieces of equipment in that lab appears to be of 1970s vintage. Good to know DoD is sparing no expense.  

9 comments:

  1. I assume you're referring to the vintage "dynatherm" thermal desorption setup, there are a bunch of reasons they might use that.

    I'd wager their validated SOPs are quite specific in following a method. Also, interfacing with a 1977 ship ventilation system might be most easily done with their setup. I worked at a plant where the inline product tap was 40+ years old and needed custom hardware because the reactor runs at 99.9% uptime. There's safety concerns about explosion-proofing analytical gear for process area service, particularly high temp units. Or they're just cheap.

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    1. Thanks for your expertise, anon!

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    2. Along the lines of oldnuke below one might guess its more likely that once a piece of equipment is used for WMD testing its virtually "dedicated" for the rest of its life. Could be case this was transfperred from a DOD lab somewhere as known functionality, reliability and supply of extra parts (fairly standard in Military procurement).

      I know air sampling is probably a commonplace EPA type activity but do wonder if the underlying technology has advanced significantly in the past several decades so the new equipment may not really be more than a fancier version at a high price tag that is more complicated with tendency to break down regularly (I recall working years with an old prep HPLC ingrad school then went to a company that had a new model that was a pain to use when it was not down for repairs)

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  2. Hey, when you're messing with WMD, you use well-documented and -tested standardized methods. It's not a question about being new or trendy, it's about being correct and adaptable to a mobile environment complete with vibration (especially shipboard), temperature variations, and an all-round cruddy environment to do lab work. A lot of fancy gear won't holdup in a shipboard or mobile environment.

    I can remember some of the problems we had in the 70's trying to build shipboard computers that could withstand shock and vibration... Especially those which test whether they work in the aftermath of an attack with mines or torpedoes!

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    1. Thanks for your expertise, oldnuke -- much appreciated.

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  3. Why is he talking in gallons and Farenheit instead of litres and Celsius? This doesn't inspire confidence in me.

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    1. Chemical Engineers like to work this way. One of the most common questions I ask when I come across a new production process: "Is that Fahrenheit or Celcius?"

      -DDTea

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    2. It seems to me that most CPI equipment is calibrated for gallons - don't know why. Regarding Fahrenheit, I dunno.

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    3. Chemical engineer here - because we have to get used to mongrel units, like ordering metres of 6" pipe because that's what the workshops know. After a while you tend to just keep with original units, so something from the US in the 60s is Fahrenheit, more recent European in Celsius or something from a journal article stays in Kelvin.

      Getting a feel for it comes in handy when you see suspiciously precise design temperature specifications, like 204 deg C for PTFE rather then 400 deg F.

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