Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Ph.D progress and some sharing

After 2 months doing my research attachment in School of Chemical Engineering and Advance Material (CEAM), Newcastle University, I finally returned to my country to continue the remaining of my Ph.D work. I failed to reach my personal target for the 2 months duration. It’s quite difficult. However, I’m almost there and the work is continued back home.

I have some more experimental works to be carried out. Those are my optimization experiments. I have performed half of it and need to carry on completing the other half to get my optimization analyzed.

Me and my research attachment supervisors, Prof Adam Harvey and Dr. Jon Lee in  School of Chemical Engineering and Advance Material (CEAM), Newcastle University,

I’m grateful that I managed to get one of my papers published in one of Elsevier reputable journal. That is my chapter 4. I have another manuscript stuck under review for more than one year already. It is my review paper which will hugely represent my chapter 2. Recent feedback from the editorial said that they are seeking for a new set of reviewers to once again review my review paper.

I’m working on another 2 manuscripts; each resembles my chapter 5 and 6. I have submitted the draft for chapter 6 paper to both of my supervisors for them to check. That leaves me with the final paper draft (chapter 5). I’m targeting to complete that by end September.

My paper was accepted for ISCRE22 poster presentation in Holland this coming 2-3 September. Unfortunately neither me nor my main supervisor can attend due to personal reasons. Hence, my co-supervisor who is in Finland will attend and present the poster. Thank God I managed to complete designing the poster.

After I managed to settle all drafts paper and/or successfully publish them, I’ll move on to thesis writing. If everything is smooth and follows my plan, I’ll be able to submit my Ph.D thesis by this coming December. Hopefully everything will be smooth sailing.

Even though I have not finish my study yet, I strongly believe that setting up small goals that lead to bigger goals are very important. For example, if we target to complete our experimental work perhaps the first phase, that can be published in journal or conference paper. Then the same paper can more or less be one of your chapters. That’s basically my approach. Thanks a lot to my supervisor who has guided me that way. One more very important aspect is the time management. Failure to manage time will lead to total disaster. We don’t have all the time in the world. Like me I have family to manage at the same time. I need to take care of my kids and also mingle with the society (associations/neighborhood etc). Hence, we cannot waste any time. Every second counts. Then, another imperative aspect is taking action. Setting up small goals and making superb time management does not mean anything if we don’t take action. So, whatever you do, just do what you have to do by taking action! Finally the most important element is pray and hope to God.  It is also called “doa” and “tawakkal” in Arabic terms. Since we already perform the mini goal setting, time management and taking action, we have nothing else to do then to pray and hope for the best from God. Well, those are just some personal rules and disciplines that I follow in ensuring the completion of my Ph.D. I still need to undergo all the 4 steps because my war is not over yet.

What about you? I got to know that some of Chemical Engineering World readers are also pursuing masters and Ph.D. It’s good if you can share your story as well. It will be beneficial for the rest of the readers.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Improving Schools for Young Engineers

Believe it or not, the chemical engineering education and other types of engineering education degree must be change or revolutionize. This is pretty much simple - due to Globalization!

While technological and social progress depends on the efforts of many different individuals from many professions, chemical engineers are usually at the center of such progress. Chemical engineers create the structures, basis, technologies, process and products that revolutionize the way people do things and improve the way people live.
Since the nature of what chemical engineers do continues to progress just as quickly as the technologies they develop, the way in which educators teach potential chemical engineers must continue to progress as well. Even though most chemical engineers laboured for five to seven years getting their degrees, many are finding it helpful to attend top online schools in the middle of their careers to supplement their education with new information (An example is the SPACE program offered by the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) to those who are in the middle of their career). Further, various parties hold that the current methodologies and approaches of engineering education need to be updated. It makes no sense to prepare engineers to solve the problems of the 21st century by teaching them the same things they were taught in the 20th century.

