Measurement Science and Calorimetry in Reactive Chemicals Evaluations of Laboratory-Scale Processes

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April 19, 2023
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
College of Engineering, EDC 1507
5050 Anthony Wayne
Detroit, MI 48202
Event category: Seminar


Dr. Jessica Nichols, Associate Research Scientist, Reactive Chemicals, DOW Chemical Company


Over the past half century, Dow’s Reactive Chemicals Program has supported a strong safety culture and a scientifically rigorous, risk-based review process for chemical hazards in the company’s labs and plants. The foundation of Dow’s chemical and process hazard analyses is the data generated by the Reactive Chemicals Group, who leverage measurement science, expertise in chemistry and engineering, and an understanding of Dow’s processes to support safe operation at all scales. Research activities at the laboratory and pilot scales represent a unique challenge with respect to managing reactivity hazards and preventing incidents. While a smaller scale can reduce the risks and consequences of an incident, research activities often involve new chemicals with unknown hazards, frequent changes to scope in response to new discoveries, or reactions and materials that are not yet well-understood. In addition, time and resources are often limited, particularly when it is not clear whether the research will be successful. Despite these challenges, identifying, evaluating, and addressing reactivity hazards is essential to prevent injuries or equipment damage from uncontrolled or unexpected chemical reactions. To ensure that research and development of new chemistries and processes continue safely, the Reactive Chemicals Group at Dow applies an agile, flexible, safe, and rigorous approach to reactive chemicals hazard identification and evaluation for small-scale processes. In this talk, I will discuss the fundamentals of applying calorimetric data to assess reactivity hazards. While dynamic or isothermal calorimetry may be appropriate in some hazard evaluations, understanding many worst-case scenarios requires other techniques, particularly adiabatic or pseudo-adiabatic calorimetry. I will review the assumptions and technical limitations that must be considered in these experiments and illustrate the appropriate application and interpretation of example data in the evaluation of a prospective experiment. I will also discuss how a Reactive Chemicals Subject-Matter Expert might predict and evaluate the likely outcomes of plausible worst-case scenarios in several laboratory experiments, with a focus on the effect of scale.


Jessica E. Nichols, Ph.D., is an Associate Research Scientist in the Reactive Chemicals group in Analytical Science, part of Dow’s Core R&D organization, based in Midland, MI. As a Reactive Chemicals Subject Matter Expert, she provides consultation, technical expertise, and support for testing and modeling of reactive chemicals, thermal stability, and flammability hazards in laboratory and process environments. Jessica graduated in 2013 from Arizona State University, where she studied chemical engineering. During her undergraduate studies she performed research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, where her work concerned novel headspace sampling and analysis techniques for arson forensics. She pursued her graduate studies at the University of California Berkeley, where she performed research in sodium-oxygen and magnesium metal electrochemistry for energy storage applications under the direction of Prof. Bryan McCloskey. She first joined Dow in 2017 as an R&D Intern in the Reaction Engineering group, Core R&D, where she performed population balance and residence time distribution modeling of fluidized bed reactors. After completing her Ph.D. in 2018, she returned to Dow as a member of the Reactive Chemicals group.

April 2023