The observation is often made that, in creating a chemical installation, the time spent on the recipient where the reaction takes place (the reactor) accounts for no more than 5% of the total time spent on the project. This series of books deals with the remaining 95% (with the exception of oil-fired furnaces).
It is conceivable that humans will never understand all the truths of the world. What is certain, though, is that we can and indeed must understand what we and other humans have done and created, and, in particular, the tools we have designed.
Even two thousand years ago, the saying existed: “faber fit fabricando”, which, loosely translated, means: “c’est en forgeant que I’on devient forgeron” (a popular French adage: one becomes a smith by smithing), or, still more freely translated into English, “practice makes perfect”. The “artisan” (faber) of the 21st Century is really the engineer who devises or describes models of thought. It is precisely that which this series of books investigates, the author having long combined industrial practice and reflection about world research.
Scientific and technical research in the 20th century was characterized by a veritable explosion of results. Undeniably, some of the techniques discussed herein date back a very long way (for instance, the mixture of water and ethanol has been being distilled for over a millennium). Today, though, computers are needed to simulate the operation of the atmospheric distillation column of an oil refinery. The laws used may be simple statistical correlations but, sometimes, simple reasoning is enough to account for a phenomenon.
Since our very beginnings on this planet, humans have had to deal with the four primordial “elements” as they were known in the ancient world: earth, water, air and fire (and a fifth: aether). Today, we speak of gases, liquids, minerals and vegetables, and finally energy.
The unit operation expressing the behavior of matter are described in thirteen volumes.
It would be pointless, as popular wisdom has it, to try to “reinvent the wheel” - i.e. go through prior results. Indeed, we well know that all human reflection is based on memory, and it has been said for centuries that every generation is standing on the shoulders of the previous one.
Therefore, exploiting numerous references taken from all over the world, this series of books describes the operation, the advantages, the drawbacks and, especially, the choices needing to be made for the various pieces of equipment used in tens of elementary operations in industry. It presents simple calculations but also sophisticated logics which will help businesses avoid lengthy and costly testing and trial-and-error.
Herein, readers will find the methods needed for the understanding the machinery, even if, sometimes, we must not shy away from complicated calculations. Fortunately, engineers are trained in computer science, and highly-accurate machines are available on the market, which enables the operator or designer to, themselves, build the programs they need. Indeed, we have to be careful in using commercial programs with obscure internal logic which are not necessarily well suited to the problem at hand.
The copies of all the publications used in this book were provided by the
Institut National d’Information Scientifique et Technique at Vandmuvre-les- Nancy.
The books published in France can be consulted at the BiblioMque Nationale de France; those from elsewhere are available at the British Library in London.
In the in-chapter bibliographies, the name of the author is specified so as to give each researcher his/her due. By consulting these works, readers may gain more in-depth knowledge about each subject if he/she so desires. In a reflection of today’s multilingual world, the references to which this series points are in German, French and English.
The problems of optimization of costs have not been touched upon. However, when armed with a good knowledge of the devices’ operating parameters, there is no problem with using the method of steepest descent so as to minimize the sum of the investment and operating expenditure.
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