DOE Taps AIChE to Lead RAPID Modular Process Intensification Institute

RAPID logo, U.S. Department of Energy Taps AIChE to Lead RAPID Modular Process Intensification InstituteThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) will be the tenth member of the nation’s network of Manufacturing USA Institutes.

Texas ChE professor Dr. Thomas Edgar, a former president of AIChE, played a key role in the formation of RAPID. The DOE solicitation called for the establishment of a Manufacturing Innovation Institute on Modular Chemical Process Intensification for Clean Energy Manufacturing. Edgar was elected to RAPID’s executive committee and leads the UT Austin effort, also aided by Drs. Michael Baldea, Joan Brennecke, Benny Freeman, Bruce Eldridge, Gary Rochelle and Frank Seibert.

“The pilot plant facilities of the UT Separations Research Program at the Pickle Research Campus will be a critical component of carrying out industry-relevant research on process intensifications,” Edgar said. “UT is expected to lead the Institute’s thrust, oriented towards the chemical processing industry sector.”

To date, RAPID has enlisted 75 companies, 34 academic institutions, seven national laboratories, two other government laboratories, and seven non-governmental organizations from all regions of the country. These partners have committed to cost shares that leverage DOE’s $70 million contribution over 5 years, with total project spending exceeding $140 million. RAPID’s partners come from energy-intensive industries and range from small to large enterprises.

In making the announcement at the U.S Council on Competitiveness 2016 National Competitiveness Forum, DOE Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Friedman said, “Our investment in this cross-cutting technology is an investment in the future of manufacturing in the U.S.

“As we expand the Manufacturing USA network, we provide greater opportunities for businesses of all sizes to solve their toughest technology challenges and unleash major savings in energy-intensive sectors like oil and gas, pulp and paper-making, chemical manufacturing and other industries,” he added.

Traditional chemical manufacturing relies on large-scale, energy-intensive processing. The new institute will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification – like combining multiple, complex processes such as mixing, reaction and separation into single steps – with the goal of improving energy productivity and efficiency, cutting operating costs and reducing waste.

RAPID intends to work closely with the other Manufacturing USA Institutes, which have common goals but distinct concentrations. The institute is currently in the process of negotiating the award with DOE and determining the details of how RAPID will operate, but is confident that they can meet the DOE’s goals of reduced energy usage and improved productivity, with a target start date of June 1, 2017.

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