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Is it more efficient to operate a distillation at atmospheric pressure or under vacuum?

What’s the difference between a single-phase and a three-phase motor?

What’s a Haz-Op?

What’s a Class 1, Div. 1 area?

What’s the difference between a thermocouple and an RTD?

What’s an intrinsically safe circuit?

What are the best solvents for azeotropic removal of water?

What happens to an azeotrope under vacuum?

What’s a Friedel-Crafts reaction?

These are typical of the questions I often faced as a process engineer fresh from graduate school – questions easily answered by someone experienced in the field, but which frequently sent me digging into a veritable library of books and articles on wide-ranging subjects to get a simple answer. So much fundamental information that I thought should be at my fingertips lay deeply buried in huge handbooks or obscure references.

Thus was the idea for this book born. I have endeavored to collect here, in one convenient place, the type of information often called for by chemists and engineers working in process development in the fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Hence the reader will find physical property data, information on processing equipment, useful formulas, tips and techniques, and safety recommendations. Monographs discuss many important aspects of chemical processing and development, and pilot plant operation. Materials and piping data help ensure that “jury-rigging” temporary pilot setups need never compromise safety.

But this has evolved from a mere handbook to a work that I hope will help fill a major gap between those who discover new chemical processes and those whose job it is to scale them up to commercialization. Frequently, graduating chemists and engineers are ill-prepared for the unique challenges of process scale-up. Therefore, I have included suggestions for developing chemical processes that can be more easily transferred from lab to plant, including lists of do’s and don’ts, and advice for improving communication across the development organization.

In this, the second edition, I have revised and updated many sections in an effort to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the industry. I have added new sections on digital process control networks, wireless communication and chemical nomenclature as well as several new charts and tables in the section on fluid handling, all in an attempt to make the book even more useful to my fellow development scientists.

When asked by a colleague who my intended audience was, I had to confess that I wrote the book for myself – and for technology transfer specialists like me, whose responsibilities straddle the fence between chemistry and engineering. Process development is a highly interdisciplinary effort and the most successful processes are developed through close cooperation between experts in various areas of technology. Chemists, for example, would do well to understand such physical phenomena as large scale heat transfer and mixing effects to help them develop more scalable processes. Some purely “chemistry” problems might be solved, and some routes possibly rescued, by creative engineering solutions. The lab chemists are intimately aware of the critical processing parameters (or should be!), whereas the plant engineers best understand the limitations of plant equipment. Communication is key to keeping the team working towards a common goal, and the broader a person’s perspective is, the more valuable will be his or her input. There is a definite advantage to being a “jack-of-all-trades” in the field of process development.

It’s often an educational, and sometimes surprising experience for a chemist or engineer to bring a carefully tuned process to the floor of the pilot plant for the first time – to “scale it up” as we say. Things do not always scale up as expected. Operations are usually much more involved and take much longer than at the lab bench. The potential hazards are greater, as are the economic consequences of a failed batch. And this works both ways. Technicians who operate pilot plant equipment may be baffled by the chemistry of the process they are operating. But a broad knowledge base is the common denominator that can bridge the gap and facilitate what can sometimes be a very involved process.

Although this book is specifically geared to development and scale-up personnel, there is enough material here of general technical interest to make the book useful to anyone involved in the chemical sciences. In an effort to reach a broad readership, I have tried to keep the complex mathematics and engineering treatments to a minimum, and provided references for further study as appropriate.

The Table of Contents on page v will help familiarize readers with the overall content of the book. Since my guiding principle has been to make it easy for readers to find what they need, I have also included more detailed tables of contents for each individual chapter, an exhaustive index, and section tabs as guides. Bibliographic references and recommended reading list follow Chapter 11. References are indicated by bracketed numerals throughout the text.

I apologize in advance for the use of English Engineering units, which, unfortunately, are still widely used in many areas of American technology. I have attempted to provide both metric and English units where space and practicality allowed. The unique format of the conversion factors provided in Chapter 11 should simplify conversion between unit systems. I also apologize for any repetition. Some is deliberate, since I feel that certain important concepts bear repeating.

Readers are encouraged to report errata or omissions, fill in holes in the data, download templates, check for updates, or make suggestions for future editions at our website Please contact me through the site if you feel you have information that would make a useful addition. Your comments are always welcome.

The name? For decades, aspiring young jazz musicians who wanted to sit in on sessions had to master the “Real Book”, a bootleg, photocopied collection of the great jazz standards – all the songs anyone needed to know in one place. I hope that, in the same spirit, this book will put at your fingertips the information you need to help you perform your work more efficiently.

Thanks for reading.

–Francis X. McConville

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