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Innovating With Engineering Students

CSL Behring in Kankakee, Illinois, partners with local university to optimize the recovery of alcohol used in manufacturing.

Schematic drawing of an alcohol recovery system in maufacturing

Just about everyone has used an alcohol-based product to disinfect or clean up around the house. But alcohol is also used in large-scale manufacturing, including plasma fractionation, the process used to turn human plasma into medicines needed by people with rare and serious diseases.

When alcohol is used in manufacturing, it’s important to handle it responsibly and recover the solvent so it can be reused. CSL Behring’s large facility in Kankakee, Illinois, was already recovering alcohol used to extract proteins from plasma, but the team wanted to optimize the process. To assist, CSL Behring partnered with engineering students at Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) to evaluate potential improvements.

“It is a joy working with the engineering students from ONU. The CSL Behring team, which includes Process Engineering and Critical Utilities, was able to identify a real-world project that would add value to both CSL Behring and the ONU student team,” said Sean Goudy, CSL Behring’s Site Lead of Process Engineering in Kankakee.

The 14 students will be applying engineering skills while acting as an engineering consulting firm. They’ll model the existing system, prepare a mathematical simulation of the alcohol recovery system and then look for ways to make it better, Goudy said. For instance, the students will evaluate opportunities to reduce impurities in distillate steam.

“Alcohol is critical to our fractionation process, so having a well-characterized recovery process increases the overall reliability of our processes. The hope is that we can improve the overall consistency of the alcohol that we are recovering, which will lead to more consistent impurity profiles and higher yields,” said Goudy.

The project with CSL Behring serves as a capstone project for the students, giving them a chance to apply their engineering skills outside of the classroom.

“We continue to be grateful for partnership with CSL Behring to provide and support these opportunities for our soon-to-be graduate engineers to sharpen their engineering skills while completing meaningful real-world design project such as this,” said Dr. Joseph Schroeder, ONU Engineering department chair.

CSL Behring is also partnering with Kankakee Community College to offer a three-year apprenticeship program that prepares employees for higher-skilled jobs. Students from the first class are set to graduate this year.