Long distance learning is now popular to get a degree.
One of the principal continuing developments for which engineering students must prepare for is globalization. Due largely to the efforts of chemical engineers themselves, the world is becoming increasingly connected, both through communications and transportation. Internet access continues to broaden and the functionality of Internet-based technologies continues to deepen. Extensive transportation networks, cheaper and more efficient public transportation, and increasingly efficient transportation technologies continue to bring people together and make markets more interconnected than ever. For this reason, chemical engineers must be prepared to compete on a global scale. They must be able to vie for employment wherever it exists, especially in the more rapidly developing economies, and they must be able to help employers apply engineering solutions on a global scale.

Some of the impediments to progress in the field of chemical engineering education lie in academia’s inability to apply the very interconnectedness that it is trying to instill in its students. Affected by feelings of unnecessary competition and jealousy, educators do not collaborate to the degree that modern communications technologies have already made possible. To fulfill their mandate, educators must tear down these synthetic walls and be an example of that which they intend to instill in students. Engineering professors, researchers, and teachers must learn to work together in concerted efforts within their respective institutions as well as across institutional and international boundaries. This necessity is particularly evident in the fact that, as technologies continue to improve, a higher degree of specialization will necessarily arise, and such specialization always requires collaboration. A good example has been shown by a professor who lecture Matlab software and uploaded his lecture in youtube. Here is the link. As a result, not only his student can learn but others can learn as well. Yep, that include myself who is presently working hard to understand some parts of Matlab to solve my nonlinear simultaneous equation.

The fact of increasing globalization and the growing prominence of new economic powers has important implications not only to how engineers must learn, but also what they must learn. Currently, the lingua franca for business and academia across the world is English. For this reason, chemical engineers in English-speaking countries rarely see the need to learn other languages, and engineers in other countries frequently go to great pains to learn English.

However, according to one British Council report, the prominence of English as the global language is actually waning. Mandarin Chinese will remain the most widely spoken language in the world for the foreseeable future, and as China becomes wealthier and more educated, its sphere of international influence will expand. English, on the other hand, will most likely be soon overtaken by Spanish. To compete in the job market and contribute to society in the most efficient ways, engineers must learn languages other than English. For this reason, chemical engineering programs must advocate and require language education as part of the core curriculum.

The field of chemical engineering is undergoing significant change, and it will continue to do so. Rather than standing as inhibitors to change, educational institutions must become the bellwethers of a new age. Only by recognizing the merits and the necessity of globalization and increased connectivity can engineering programs provide their students with the tools necessary to do that which they intended to do by deciding to study engineering.

1st image credited to chemical-engineers.regionaldirectory.us.
2nd image credited to http://www.isaeur.org/oldn03.html.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

I'm a Newcastle University Student for 2 Months

I'm still doing my Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and I'm in my final year. My university allows its staff who is doing Ph.D locally to engage in a research attachment anywhere in the world for a period of 3 months/year or a combination of 9 months per 3 year. Hence, I took the opportunity to go for this research attachment. However, I only took 2 months out of the maximum 9 months allocated. That's fine. 

After discussion with my supervisor, I decided to perform the research attachment in Newcastle University, United Kingdom, under a newly promoted professor whom is Dr. Adam Harvey and another lecturer, Dr. Job Lee. Prof. Adam Harvey is professor in the field of process intensification. I'm going to work on my thermodynamic modelling of my reaction for this 2 months duration. Yes, for this 2 months, 2 supervisors will be monitoring my progress.

My tenure as a Newcastle University occasional student is effective from 1st of May until 30th June 2012. I registered on my first week in the UK and met my supervisors on the first Friday of May. I was allocated a desk in the Research Associate room C124 in the first floor of Merz Court, the building hosting the School of Chemical Engineering and Advance Material. A PC was placed at work place complete with the latest Aspen and Matlab software for me to perform my thermodynamic modelling research.

17 days has passed and I have managed to get my Gibbs free energy datas via Aspen software. Now, I'm working on the Matlab to solve 15 of my non-linear simultaneous equations which have 15 unknowns. Since I don't have any Matlab background, it is quite tough. I need to learn the basic of Matlab and learn the software by hard. I appreciate anybody who help me with Matlab who knows how to incorporate "Ln" in the non-linear simultaneous equation matrix.

