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Pumps and Pipes and Hearts

| On 06, Dec 2010

Jack Hipple“The history of medical innovation is one of inspiration, unexpected insights, and the sharing of ideas across disciplines”—Methodist/DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center ad, back cover of Continental Airlines magazine, Nov 2010

It’s amazing what you find in airline magazines. During a recent trip to present a workshop at the Mexican TRIZ Association meeting in Puebla, I flew Continental Airlines through Houston and took the time to read their airline magazine, Continental. It was Nov 30 and the last day this issue was in the seat pocket. Now I enjoy the interesting articles in many of these magazines and of course the crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Seldom do I pay attention to the ad on the back cover. But this time I did and saw an ad for the joint R&D program (The Cardiovascular Energy Collaborative) between Exxon Mobil, the University of Houston, and the DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center which has been in existence only since 2007. This consortium is holding its first international meeting in April of 2012.

Here are some quotes from last year’s meeting:

“Much like moving oil through a pipeline, the heart must pump blood through the body. Both systems need clean, well-functioning pipes (or blood vessels), free of blockages or corrosion, to function efficiently”

” It’s amazing the ideas that flow when energy and medicine experts get together. The interaction sparks ideas that would never have materialized if we stayed in the medical center and they stayed in the oil field.”

“Pumps & Pipes III: Better Together will have speakers in the morning sessions from medicine, energy, and academia discussing use of advanced nanotechnology, robotics and distant monitoring in common issues like pipeline corrosion and blood vessel integrity. The afternoon sessions will feature new discussions on pipes and fluids, a concept that spawned joint oil and medicine ideas in the past when Methodist researchers looking at preventing aneurysms gained a new perspective of blood flow dynamics from pipeline engineers who used fluid dynamics to predict pipeline ruptures. Talks will focus on managing imperfect pipes, next-generation intelligent conduits, and advanced materials for energy and medicine. The presentations are designed to offer common language and terminology to all parties, as well as provide a platform to discuss the hurdles facing each discipline.”

There are several web links, but here are two to get you started:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-11/uoh-sop113009.php
http://www.pumpsandpipes.com

Proceedings from this conference, “Pumps and Pipes”, are available from Springer.

Isn’t this amazing? Here are two industries that have had their focal point in Houston for over 50 years, and from a TRIZ and chemical engineering (my other passion) standpoint, are doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING. They are moving fluids around in “pipes”, they worry incessantly about friction and pressure drop, Reynolds number, flow uniformity and restrictions, valve integrity, and pump curves. Can you imagine where we might be if these two industries had started talking to each other in the 1950-60 time frame rather than waiting until 2007?

Do some real soul searching about whether the problem you face is really all that unique and talk to someone in a parallel universe. You might find out your problem has already been solved, or that you have a solution to a parallel universe problem.