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School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering to Play Key Role in New Federally Funded Chemical Processing Initiative

Dec 9, 2016

The U.S. Department of Energy announced today that the Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the lead institutions in a new $140 million Chemical Processing Manufacturing Institute. Led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the new initiative will be the 10th special institute and will address energy productivity in the U.S.

These institutes for manufacturing innovation bring industry, academia and government partners together to leverage existing resources, collaborate and co-invest to nurture manufacturing innovation and accelerate commercialization.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Acting Assistant Secretary David Friedman announced the new institute Dec. 9 at the U.S. Council on Competitiveness’ 2016 National Competitiveness Forum. This new institute will be officially called the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment, or (RAPID), Institute.

Professor David Sholl, Chair of Georgia Tech's School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering is RAPID's interim CTO. He noted that "RAPID will bring together an elite community of industry, academic, and national lab partners to allow for efficient technology development in US chemical manufacturing."

To date, RAPID has enlisted 75 companies, 34 academic institutions, seven national laboratories, 2 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 five years, with total project spending exceeding $140 million. RAPID’s partners come from energy-intensive industries and range from small to large enterprises.

Georgia Tech’s undergraduate chemical engineering program is ranked No. 4 in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, and Georgia Tech is No. 4 in the U.S. in federal research and development spending in chemical engineering, according to the National Science Foundation. Georgia Tech participates in five of the 10 institutes created by the administration to address manufacturing innovation, including Digital Manufacturing, Flexible Hybrid Electronics, Integrated Photonics, Additive Manufacturing, and Process Intensification.

The RAPID Institute will have up to $70 million in federal funding, subject to appropriations, and an additional $70 million in cost-share commitments from more than 130 partners. It will focus on developing breakthrough technologies to boost domestic energy productivity and energy efficiency by 20 percent in five years through manufacturing processes in industries such as oil and gas, pulp and paper, and various domestic chemical manufacturers.

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. In the chemical industry alone, these technologies have the potential to save more than $9 billion in process costs annually.

Additional information about the RAPID Manufacturing Institute and its objectives can be found at www.processintensification.org.