To make things clear and in perspective, my mission to come to the UK for two months is to produce 2 technical papers. One is related to the thermodynamic modelling while the second paper is related to the catalytic conversion of glycerol to hydrogen. It ain't easy. It's a difficult and tough tasks for me. Anybody who writes a technical papers know how hard and how long it is to write a technical paper. Well, that is basically what my supervisor have asked me to do in the UK.

Besides that, I'm going to take the opportunity to learn various reactors available in the Chemical Engineering and Advanced Material school as well as other crucial and imperative equipments. I'm also going to get as many contacts and attempt for any future research collaboration with researchers here. Well, let's just see how it goes.

I hope I can accomplish my goals in this 2 months smoothly. Then, I'll continue with my research work and try my best to submit my thesis by September this year. Again, let's see how it goes. Wish me the best of luck ok... :)


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Structural Engineer is More Than a Degree

The following article (which is contributed by my friend, Wade Luther) is not directly related to chemical engineers, but it is worth to know other branches of engineering. Structural engineers can relate to chemical engineering especially in the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) arena. Hence, some chemical engineers will be involve in this area within the EPC industry. Nevertheless, if you are not from the EPC industry, that's fine, you can just read and learn more about structural engineer. Enjoy reading...

When selecting a structural engineer, it is important to look beyond a college degree.Of course education and a license are important, but once you check those items off your list be sure to dig deeper to gain a better understanding of the engineer being evaluated. 

Core engineering skills are gained through a four-year program at an accredited university.After passing a formal examination the engineer achieves a chartered Structural Engineer status.In order to practice in a particular state, the structural engineer must obtain a license.This process includes passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination, accumulating a set amount of experience, and passing the Principles and Practice in Engineering (PE) examination.After all of this, a Professional Engineer status is granted and the engineer is eligible to seal engineering drawings and take legal responsibility for engineering work and calculations, allowing them to submit the proper documents to apply for building permits. 

Once the fundamental educational criteria have been met, the next consideration is experience.Through their education, engineers collect a “toolbox” of skills.As they move along in their careers they enhance their ability to understand how and when to use those tools.This time gives them practice using their tools in various situations and analyzing their effectiveness.Eventually, they get to a point where they are able to predict outcomes when given specific scenarios.This experience is invaluable when designing complex facilities.It helps to avoid unexpected problems and keep costs down. 

The more time spent on the job also gives engineers working knowledge in a variety of different aspects of engineering.This is important as most projects will involve an assortment of building materials, structure types and external influences and you don’t want your project to be the first time your engineer has faced a certain situation.Some engineers focus on a very specific specialty; others have experience in a wide range of specialties.Examples of specialty types include: 

?Materials:brick, concrete, steel, etc. 
?Structure types:shopping centers, pipelines, industrial plants, material handling, storage facilities, chemical plants, roofs, towers, churches, etc. 
?External influences:earthquake, fire, wind, etc. 

Another quality of an engineer that goes beyond degrees and titles is their understanding of the construction process.It is great if a design looks good on paper but it is completely ineffective if it is unnecessarily difficult to build or cannot be built properly.A good engineer will ensure that their design has “constructability”, meaning it will be buildable and that cost can be controlled.Knowledge of the construction process also enables the engineer to effectively oversee the project to make sure that the builder is building the project according to the approved design. 

The next time you are evaluating an engineer, be sure to take a closer look at their background.Your extra effort could result in a smarter designed, better built and lower cost facility. 

This is a guest post submitted by Wade Luther. Wade works with AMG, Inc., a full-service engineering company that supports clients in the agricultural commodities, food/beverage, and biotechnology industries. AMG supports clients with everything from structural engineering services to piping engineering design to foundation design. Wade prides himself on sharing valuable insight regarding the engineering services industry and is happy to contribute!

Image credited to: glasscurtainwall.com/careers.htm

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Edible Oil Refinery Plant - Chemical Refining

What is Oil Refinery and Edible Oil Refinery?

