From Beaches to Silos: How a Missed Opportunity Leads to a US Patent

November 15, 2013

A few years ago I was sitting with a colleague in a conference room in Jamaica, waiting for the plant to get back online so we could inspect flow through a bauxite silo.  Not exactly a beach story!  One discussion lead to another, and we decided that a more immediate project required our attention.  Our client had a requirement for a mass flow silo that would effectively cure his material from a green state to a final product.  This required 500 tons of storage, and very low solids stress, as the green pellets would collapse under too high a value.  We had to also force inter-particle motion to prevent the particles from fusing together.  After much discussion, my colleague and I agreed on replacing a conventional straight-sided cylinder section with a series of converging/diverging hopper sections, plus some additional features.  Functional engineering was followed by structural engineering, which was followed by a successful field installation.  This design, which has become US Patent #6,139,241, has been used on a number of similar projects.  Sadly, I never did get to the beach.

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