Brings chemical engineering to life
This year’s second inductee hails from the academic side of the profession, but made his marks by paying homage and building bridges to the practical applications of industry. Dr. Charles Moore, professor emeritus and former head of the Chemical Engineering Dept., University of Tennessee in Knoxville, lists his major accomplishments almost entirely in terms of their impact on operations of industrial facilities.
“My main contribution has been in four areas: principles of plantwide control; integration of statistical process control (SPC) with the more traditional engineering process control; monitoring batch processes; and chemical engineering (ChE) education,” Moore says.
Over his career, he realized that, “By far, the main issue in a well-controlled plant is how internal inventories, including recycle streams, are managed and controlled,” Moore says. “Controlling flows and levels are not considered to be difficult control problems; however, the challenge is in how well-conceived the inventory control schemes are from a plantwide perspective. Important questions are: how is the throughput set? Where in the plant is variability most costly? When the plant is upset? And what are the main paths of variability?”
In the early 1990s, chemical process control was challenged by a new technology, SPC, which provided a completely different framework for controlling processes. “There was a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of process control,” Moore says. “I used my position as technical director of the Measurement and Control Engineering Center to bring together engineers and statisticians from our member companies to identify and discuss issues. We sponsored several industrial meetings with equal representation from both sides. And as you can see from my publications, I wrote extensively about my observations.”
Late in his term as technical director of the Measurement and Control Engineering Center, Moore was persuaded to work on the control of batch chemical processes. “We focused on developing techniques for indirectly monitoring the development of a batch using profiles, such as temperature, pressure, agitator speed, etc. Our research showed that big-data techniques could be used to improve the understanding of within-batch and batch-to-batch control,” he adds.
Educator and mentor
However, Moore is proudest of his role as educator. “I've graduated 17 Ph.D candidates, who have all had careers in process control,” he says. “But more than that, I've had the honor to introduce more than 2,000 undergraduate students to chemical process control. Some of them went on to jobs in process control areas, but most left the university with a good, solid understanding of process systems.
“What I enjoy the most about teaching process control to young chemical engineering students is seeing lights go on, as they did for me, when at last they understand where their education is taking them. If done well, process control brings chemical engineering to life in a way that no other course can.”
Moore’s most rewarding activity was the Process Control Internship Program he ran with Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn. “About 38 years ago, I approached Eastman about sponsoring a special cooperative program in the area of process control,” he says. It became an honors class open to a limited number of ChE seniors. Each new group was introduced to a problem (or two) currently being worked on by the Advanced Control Group at Eastman. With background material, P&ID charts, process data and lengthy discussion with Eastman engineers and operators, the group worked on the problems independently, with an occasional field trip to Kingsport.
“Each study concluded with a presentation to Eastman of our results and recommendations,” Moore says. “I must say that sometimes we missed, but most of the time our recommendations were accepted and included as part of the Eastman study. This was a very popular class. It was a lot of work but we were working on something real and important.
“I think most students who went through my internship program listed this as their favorite class. It certainly was my favorite. I learned something from every group and every project. It is with sadness that next fall will be the first time in 38 years that I will not offer the process control internship.
Path to process control
Moore earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Louisiana State University, where he also played football. “I was the first person from our little town to win an athletic scholarship to LSU. I played cornerback on the famed defensive squad called ‘the Chinese Bandits.’ We finished in the top 10 every year, and I played in four post-season bowl games (Sugar, Cotton, Orange and Blue Bonnet) and against several football legends (Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, Steve Spurrier and Jim Brown),” Moore says. My biggest accomplishment other than surviving five years was being named to an Academic All-American squad.”
Among Moore’s inspirations, “I must acknowledge the influence that Dr. Paul W. Murrill had on my professional development,” he says. “As a junior ChE student, I took a process dynamics and control class taught by Dr. Murrill and was immediately hooked. His course brought chemical engineering alive for me. It helped me better understand all the bits and pieces of chemical engineering that were taught in other classes: thermodynamics, mass transfer, heat transfer, reaction kinetics, etc. It was clear to me then that I wanted to do work in that area after I graduated. It was also clear to me that I needed a Ph.D to help ensure that I could.”
In graduate school, he studied under Murrill and Dr. Cecil Smith. Both would become known for the first process modeling and control textbooks written specifically for chemical engineering curricula. At that time, Murrill and Smith were building a research program aimed at the early use of digital computers in control. Moore’s Ph.D dissertation was titled, “Selected Topics in Direct Digital Control,” dated December 1969.
“From the very beginning of graduate studies, my intentions were to work in industry—to be on the ground floor of some company with ambitious plans for using computers to control processes,” Moore said. But at the end of his graduate studies, he decided to explore the possibilities of an academic career. “I interviewed with five universities and immediately fell in love with the possibilities at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I feel very fortunate that 47 years ago, UT and the hills and mountains of East Tennessee became my academic and family home.”