The Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Kanpur is ranked among the nation's top schools in Chemical Engineering, and is endowed with a highly competitive undergraduate program, a vibrant graduate program and a distinguished faculty that has earned national and international honors. Aside from excellence in fundamental research, the department has made significant contributions to the chemical industry through its expertise in chemical process engineering, simulation, optimization and control, polymers, interfacial phenomena and separations. Our faculty has published over 30 textbooks and research monographs in the last three decades, and our students have gone on to excel both in chemical industry and academia. The department has been continually adapting and responding to the rapidly changing economic, social and technological scenarios at the national and international levels in the last two years.
There are currently eighteen outstanding faculty members who excel in diverse facets of cutting-edge chemical engineering research, both in traditional areas such as transport phenomena, kinetics and catalysis and polymers, as well as in emerging areas such as bio-informatics, advanced materials, nanotechnology, etc. There are currently 220 undergraduate students in our department studying for B.Tech degree, about 60 M.Tech students and 30 research scholars working towards their PhD. There are eighteen highly trained and motivated technical support-staff members who provide assistance in the development, maintenance and in the smooth functioning of all research and teaching laboratories.
Experimental research in the department is supported by state-of-the-art facilities which include scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopes, ellipsometer, rheometers, high pressure liquid chromatograph, temperature programmed analyzer, etc. IIT Kanpur has been chosen by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as one among the five places in India to host a state-of-the-art Nano-technology center, which will be located in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Under the auspices of the FIST scheme of DST, a new facility for analyzing the rheology of complex fluids and interfacial phenomena was established. With this facility, it is now possible to probe the dynamics of complex fluids such as polymer melts, solutions and gels, foams, nano-suspensions, etc. The atomic force microscope is being used for probing of pico-Newton forces and characterization of patterns formed in nanoscopic polymer films, which is of direct relevance in maskless nanolithography. A new facility for the measurement of NOx concentration in air over a range between 10 and 10000 ppm by a dedicated chemiluminescence analyzer has been created. A modern computational facility for computer-based control and unit operations for undergraduate students has been created with support from MHRD. This facility is equipped with chemical process simulation software such as ASPEN and HI-SYS, which are used in teaching computer based simulation and design of industrial chemical processes. A computational facility for Gene expression profiling and Gene network analysis is set up with one Itanium server and four Sun workstations.
Several projects of direct industrial importance spanning a wide spectrum of areas are currently underway. For instance, research sponsored by Unilever India, Bangalore, on particulate adhesion and detachment focuses on uncovering the fundamental physico-chemical and interfacial aspects of detergency, with the aim of designing futuristic ultra-efficient detergents. Chevron-Texaco Inc, USA, is sponsoring experimental and computational studies on flow patterns in bubble column reactors, and the development of novel catalysts. GAIL, India, is supporting process intensification studies that can lead to miniaturization of chemical plants similar to the progress witnessed in the microelectronic devices. Two of the technologies developed â Higee separation and adsorptive separation of mixtures â are currently under negotiations for transfer to the industry and for patenting.
As in the past, a number of noteworthy research contributions have emerged from the department in the previous year. A very brief sampling follows. A novel design for a rotating packed bed leading to high intensification has been developed. Both stripping and enriching sections can be incorporated in a single rotor (Ind. Eng. Chem Res, 43, 1150, 2004). Research in the area of complex fluids focused on the computation of complex non-Newtonian flows past solid objects (Chem. Eng. Sci, 59, 2213, 2004), stability of multi-layer flows with relevance to polymer co-extrusion (Phys. Fluids, 16, 4426, 2004), and understanding the rupture of entangled polymer melts (J. Rheology, 48, 591, 2004). A novel mechanism for adhesion and debonding at soft interfaces like pressure sensitive adhesives by the formation of nano-cavities has been proposed (Phys. Rev. Lett, 93, 018302, 2004). A new technique developed for measuring the work of adhesion (Langmuir, 21, 1277, 2005) will help in quantitatively characterizing the performance of adhesives. Research on nanocomposites has focused on dynamics of chain aggregates of carbon nanoparticles (Chem. Mater, 16, 3147, 2004). Synthesis and characterization of hydrocarbon reactions with supported metal oxide catalysts have uncovered the structure-reactivity relationships (Langmuir, 20, 7159, 2004, Catal Letters, 96, 33, 2004). Experimental and modeling studies on pervaporation based membrane separations (J. Membrane Sci, 238, 103, 2004) have elucidated the physical mechanisms underlying nano-pore pervaporation. The kinetics and consequences of `runaway reactions' are being studied to enhance the safety and reliability of chemical plants. A novel optimization technique using a new `jumping gene' concept has been developed and applied to several industrial settings including styrene polymerization, industrial crude distillation unit etc (Comp. Chem. Eng., 27, 1785, 2003).
A major international conference on process safety organized marking the 20th Anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy during 2004, was attended by over 200 participants from 26 countries. An international group was formed during the conference to work to alleviate the current situation in Bhopal. Two DST-sponsored SERC schools on the `Modeling of Industrial Reactors' and `Colloids and Interfaces: Fundamentals and Research Challenges' were organized during 2004-05, and both were well-attended by 30 participants (in each school) from the industry and academia.
Several of our faculty members are Fellows of the Indian Academies of Sciences and Engineering, and many serve on the editorial boards of national and international journals. Many prestigious awards including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize (Ashutosh Sharma), INSA Young Scientist Medal (V. Shankar), Herdillia award of the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (Ashutosh Sharma) have been received by our faculty in the last two years. In addition, our faculty members have been invited to deliver several distinguished lectures throughout the country including the Professor Gopal Tripathi Memorial University Lecture of the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi (Ashutosh Sharma), CSIR Diamond Jubilee Lecture of the National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur (S. K. Gupta). Our faculty members also contributed to the profession by memberships of Research Councils of IICT Hyderabad, CGCRI Kolkata, MRI India, National Board of Accreditation, DST and FIST schemes, etc.
There has been a long tradition in the department to write quality text-books and research monographs, and this trend has continued in the last two years as well: Prof. S. K. Gupta coauthored a book on Mathematical Methods in Chemical and Environmental Engineering; Prof. Anil Kumar coauthored a book on Fundamentals of Polymer Engineering; Prof. R P Chhabra co-authored a research monograph entitled `Transport Processes in Bubbles, Drops and Particles' and Prof. Ashutosh Sharma co-edited a book on Advances in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
The department has had many visitors both from India and abroad who have shared their expertise with the faculty and students. Prof Marc Madou (University of California, Irvine) was a Distinguished Honorary Visiting Professor and Dr Pradip (TRDDC, Pune) was a INAE Distinguished Professor. The department also has a very active seminar series, with typically about 20 seminars per year. A PetroTel Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by our alumnus (Dr. Anil Chopra, CEO, Petro Tel Inc, USA) was initated. The inaugural lecture was delivered by Prof M M Sharma, FRS (UICT, Mumbai) and the second lecture was delivered by Prof K S Gandhi (IISc, Bangalore).
In summary, the past year has been very succesful in terms of acquiring new strengths while reinforcing existing ones, and we look forward to meeting new challenges in the years ahead.