I am a proud, card-carrying member of the IBA, the Institute for Briquetting and Agglomeration. In 2011, I presented a paper at the IBA Conference on the design of hoppers or bins for feeding wet agglomeration processes. In wet granulation equipment such as pin mixers and disc agglomerators, an optimum ratio of solids, liquid, and binder exists. If there is too much liquid, the agglomerates are wet, material builds up inside the equipment, and its motor is overloaded. Too little water, and some of the powder does not wet, and the product is dusty.
Steady feeds are therefore critical. That’s simple with the liquid streams – just specify the right pump. With the solid streams, systems for reliable flow can only be designed if the material’s fundamental flow properties have been measured. These properties include cohesive strength and wall friction. Wall friction test results permit hoppers and bins to be designed for mass flow, which allows, steady, predictable discharge rates. Cohesive strength ensures that the outlet will be large enough to prevent obstructions to flow.
My presentation was well received. In fact, I won the Neal Rice Award for best paper at the conference. I was very excited. After all. I hadn’t won an award since my senior year of high school.
I was therefore motivated when preparing for the next biennial conference in 2013. I wanted to win the award again. This time, I prepared a paper that focused on fine powders, for which two-phase effects are important. To ensure a steady discharge rate of a fine powder, the material’s permeability must be measured. This time, I packed my presentation with imbedded movies, slide transitions, animations, and other PowerPoint special effects. I was sure to win.
I gave my presentation and returned to my seat with confidence. I then looked at the program and sadly realized that I would not be a repeat winner of the prestigious Neal Rice Award. On the agenda was a paper titled, “Holistic Approaches to Scale-up of Continuous Pelletization of Attapulgite Clay.” Yes, someone was going to talk about kitty litter.
The presentation was crammed with photographs of cats and kittens. Every slide was accompanied by “oohs” and “ahs” from the audience. The speaker then explained that the number one cause of death of domestic cats was their owners taking them to the pound because they would not use their litter box, and his goal was to improve kitty litter and save the lives of cats and kittens. I used my cell phone to email the speaker an invitation to join my Linkedin network during his closing remarks.
Last year, I presented another paper, this time on preventing segregation of agglomerated powders. I have calibrated my expectations so that I won’t be too upset if I do not receive the Neal Rice award, which will be announced at the 2017 conference. Perhaps if I had instead talked about pet food and included photos of bunnies last time, I’d be more optimistic. In the meantime, I still relish my Neal Rice Award from the 2011 IBA Conference and my Bausch & Lomb Award for best Salida High School math and science student, class of 1975.