Frequently Asked Questions

What services does Creative Engineers (CEI) provide?

Creative Engineers, Inc., is a small but diversified company providing the following services for our clients:

  • Process engineering, including process flow diagrams (PFDs), piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs) and other engineering services related to the chemical, metal, pharmaceutical, and nuclear industries.
  • Project engineering for all types of manufacturing, metals and chemical processes.
  • Alkali-metal engineering (transportation, handling, use, and disposal expertise) for a broad range of industries
  • Project management
  • Construction management and procurement
  • Process-improvement studies and process-improvement projects
  • Design and fabrication of skid-mounted systems, including pilot plants
  • Operation of pilot plants
  • Electromagnetic pumps and electromagnetic flow meters
  • Automation design, engineering, and implementation
  • Instrumentation and electrical design
  • Chemicals – CEI is able to produce the following chemicals:
    • Sodium dispersion
    • Sodium naphthalene
    • Fluoropolymer etchant
    • Other alkali metal–based compounds

Contact us or give us a call at 443-807-1202 to find out more information on our engineering consulting services, chemical engineering services, metal engineering services and nuclear engineering services.

Can Creative Engineers provide turnkey pilot plants or process units?

Yes, CEI is capable to doing the design, procurement, fabrication, testing, and startup of your pilot plant and skid-mounted process units. Our staff of chemical-process engineers will prepare the required mass-and-energy balance details and develop P&IDs, so that CEI and the customer can agree on what is to be built. The mechanical, automation, and electrical groups will prepare equipment specifications if necessary and do detailed design. With the design agreed to, our staff will procure the equipment, assemble, and deliver the complete package.

At CEI, we believe that the success of any project depends heavily on the proper development of the project scope. We work with our customers to provided the up-front detailed and process engineering needed to succeed.

How do I dispose of alkali metals such as sodium, potassium, and NaK?

All alkali metals are very reactive chemicals, and special handling and packaging is required.

CEI’s process-engineering staff is familiar with the regulatory requirements of disposing of the alkali metals and can guide each customer to the best solution. If appropriate, CEI has specialized equipment that can be brought to the customer’s site for the controlled reaction of the alkali metals to hydroxides. The resultant hydroxides are much easier to dispose of than the metal. CEI can provide expertise and conversion services for all alkali metals.

Why are sodium and the other alkali metals difficult to handle?

  • Sodium and alkali metals are extremely reactive materials, particularly with water and air. The reaction with water produces large quantities of hydrogen gas, which, if not handled properly, poses fire and explosion hazards. All systems using alkali metals must be inerted, free of all traces of air and moisture.
  • In some cases (e.g., NaK and potassium), exposure to organics can pose a violent-explosion hazard.
  • In some cases (e.g., NaK) the alkali metal is already a liquid, but in most cases (e.g., sodium, potassium and lithium) the systems and piping must be heated to work with the alkali metal.
  • Most alkali-metal work is done at elevated temperature.
  • Any leakage from alkali-metal systems or piping presents a fire or explosion hazard.
  • Facility designs for handling alkali-metal systems require unique planning (such as no sprinkler systems, no floor drains, proper ventilation, etc.).
  • Alkali metals are also reactive with other elements commonly found in most industries. Avoid halogenated products and carbon dioxide.
  • When working with lithium, nitrogen is not inert, and only argon gas should be used.

What recent experience does CEI have with cleaning out sodium and NaK systems?

Creative Engineers personnel have been handling and using alkali metals for over 30 years. Our engineers have designed systems to produce, use, transfer, and dispose of alkali metals in all types of industries and processes.

CEI is currently providing process-engineering expertise for the clean-up of residual sodium in a fast breeder reactor in Newport, Mich. We have been involved with all phases of the sodium- and NaK (sodium-potassium alloy)–removal process and have helped our customer safely clean up and react the sodium-contaminated equipment over the past eight years. We are currently in the process of helping with the design of the system to remove the residual metal from the reactor vessel itself.

In the past several years alone, CEI has designed, procured, and mobilized systems to process alkali-metal residues at the DOE Hanford site in Washington, Idaho National Labs, and Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee. We also recently completed a large sodium-disposal project (over 5,000 pounds of metal!) at a chemical facility in Montana and even branched out internationally to provide our alkali-metal disposal expertise to a decommissioning project in Gladstone, Australia.

For all our alkali-metal disposal projects, we not only do the process engineering required, we build the skid-mounted equipment required and operate that equipment! When you choose CEI for your alkali-metal work, you get the engineers and personnel who have actually handled these materials; we do not hire local, inexperienced personnel to boost profit. When working with hazardous materials, nothing beats CEI’s hands-on expertise gained from actual field experiences.

Why to fluoropolymers need to be etched?

Fluoropolymers are used throughout the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries as the standard choice for excellent chemical resistance for all types of raw materials and products. Fluoropolymers are used for a number of standard products, such as tubing, gaskets and seals, and even linings and coatings for specialty tanks and vessels.

In some applications, users of this material need the best of both worlds, that is, resistance to all types of corrosive materials and yet the ability to bond the fluoropolymer to other materials.

When fluoropolymers are etched, the surface is modified ever so slightly to allow for the use of standard bonding agents and adhesives. In most cases, the active etching solution will strip the fluorine molecules from the surface of the polymer and replace them with other molecules that accept the bonding adhesives.

How are fluoropolymers etched?

There are several methods available for etching fluoropolymers. The most common involve the use of reactive sodium ions to “strip” the fluorine molecules from the surface of the fluoropolymer, replacing them with other molecules, allowing the etched surface to be bonded to other materials using standard industry practices.

The etching process only penetrates a few angstroms into the polymer surface, creating a bondable surface without affecting the material properties.

CEI manufactures a full range of sodium naphthalene–based etchants for all of your etching needs.

Can Creative Engineers do in-house etching or provide etching systems?

Yes and yes! CEI has designed and built custom etching systems for all types of etching processes, including in-line, batch, and continuous “spool-to-spool” applications. CEI also manufactures high-quality sodium naphthalene etchants at our New Freedom, Pa., production facility.

Combine the ability to design turnkey etching systems with the proven quality of CEI’s custom-blended etchants, and the result is a top-notch etching-service company ready to meet your etching needs.

How are PCB oils treated to make them non-hazardous?

Creative Engineers, along with KMR Industries, manufactures sodium-based dispersions that can be used to treat PCBs. The sodium dispersions, available in a number of sodium concentrations and dispersed in multiple carriers, effectively treat PCBs by removing the chlorine from the chlorinated biphenyls.

Once processed with our sodium dispersion, the PCB oils can be purified and recycled, eliminating the need to send the materials to a costly hazardous-waste disposal site.