Edwin Lightfoot, Hilldale professor emeritus of chemical engineering, passed away Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, at age 92.
We are working with Professor Douglas C. Cameron and his students in the fast-developing area of metabolic engineering: the systematic analysis, modification and control of metabolic processes. We are particularly concerned with speeding the scale-up of adsorptive processes that play a key role in the isolation of proteins, peptides and many synthetic drugs. Our greatest current emphasis is on direct measurement and reliable prediction of key separation parameters. We are using nuclear magnetic resonance techniques for these purposes, working closely with Professor Thatcher W. Root and his students. We also are cooperating more with industry. Modeling studies are important to our separations research. Much of our effort goes to the old but important problems of increasing mass transfer effectiveness and reducing convective dispersion while maintaining high throughput rates. These problems are particularly challenging in the novel configurations and systems needed for isolation of proteins and other biologicals. Separations, though little noted by the public, are vital and expensive components of glamorous new fields, such as biotechnology, and important older industries. They are large consumers of free energy and typically account for 25 to 50 percent of capital cost in the process industry. Perhaps more important are conceptual barriers caused by inadequate understanding of underlying concepts and pertinent technology. My specific concerns are the development of improved separation processes and controlling the dynamics of biological systems. These interests are complementary in that both are intended to further the growth of biotechnology. Most of my research is long-range and conducted by predoctoral students, but I am increasingly involved in more applied problems.