A feasibility study of the biologically inspired green manufacturing of precipitated silica

Patwardhan, Siddharth and Drummond, Craig and McCann, Rachelle (2014) A feasibility study of the biologically inspired green manufacturing of precipitated silica. Chemical Engineering Journal, 244. 483–492. ISSN 1385-8947 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2014.01.071)

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This paper presents a possible industrial scale design for biologically inspired (bioinspired) ‘green’ production of precipitated silica using either batch or continuous processing. This design allowed a comparison based on the economic and environmental factors between the proposed green process and an existing process for the production of precipitated silica. The proposed green process uses an additive which allows rapid silica formation to occur in laboratory experiments in less than five minutes at room temperature and neutral pH. The green process hence offers significant advantages in terms of production capacity and no heat requirements, therefore reducing both running costs and carbon dioxide emissions. From the preliminary feasibility study reported herein, it appears that the green route may prove economically comparative to current processing techniques, especially noting that this process can be easily adapted to unit operations in the existing silica production, without the need for additional capital investment. A sensitivity analysis was conducted which identified that the most crucial factors affecting the process economics were the raw material costs and the conversion. Furthermore, we have examined and compared properties of commercially available precipitated silica samples with those obtained by the green process. It appears that the green method provides an additional advantage: it can create products with a much more diverse range of properties, which can be readily controlled, thus allowing them to enter new and unique markets.