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2016 Bruce A. Finlayson Lecture


Please join the University of Washington Department of Chemical Engineering for the 

2016 Bruce A. Finlayson Lecture

Prof. Edward L. Cussler

Distinguished Institute Professor
Chemical Engineering & Materials Science
University of Minnesota


Research Lecture

Monday, May 16

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. (reception at 3:30 p.m.)

Physics and Astronomy Auditorium (PAA) A110


Distributed Ammonia Synthesis

Since the early 1900s, the supply of natural fertilizers has not permitted food production adequate for the growing population. Synthetic ammonia, developed by 1915, provided synthetic nitrogen fertilizer which allowed significant increases in food production around the world.  This fertilizer is made with energy from fossil fuels, especially natural gas.  In addition, in the middle of the 20th century, research on improved wheat varieties resulted in a “Green Revolution,” requiring still more nitrogen fertilizer, with an associated increase in fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

This work begins to develop a small-scale ammonia synthesis plant powered by wind energy. The energy used is stranded, far from urban population centers but near locations of fertilizer demand. The wind energy drives pressure swing absorption of air to make nitrogen, and electrolysis of water to make hydrogen. These are combined in the small-scale continuous Haber process to synthesize ammonia. An analysis of this small plant shows a rate controlled by three resistances which are not always in series: those of catalytic reaction, of the ammonia separation by condensation, and of the unreacted gas recycle.  Higher temperatures and separation by absorption can raise the conversion per pass from 25% to 95% while decreasing operating pressure.  Together, these studies explore the feasibility of a different chemical industry based on scaling down processes to harvest local energy. 



Public Lecture

Tuesday, May 17

12:30 - 1:30 p.m.

Husky Union Building (HUB) 145


Will Swimmers Swim Faster or Slower in Syrup?

When one of my students was training for the Olympic Trials, he began to ask me about the fluid mechanics of swimming.  Because I was teaching him fluid dynamics as part of transport phenomena, I felt that I needed to answer his questions carefully.  He had good questions.  For example, his coaches were telling him to shave his body, and he felt that he should not shave his arms, only the rest of the body.  His coaches asserted that he should cup his hand as he pulled it through the water, and he thought that he could go faster if he slightly separated his fingers.  But I told him I had always wondered if one would swim faster in honey than in water.  He thought that was an interesting question, so we decided to make the experiment.

This talk is the history of that experiment.  Before you attend, please try to decide what you think the answer will be.  Would the answer be different for bacteria than for humans?  Why do lobsters swim in a line, but geese fly in a vee?  How do your answers help you to understand the fluid mechanics of swallowing? 


About Prof. Edward L. Cussler

Edward L. Cussler, currently Distinguished Institute Professor at the University of Minnesota, received his B.E. with honors from Yale University in 1961, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and 1965, respectively, working with E. N. Lightfoot.  After thirteen years teaching at Carnegie-Mellon University, Cussler joined the University of Minnesota in 1980.  He has written over 250 articles and five books, including Diffusion, Bioseparations, and more recently, Chemical Product Design.  Cussler has received the Colburn and Lewis Awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), for whom he served as Director, Vice President, and President.  He has received the Separations Science Award from the American Chemical Society, the Merryfield Design Award from the American Society of Engineering Education, and honorary doctorate degrees from the Universities of Lund and Nancy.  Cussler is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.


About Prof. Bruce A. Finlayson

The Lecture, named in honor of Dr. Bruce A. Finlayson, Rehnberg Chair Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, features distinguished chemical engineers who demonstrate exceptional scholarship, teaching, and service in their field. Dr. Finlayson has taught chemical engineering and applied mathematics at the University of Washington for 40 years, serving as chair of the Chemical Engineering Department from 1989 to 1998. He received the prestigious Walker Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineering for his contributions to chemical engineering literature. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and served as president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.


Past Finlayson Lectures featured Drs. Eric W. Kaler (2013), John F. Brady (2014), and Klavs Jensen (2015).