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Salina to get $3.5M bulk solids research facility

SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- A new facility in Salina that will research the best ways to move bulk solids could someday benefit industries that ship such materials as sugar, minerals, chemicals and starch, supporters said.

Construction is scheduled to begin next summer on the $3.5 million, 17,000-square-foot research facility, which will be called The Salina Bulk Solids Innovation Center. The project is expected to provide 31 jobs, The Salina Journal reported (http://bit.ly/17XU4tZ ).

The facility, which has been in the planning stages for about four years, is a collaboration among Kansas State University, the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, the city of Salina, a number of private companies and K-Tron Salina.

It will be the only facility of its kind in the United States, although similar research centers exist in the United Kingdom and in Australia, said Todd Smith, general manager of K-Tron Salin. Those centers are operated by universities, while the Salina facility will have a commercial component, he said.

"What will make the difference is the people who are doing the research. The university is the primary partner but there are industrial companies along with it," Smith said.

The city of Salina has been awarded a $1 million federal grant for the project, which is pending a few requirements, including an environmental assessment of the site. The first two tenants, K-Tron and Salina Vortex, will provide the equipment.

Smith said the research is needed because the science behind moving bulk material isn't fully understood. While systems for liquids and gases require standard equations, bulk solids behave differently, he said.

"There are not defined equations for those, so we have to rely on trial and error and things we've learned over a lot of years, and we realized if we could combine a lot of knowledge of many different industrial companies along with their application knowledge over the years with Kansas State University's rigorous research methods and their detail for understanding basic research, then we can figure out how a lot of the bulk solids science works together," he said.

Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and chief executive officer of Kansas State University at Salina, said the research could someday be applied to grain science.

"We can take the knowledge we'll be developing here and use it in the grain sciences, and some of that we'll be able to bring here, so we see it as a true collaboration between the Manhattan campus and the Salina campus," she said.