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Chemical Engineering Student Publishes Paper and Presents at the AIChE Conference

December 7, 2012

by: Kali S. McCrackin

Research, papers and presentations are all criteria graduate school applicants aim for, especially in fields like Chemical Engineering. This fall, Anthony Richard, a senior at the University of Wyoming, succeeded in completing all three goals.

Richard, originally from Louisiana, started his research in the summer of 2011 under Dr. Hertanto Adidharma in the area of gas hydrate inhibitors. Gas hydrates are similar to ice. They form when water molecules form a cage and trap a gas molecule inside. This can be dangerous in transmission pipelines moving oil or gas because gas hydrates plug up pipelines which can cause equipment failures. In his research, Richard works on developing inhibitors that will prevent the formation of methane gas hydrates. This research is a continuation of original research started by Dr. Adidharma.

“I just wanted to do research,” Richard said. “And I really wanted to work with Dr. Adidharma because he has done a lot of really good work and he’s a really great professor.”

When Richard approached Dr. Adidharma about research, he was offered the project about gas hydrate inhibitors. The only thing he needed was funding. For the summer 2011, Richard applied for the McNair scholarship and shortly after he applied for the fall 2011 EPSCoR Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Richard received both and was on his way to research, papers and presentations.

His research paper, The performance of ionic liquids and their mixtures in inhibiting methane hydrate formation, is the result of his hard work, dedication and innovation. The area of gas hydrate inhibitors is broad. There are multiple types of inhibitors which prevent gas hydrate formation in one of two ways. Either the inhibitor changes the conditions of hydrate formation (such as adding something into the process which stops the prevention of ice at a certain temperature) or the inhibitor slows down the formation process.

Richard worked with an inhibitor called ionic liquids, which prevent gas hydrate formation in both ways. Dr. Adidharma was the first to discover how ionic liquids work as inhibitors and, in his research, Richard worked on creating a synergy between different kinds of inhibitors. He mixed together different ionic liquids, mixed ionic liquids with conventional inhibitors and studied the effect of pressure on ionic liquid inhibition.

In October, Richard presented this research at the annual American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The AIChE conference is one of the biggest in the world for Chemical Engineers.

“Presenting at a big conference has been on my list for quite a while,” Richard said. And when the opportunity to present came up, he jumped on it.

Richard gave a twenty minute oral presentation at the conference, which is rare for undergraduates, who usually give poster presentations at such conferences. Richard, however, was not worried, as his experiences with EPSCoR and McNair had given him presentation practice.

“Through McNair and EPSCoR and all the research I’ve been doing, I’m getting really familiar with this material,” Richard said. “So, presenting wasn’t that big of a worry. I didn’t mind presenting at all; it was great.”

Richard will graduate from UW this coming May. His graduate school applications are in and he’s looking forward to continuing research, either in the area of gas hydrate inhibitors or beyond.


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