Oklahoma State University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology and Fractionation Research Inc. (FRI) are deepening their long-standing relationship through an endowed professorship in chemical engineering established by the Stillwater-based company.
FRI has been a leader in research related to distillation devices and processes since its founding in 1952. It collaborates with companies around the world to conduct cooperative research for the benefit of their partners and the industry as a whole.
FRI and OSU hope to foster new growth and research within the chemical engineering field. FRI expects the partnership will help identify new ways to reduce energy waste in the distillation process with the end goal of making distillation as energy efficient as possible. This new professorship will also generate more interest in chemical engineering with the goal of creating research and advancement opportunities.
Earlier this year, FRI pledged $500,000 to create the endowed chemical engineering professorship, which will be filled by Dr. Clint P. Aichele. He has been serving as an associate professor at OSU since 2012. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from OSU in 2004 and continued his education at Rice University, earning a doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering in 2009.
Dr. Rob Whiteley, the recently retired head of chemical engineering at OSU who has extensive experience working with FRI on distillation, said the professorship “is a tremendous honor and bestows prestige.” He went on to say the endowed position “shines a light on Dr. Aichele.”
Jose Bravo, president of FRI, believes there has been a reduction in researchers of conventional chemical engineering. He said this professorship can help ensure chemical engineering research is not left behind.
“We (FRI) believe that’s a dangerous situation and could end up hurting us with the rest of the world,” he said. “FRI wants to help chemical engineering programs receive more attention and stay up with other engineering programs. Filling this position with a young professor will add energy and set the program and future research up for success.”
FRI is a non-profit research consortium supported by memberships, which include many of the largest petroleum, chemical and engineering companies in the world. FRI began in February 1952 with 15 member companies, increasing to 37 members by the first stockholder meeting in November. Although its headquarters were in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, it initially partnered with C.F. Braun & Co. to begin testing in Alhambra, California, in 1954. However, the rising cost of land in the 1970s made it difficult to continue to expand testing.
CEAT’s administration recruited the research company to Stillwater. When FRI accepted, it ceased operations with C.F. Braun in November 1989. FRI relocated its operations to Stillwater in 1991, and the relationship between FRI and OSU has gradually increased ever since.