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Large, $4.7M Bulk Solids Research Plant Opens In Salina

Don Johnson, flickr Creative Commons

A new $4.7 million research center in Salina is designed to help industry and businesses find the best methods to handle bulk solids such as sugar, salt and chemicals for manufacturing and production.

The 13,000-square-foot Kansas State Bulk Solids Innovation Center includes five smaller laboratories and a full-scale lab, which boasts a 60-foot silo with sensors and removable sections to study storing and moving solids. It is the only such research center in the Western Hemisphere, with similar centers in Scotland, England and Australia, The Salina Journal reported.

The center opened Thursday and already has attracted interest from large manufacturers and companies committing to sponsoring research projects, according to Todd Smith, general manager of tenant Coperion K-Tron. Nearly 80 percent of the products made in the world are either in bulk solids or have bulk solids as a raw ingredient, he said.

"Sugar, salt, all of those things are simple until you put 20 tons of them in a silo and try to get them out," Smith said. "Then, there are no small problems."

Coperion K-Tron, Vortex Valves and Kansas State will be tenants of the building.

The building's $2.2 million cost was mostly funded by federal and state government funds, with $400,000 from industry. Twenty-five industries donated $2.5 million worth of equipment. It is expected to bring about 40 jobs to Salina, with an annual payroll of nearly $3 million, and provide educational work and research opportunities for students.

Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and outreach at Kansas State University-Salina, said industry leaders are thrilled about the center's opening.

"People are asking, 'When can you get started? When can we send people? When can you send your research publications?'" Barnhart said.

University dean Verna Fitzsimmons said the center will ensure that engineering technology students graduate with marketable skills.

"On my campus, people are used to hearing me say we've solved most of the simple problems; it's the tough ones we have to work on now, and the tough ones take a team to really get through," she said.