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Durham e-Theses
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Some early examples of plant development and process control in the chemical industry

Quinn, Kevin (1977) Some early examples of plant development and process control in the chemical industry. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Seventeenth century alum works were organised rationally and operators used physical and chemical tests to evaluate raw materials and to give necessary information for control of the process. Managers of the Boulby and Loftus plants during the second half of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century continued to use these tests and developed their application to control of the preparation of Kelp for the process and in evaluation of newer raw materials which replaced Kelp. A works laboratory was in existence at Loftus from 1805 and from 1820 a library of "sound" chemical text was maintained on the plant. Process development evaluation; process investigations; systematic investigation of Faraday's recommendations were carried out in addition to basic tests. The works chemist's function emerged. The large workforce was given specific tasks and salary and/or rates of pay indicated both a seniority and a succession. Details of the method of operations which remained essentially unchanged for 300 years, bring out the ideas of "unit operations" as being -implicitly understood and show the organisation of transport of materials in the plant. Chemists observing the process showed developing understanding of the chemistry of the operations and Wilson investigated the sequence of operations at plant level using chemical analyses. Chaptal developed the "synthetic" alum process as a projection of current chemical knowledge and Vauquelin's investigations could have led to fundamental changes in the raw materials used in Yorkshire. Sulphuric acid and Gas Manufacture are sketched briefly. Both industries show the use of tests to evaluate raw materials and control the process; the involvement of chemists in fundamental research, as process innovations and carrying out investigations of the process at plant level; the development of processes based on chemical understanding and the development of works techniques by non-chemists who could be considered embryo chemical engineers.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Science
Thesis Date:1977
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Jul 2013 14:43

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