Chemical Engineering Division on Timeline
Way back in the seventies, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, IICT, (then known as Regional Research Laboratory, Hyderabad, RRLH) recognized the urgent need of the country towards self reliance, so far as development and transfer of commercially viable technology to the industry, was concerned. Imported technologies were very expensive, and hence it had become imperative that R&D institutes in the country redirect their attention toward these issues.
Thus, a major organizational restructuring of RRLH was undertaken in the early seventies, to reorient goals and objectives and sharpen focus towards these issues and help propel the country towards self reliance. Conventional discipline oriented areas were changed and newer areas of work were born and even as early as then, IICT recognized that only a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach stood better chances of success for the translation of exploratory bench scale scientific experimentation into technologies viable for commercialization.
Towards meeting these goals, the Process Development Design and Evaluation group was established in RRLH in 1973, as one of the key thrust divisions, which over a period of time grew much larger and is now known as the Chemical Engineering division.
Under the able stewardship of Dr.P.S.Murthy, who headed the Chemical Engineering Division in the late seventies, this division grew from strength to strength, developing and successfully commercializing several industrially important technologies, such as, Phosgene, Cynuric-chloride, Glyaxol, Sodium-azide, Benzyl chloride etc., to name a few. Some of these have also won the coveted CSIR Technology award.
The Chemical Engineering Division, in collaboration with other groups in the laboratory, contributed immensely to the development of technology for pesticides, which included, process know-how, process design and engineering and commissioning assistance. Several pesticide plants, based on technology developed at IICT, have been set up in different parts of the country; some of them being Monocrotophos, Butachlor, DDVP, Diazinon, Chloropyriphos, as well as pestiside intermediates like, Phosgene and phosgene based chemicals, Chloro-phenol, Allyl- chloride, Diketene and diketene based chemicals, and intermediates for pesticides like, Trimethyl-phosphite etc. These have contributed immensely towards societal needs of the country, wherein, farmers were able to protect their crops, leading to self sufficiency in food production. Currently this group is actively involved in developing technologies for Xylene nitration, Benzalehyde, Hydrazine hydrate, Avobenzene, Anisole etc. to name a few.
The recent success stories of this active group include technology transfer for para-tertiary-butyl-benzoic-acid, para-tertiary-butyl-toluene, and para-tertiary-methylbenzoate.
At a very early stage, Dr. Zaheer, the visionary Director, realized the potential of computer aided design and thus the seed for Simulation, Optimization & Control (SOC) was sown, which in due course of time grew to be one of the active groups (as Process Dynamics & Control Group) in the Chemical Engineering Division. The major research activities of this group encompass Process Dynamic Modeling, Real- time optimization, Process Monitoring & Fault Diagnosis, Advanced Process Control, and Model-based Design for Chemical/Biochemical Processes. This group has contributed immensely to basic research through high quality research publications in the above mentioned areas of Process Systems Engineering. The notable projects successfully completed by this group include 'Advanced Real-Time Control Technology for Batch Reactors', 'Automation of Chemical Reactors in Pharmaceutical Industries', 'Artificial Intelligence Based Tools for Process Modeling, Optimization and Control', 'Optimal Operation and Advanced Control of a Reactive Batch Distillation Process', etc. The major on-going projects include On-line Optimization of batch reactors, reactive crystallization, Process monitoring strategies for nonlinear processes, etc.
In keeping with the demand of the times, it was recognized that mathematical modeling was a powerful tool in the design of new process plants as well as in evaluating the performance of existing plants. The process simulation activity catered to the design of plants based on IICT technology and also de-bottlenecking and efficiency improvement of existing plants. Some of the major assignments undertaken were, Development and validation of mathematical models for FCC plant of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Efficiency improvement of Carbon- black plant of Panyam cements, etc.
Dr.Asad Ali Khan, who headed the Division during the nineties, envisioned the need of the times for membrane technology and process safety, and was instrumental in initiating research in these two areas. The Process safety centre (PROSAC) with the expertise in the areas of Hazard Analysis & Risk Assessment, Safety Audit, HAZOP and Disaster Management Studies offers services to various chemical, petro-chemical and agro-chemical industries. This group has successfully executed more than 100 assignments in the course of time and continues to be an active group of the division. Membrane separations is now one of the active groups of the Chemical Engineering Division. This group has developed several technologies for chemical industries besides contributing immensely to rural welfare through water purification projects and have published more than 100 widely cited papers in reputed international journals.
With all its background, the Chemical Engineering Division is presently focusing on research that caters to the present demands of providing clean, green, lean and profitable technologies to chemical industry in the country. The Division's wide spectrum of activities includes research not only in traditional chemical engineering areas, but also in current frontier research areas in this field of engineering. Active basic research is on going in the area of process intensification which is a major step towards meeting the stringent demands of industry's zero waste policy and highly efficient and economical and globally competitive processes.
The Chemical Engineering Division from its inception to the present has made significant contributions both to basic and applied research, besides fulfilling the Institutes commitments to industries for process technologies and has made an indelible mark on its clients. The Division has published several papers both in reputed national and international journals, chapters in books, a number of patents, several technology awards, two young scientist awards and many other recognitions to its credit. It is the unrelenting endeavour of this Division to continue to provide quality, relevant, timely and sustainable support to the country's chemical industry.