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Powder Show Conference Preview: John Lawrence of K-State

Johnselvakumar Lawrence, Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director
Johnselvakumar Lawrence, Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director

Located in Salina, KS, the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center opened in 2015 to research bulk solids material handling. The center, which shares space in the facility with Coperion K-Tron and Vortex Valves, is the first of its kind in America. Johnselvakumar Lawrence, the Bulk Solids Innovation Center’s research director, is leading a session on at this year’s International Powder & Bulk Solids Conference & Exhibition in Rosemont, IL, May 3-5, discussing the effect of temperature and relative humidity on the flowability of bulk solids. In advance of his case study presentation on May 5, Powder & Bulk Solids asked Lawrence about the new center and its efforts.

Powder & Bulk Solids:  What was the catalyst for the founding of Kansas State’s Bulk Solids Innovation Center? What need does the center seek to fulfill?

Lawrence: The science of bulk solids handling of many materials is not well understood. The material composition is always changing based on the industry need. The addition of new ingredients has lead to different flow properties and charactaristics. There are few private firms working on giving service to the industry by providing testing and consultancy related to solving these materials flow problems. The information gathered by these private firms is protected as proprietary business information and not available to the public.

This is one of the catalysts for founding KSU Bulk Solids Innovation Center. KSU BSIC will do research on these flow problems for different materials and publish the results for public benefit.

Similarly, education related to bulk solids handling is very much lacking. Very few universities teach bulk solids handling courses. However, they do not have any facilities for testing the material in full scale. Most of them have just a bench scale lab testing facility. This center is dedicated to teaching bulk solids handling courses, both short professional courses, as well as courses for college credit. KSU is planning to offer undergraduate and graduate level courses in bulk solids handling in coming years.  

Powder & Bulk Solids:  Does sharing the space with Coperion K-Tron and Vortex Valves benefit the center’s research? Is there a research relationship between the center and the two companies? If so, please describe.

Lawrence:  Definitely sharing the space with Coperion K-Tron and Vortex benefit the center’s research. These companies have more than five decades of experience in bulk solids handling, particularly pneumatic conveying. They are also helping in various aspects, up to the point where proprietary information involved. KSU picks it from there. We have a research work relationship with KSU and Coperion K-Tron. Coperion K-tron are providing 15 hours of work per week dedicated to KSU’s efforts.

Powder & Bulk Solids:  What kinds of experiments are currently underway at the center? How does your presentation at the conference relate to the center’s research?

Lawrence: In terms of doing bench scale testing, we are short of a few pieces of equipment. We are working on obtaining the equipment through donations. Currently, we are doing research on how the temperature and humidity of the material affect the flow properties.  My presentation at the Powder Show is related to this topic.

Powder & Bulk Solids:  How do you see the center expanding in the 2020s, in terms of experiments and partnerships?

Lawrence: We are looking for big industry collaboration. Currently many industries are showing their interest in partnering with us for research as well as education. As we are not 100% ready now, once everything in place, we will vigorously work to get research partnerships. We are really looking for industries that can sponsor research (masters and PhD students, or post-doctoral researchers) to study the fundamental aspects of bulk solids handling in their prospective.

To learn more about the Bulk Solids Innovation Center's on-going work, attend the International Powder & Bulk Solids Conference & Exhibition this year and attend John Lawrence's panel on May 5.

Get more information or register for the International Powder & Bulk Solids Conference & Exhibition, May 3-5, 2016

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