秀色秀场直播When talking about refinery, we need to be able to differentiate and identify an oil refinery from the edible oil refinery. Basically, the oil refinery (or petroleum refinery) is an industrial process plant where crude oil (from crude petroleum) is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas. This is the type of refinery mentioned in the 13 Days: Pythagoras Conspiracy Novel. An edible oil plant in the other hand, is almost similar to the earlier refinery accept it processes edible oil and involves the removal of fatty acid and a few more unwanted impurities. The edible oils are obtained from the likes of palm oil, soya bean oil, canola oil, corn oil, rape seed oil and others. In other words, the oil refinery process oil that cannot be consumed by human being while the edible oil refinery process oil that is edible (can be consumed by human beings).

I have no direct involvement in the oil refinery. However, I was a process engineer in an edible refinery plant before for quite some time. I had a really good taste of experience working in the refinery plant before. I strongly believe that if a chemical engineering student or a new chemical engineer wants to gain experience, he or she should work in a refinery. This is mainly because they will learn and apply all that they have learn in chemical engineering.

Edible Oil Refinery

Edible oil originates from crude oil such as crude palm oil (CPO), crude soya bean oil (CSBO), crude rape seed oil (CRSO), crude coconut oil (CCO) and so on. Edible oils have very high content of free fatty acids (FFA) and needs tobe refined before using as cooking oil. However, the refinery process isn't only limited to remove FFA, it also removes the undesired components such as moisture, color and odourwhich may trigger negative impact on the final taste, odour andappearance of the oil product. The resultant oil is thinner without fattyacids, colorless and odorless.

It is imperative to note that the edible oil refinery can be divided into 2 primary types namely, chemical refining and physical refining. This time, I'll explain about the chemical refining plant.

Chemical Refining Plant

Chemical refining plant involve neutralization of crude oil byremoving fatty acids. This is always referred to as chemical refining or sometimes Neutralizing process and its plant referred as Neutralizing Plant (NP). In this process the oil is neutralized in theneutralizer to remove the fatty acids by mixing with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide). Oil is heated up to roughly 60oC by and oil isstirred by stirrer. The fatty acids are settled at the bottom as alkalisoaps which is called soapstock from where it is taken out into soap tank .

Typical Neutralizing Plant. Image credited to Oiltek Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian company that manufactures edible oil equipments. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Removal of impurities and color

Neutralized oil is passedthrough the second vessel called bleacher where color of oil is removedby bleaching process with the help of chemicals such as carbon black andbleaching clay. Oil is usually heated up to 110oC. Stirring is also carried on. Bleaching process is done undervacuum. Bleached oil then goes to filtration process where bleachingclay and chemicals are removed and cleaned.

Removal of unpleasantsmell

Bleached oil is then passed through deodorizer where oil isheated above 110C and then live steam cleanis used to the oil from the bottom steam nozzles. The temperature of oilis raised up to 200 to 220C through thermic fluid coils. Entire processis done under high vacuum. Thus smell is removed from the oil in thedeodorizer. Then it goes to cooler where cold water circulating coilstake away heat and oil is cooled.

Final Filtration

Final filtration is performed after cooling down the oil. This operation is carried out in a micro filter closet or filter bag/filter cartridge whichmakes the final edible oil termed as refined edible oil. This final filtration process is designed for more effectivefiltration and best quality of final refined edible oil. There are certain refineries that adopted Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) to completely ensure that the oil is free and safe to be consumed.

This is a typical physical refinery plant. The image is also credited to Oiltek. Click the image to enlarge it.

In the next post, I'll describe more about the Physical Refinery. This is where I gained the most of my hands on chemical engineering experiences. This is where I learned more about important unit operations such as heat exchanger, cooling tower, deodoriser, pack coloumn etc.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy - A Must Read Chemical Engineering Fiction Novel

It is one of my dream to write a chemical engineering related fiction novel. My wife knows that fact. It will be cool to integrate the experience which I had in the industry and my chemical engineering knowledge in a book which can be read by everybody (but special for chemical engineers and those who are in related industry). What if the novel is adopted to become one of those Hollywood movies. Would that be great? However, I don't think I can make it in the near future. It's quite tough especially with my hectic schedule and my main target to complete my Ph.D. Well, enough about that.

