Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stewart Alsop

I worked on the project from '79 to 82, and carried out all the early spinning work, up to commissioning the first pilot plant. We started air-gap spinning and soon realised the spin bath had to run co-curently with the fibre flow. We experimented with draw ratios to alter tenacity, and I wrote a Basic program on an Apple IIe(!) to determine the spinning settings, since everything was linked back to the cellulose content of the dope, which we could only make in small batches, courtesy of the resurrected z-blade mixer Ian referred to. We also had a few incidents making the amine oxide, and fires wre an occasional feature. It was my idea to try ion exchange resins to purify the spin bath, and I was delighted to see that was one secret Lenzing never discovered, until they bought the Tencel plant.

After leaving Courtaulds Research I move to Leek Chemicals, which under the inspirational leadership of Ian Roxburgh, quickly led to the set-up of Courtaulds Chemicals. I left there in December 88, to become the technical director of the country's last commercial high temperature coal tar distiller. The company was progressively taken over by Koppers Inc., and I was made redundant in 2004. I then worked in a specialist foundry for a few years, and led their efforts in Lean Manufacturing. 

I was headhunted for my current job, technical manager for the world's first company to recycle carbon fibre on a commercial scale. As a dedicated aviator and F1 enthusiast it is a dream job. I made all the technical input into the patenting process, and am currently leading a £multi-million project to expand and de-bottleneck the facility in Coseley, which will then be the model for new plants around the world. In the background, I'm working on the next-generation design, which should have a negative carbon foot-print.




Calvin said...

I've upgraded Stewart's comment contribution to a Post and created a "Where are they now?" folder. Hopefully others will follow Stewart's lead. I thought Stewart's inclusion of memories of the key pieces of work in the early day's of the project was great and we need more like this for the 1979-86 "formative years"

Stewart said...

I can't remember where I saw it, but we tried making Cellophane Mk2 in the early days. When the strength results came back I had the bizarre thought that if you opened a packet of peanuts wrapped in it, everyone in the pub would get one.

I also remember spinning hollow fibre with n-octanol on the inside, with the hope that it could be used for making dialysis filters. Hey hoe, maybe my memory isn't as bad as I thought!