Inventions: QLS Reactor
Co-inventor: Professor Paul E. Queneau
When the National Academy of Engineering honored Professor Paul E. Queneau with membership in 1981, the citation noted his “innovative leadership in the invention and commercial development of efficient technology for extraction of nickel, copper, and cobalt.” In the world of smelting, he’s also known for getting the lead out.
Queneau devoted his entire career to metal. During the Depression, the Columbia grad labored at the International Nickel Company’s (INCO) alloy furnaces in West Virginia. “It was hard, dangerous work,” he says, but metallurgy hooked him, and he moved up in the company.
Army service — he rose to colonel — in the European theater during World War II galvanized him. “What I saw and experienced over there has driven me ever since,” he says. “Who do you think designed all those tools of mass destruction? It was engineers! We as engineers now have a responsibility to modernize technology, save energy, and protect the environment.”
Returning to R&D at INCO, Queneau helped develop energy-efficient, environmentally friendly smelters with breakthrough oxygen technology that reduced the needed amount of coal and decreased sulfur emissions.
Soon after becoming a professor at Thayer School in 1971, Queneau joined with Purdue University Professor Reinhart Schuhmann Jr. and the German firm Lurgi to invent a continuous smelter that boosts efficiency and cleanliness. Compacted pellets of sulphide concentrate and flue dust dissolve in a molten bath that is injected with oxygen, producing lead and lead oxide. The lead sinks to the bottom and is siphoned off. The lead oxide flows to the far end of the reactor. Along the way, submerged injectors blow powdered coal into the lead oxide to reduce it to lead. Sulphur dioxide in the off-gas is converted to commercially usable sulphuric acid. Remaining flue dust is mixed into new pellets, and the process starts again.
Queneau Schuhmann Lurgi, a.k.a. QSL, reactors are in use in Canada, Korea, and Germany, churning out lead without spurning the environment.
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