However, the actual interesting point that I would like to share is a new Chemical Engineering related fiction novel that has been introduced to me by a friend in the United States. Honestly, I have never come across a chemical engineering related fiction novel. When I was told about it, I became curious and want to read this novel. Luckily, with the help of my friend, Diane, I managed to grab hold of this novel and finally it reached me 3 days ago.

The title of this brilliant novel is 13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy. The book is written by an author whom is also an experienced Chemical Engineer, Laura Starks. I was so excited and very eager to read the book upon receiving it. Back from work, I grabbed the book and read it at the playground in front of my house and continued reading for another 3 days until I finished.

My first impression of the book

The book is quite thick. It contains 347 pages. I wondered when can I finish reading this novel after holding it on my hand since I must also do my study, read and write technical papers, work on my thermodynamics etc. However, after reading the first 10 pages, I could not stop!!! The fatal incident that suddenly occurred in the newly bought over refinery made me dying to know what had actually happened. Was the deadly hydrogen sulfide gas accidentally released or was it an evil sabotage? I must say that the storyline is very interesting and intriguing. I'm very much amazed and impressed with the details that the author has shown in her writing. It's everything about the real situation in a typical refinery. From a decision either to stop a running plant (which will be tricky and dangerous) to continuing running the plant despite of the tragedy. Those who normally run a refinery pretty much know that the biggest challenge in running a refinery is during the start-up and stopping it. A mistake will possibly end up to an unwanted tragedy.

The safety, health and environmental elements were clearly displayed along the storyline, which can provide perfectly good visualization on the real life situation to chemical engineering students and readers who have never entered a plant in this lucrative industry.

The author also took the initiative to explain some of the technical unit operations that might not be understood by the readers such as the one below which is taken on the beginning of Chapter 2:-

Reactors: vessels in which raw feeds are transformed into chemically and structurally different products.

Catalytic cracking: key process for converting heavy oils into more valuable gasoline and lighter products. Average reactor temperatures are 900-1000 Fahrenheit.

And the following are other description taken from the beginning of Chapter 13:

Hydrocarbon: any of a large variety of molecules containing primarily carbon and hydrogen and ranging from methane, a gas, to asphalt, a solid.

Sour crude: crude oil containing half a percent or more of sulfur by weight. Sweet crude contains less than half a percent of sulfur. Sulfur in sour crude is removed to meet gasoline and diesel specifications. Its removal produces poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas which is converted to sulfuric acid and elemental sulfur and sold to industrial buyers.

Looking through the acknowledgment page, I know that this book was carefully written, edited repeatedly and the author was very careful about all bits of detail.

Again, I must say that this is a superbly very well written book and could even be a reference of example OR a small case study for some chemical engineering subjects like Process Safety, Unit Operation, Mass Transfer etc. although it is a fictional story. I will definitely read Laura Starks writing again if she comes up with a new book. That's for sure.

Editorial Reviews


"13 Days has an excellent plot....L.A. Starks has contributed a fine murder mystery to the genre." -- Alan Paul Curtis, Who-dunnit.com

"A knock-down conspiracy exposing the darkest secrets of the oil industry. Starks has made an impressive debut...." -- Michael Lucker, Screenwriter (Vampire In Brooklyn, Mulan II)

"A reverse femjep." -- Jack Quick - October 2006 BookBitch.com

Reviews from the Back Cover

A rogue force controlling the planet’s oil supply would hold a knifeto its throat. The planet’s refineries, where oil becomes gasoline, maybe an easier grab.

Lynn Dayton, 37, self-made refining executive,manages six vast complexes that transform oil into gasoline. RobertGuillard, 33, a suave Parisian intellectual believes, as did the cultaround Pythagoras, that his genius confers moral authority. He directsthe sabotage of US refineries, one by one. But his financing from anAsian refining cartel terminates in thirteen days unless he producesmassive shutdowns.

