Kansas State University has begun construction on its 13,000-sq.-ft. Bulk Solids Innovation Center, a research facility that will be the first of its kind in North America.

The facility will be used to study and develop an understanding of bulk solids materials handling. According to the university, bulk solids account for more than 80 percent of items transported throughout the world. The center’s mission is to assist the businesses that use these materials or manufacture the systems that convey, store and dispense them.

Research at the center will focus on the process industries of foods, chemicals and plastics.

The center is a partnership between the university, the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, the Salina Economic Development Corporation, the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the state of Kansas and the city of Salina.

Government officials, university staff and industry partners officially broke ground at the future site early in July. According to the university, the building structure should be in place by November with an opening date of early April, 2015.

University faculty in the fields of technology, engineering and agriculture will use the facility to conduct research that will complement programs at the university. Students will also use the facility to gain experience in an industry setting.

Coperion K-Tron Salina Inc. and Vortex Valves, two companies local to the university, will supplement the facility by serving as anchor occupants. The facility is expected to be completed in 2015.

Once completed, the facility will be the fourth such university-level research center in the world. It will include office space for researchers and five flexible bulk solids laboratories to allow for collaborative and proprietary research projects by the building's tenants and industry sponsors. The largest space is a 30-ft.-tall open bay for full-scale testing of bulk solids behavior and applied research conducted by university investigators, students and tenants.

The university says companies such as Exxon Mobile, Dow, DuPont, Cargill, P&G and ADM have committed to engage research projects with the university, once the facility opens.

“The industry technical directors have been excited to hear about the [center] because they all have issues with their bulk solids plants,” says Todd Smith, general manager of Coperion K-Tron. “They will use this facility since there is no independent research being done in North America. This project started five years ago and will soon become reality. It is a great example of cooperation between government, industry and the university.”