Robert schemes to coerce Lynn intocollaborating as he pursues his outwardly humanitarian goal of buildingrefineries in Third World countries. If she refuses, he will holdhostage her sister, Ceil Dayton, 30, whom he has lured to Paris. Ceil,in turn, hides a brutal secret.

An industrial accident atLynn’s troubled Houston refinery arouses her suspicions. Governmentofficials conclude routine negligence caused the accident, but her owninvestigation leads Lynn to suspect sabotage.

Threats toLynn’s life intensify. Desperate for the safety of her co- workers, whomshe considers in greater danger, she works cease- lessly to find thereal cause of the "accident" and the saboteur. Although her companysecurity force notifies the FBI of her suspicions, the bureau considersher facts inadequate to justify adding resources. Within a few days,explosions and fires at nearby refineries claim victims. The resultingfuel shortage affects the lives of everyone in North America.

Then Lynn is kidnapped. She fights for her life on a catwalk above a storage tank of hot, sulfurous oil and escapes.

Decipheringthe full extent of Robert’s scheme, she flies to Paris. But will she bein time to derail Robert’s plans and save her sister?


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Saturday, February 4, 2012

1st Scientific Research Publishing Workshop in Shanghai, China

Last December, my wife participated in a Scientific Publishing Research Workshop in Shanghai China from 20-22 December 2011 to present her technical paper about Progressive Freeze Concentration (PFC). The research is directly related to her own Ph.D and her present core research. I accompanied her to Shanghai and at the conference I joined as a participant.

The workshop is not specifically tailored to chemical engineering only. It combines chemistry, biochemistry, maths and several other disciplines. I can say it is a highly multi-disciplinary workshop. The participants came from all over the world including United States, German, Japan, India, China, Greece, Korea, Malaysia and others.

The President of Scientific Research Publisher (SciRP) giving his speech.

Some of you might have not heard about Scientific Research Publisher (SciRP) while some probably have heard about it. SciRP is an academic publisher of open access journals. It also publishesacademic books and conference proceedings. SCIRP currently has more than150 open access journals in the areas of science, technology, andmedicine.

SciRP actually provides an alternative means of scientific research publication. The difference is only it is practices an open access system where anybody can read the journal free of charge. The other traditional journal from publishers like Elsevier require us to pay before we can read them. However, as students, most of us can have access to it because our university library have purchase the subscription from the publisher. Hence, we are open to write and submit to SciRP. The process is almost the same. The draft paper will be evaluated by editors and undergo strict requirement to ensure top notch quality of the article.

As for us Chemical Engineers, the most related journal is Advances of Chemical Engineering & Science. The journal is relatively new but is good enough for us to submit articles to them. Once thing to know about open access journal like this is that some fee will be charge to the publisher.

That's me (left) behind sitting next to my wife. The two gentlements on the right are professors from India. The woman in front is a researcher from Greece.

Among the participants of the 1st Scientific Research Publishing workshop.

My wife presenting her technical paper. However, before she proceed with the presentation, she explained briefly about Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and also Malaysia.

This is the panoramic scene outside the workshop room. The hotel where the workshop took place is situated in a resort style hotel. The view is actually part of a golf course. The temperature in Shanghai at this time is between 0-6 Celcius.

This is another view of the peaceful scenery outside the workshop room.

Lunch break. We were served with 10 course local Chinese dish. Frankly, the food is very different than what we usually have. Nevertheless we tried to eat some of the uniquely served dishes.

That's me in front of the hotel lobby where the workshop takes place. Check out the red banner on the top of the hotel lobby building. This is proof that this is the first SciRP workshop.

Overall, it was a very interesting experiences attending the 1st Scientific Research Publishing Workshop. I was really honoured to meet the founder and president of SciRP as well other professors, academicians and researchers from other parts of the globe. Besides expanding our knowledge we get the chance to meet new people and increase our networking (which is important in the real world).

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