Chemie Ingenieur Technik

Chemical industry 427


Druids’ Knowledge in Chemical Engineering: Analysis of the Illustrated Literature by Goscinny and Uderzo
Susanne Leuchs1, Lasse Greiner1,2,*, Dominique Dechambre3 and André Bardow3
DOI: 10.1002/cite.201200019 The illustrated literature series Asterix (and Obelix) is commonly known as entertainment and distraction, but behind that mask, case studies for chemical production in small medium enterprises and the crucial role of research and development can be discovered. The series rightly puts chemistry and chemical engineering at the heart of success and prosperity. Overall, the motives exemplified are of high relevance today for chemical industry. Keywords: Chemical industry, Chemical technology, Education, Illustrated literature Received: February 14, 2012; accepted: February 16, 2012



Disguised as entertainment and distraction, the illustrated literature series Asterix and Obelix provides case studies for chemical production in the context of the village as small medium enterprise (SME) and the central importance of chemical engineering research and development (R&D). The ingenious creator of the series, René Goscinny, hints towards this interpretation as intimate knowledge of chemistry is given in the tenth volume of the series [1]. A key character in the original French source is the spy named Acidcloridrix going under the alias of HCl. In the English translation the spy is named Vitriloix as a reference to vitriol as the historical name of sulfuric acid alias H2SO4. This is an example for a mistranslation with possible disastrous effects and substituting H2SO4 with HCl and vice versa is generally not recommended. The similarity of the situation which the Gallic village faces to modern SME is striking. We present the results of our analysis with respect to the relevant motives in chemical engineering and production (Fig. 1). The organizational structure is flat with the CEO, respectively, chief of the village Vitalstatistix. His concern is the reputation or exterior image of the village [2, 3]. Typically, he will only act if

Susanne Leuchs, Dr. Lasse Greiner (, DECHEMA Research Institute, Theodor-Heuß-Allee 25, 60486 Frankfurt am Main, Germany; 2Dr. Lasse Greiner, RWTH Aachen University, Institute of Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry, Worringerweg 1, 52056 Aachen, Germany; 3Dominique Dechambre, Prof. André Bardow, RWTH Aachen University, Institute of Technical Thermodynamics, Schinkelstraße 8, 52056 Aachen, Germany.

outer circumstances demand so and shows a comparably conservative attitude. His sometimes odd manners and blazing insistence on proper chieftain treatment are mostly taken with indifference by the inhabitants or employees, respectively. His wife Impedimenta is the major driving force for maintaining status and privileges associated with the position. Vitalstatistix achieves his personal work-life balance as a gourmand and follower of martial arts. The druid Getafix impersonates the roles of senior scientist, process chemist, and lecturer. He is the only member of staff knowing the trade secret of the SME blockbuster: A magic potion that gives the recipient superhuman strength and endurance. Getafix is not allowed to pass on the recipe to non-druids under the code of conduct of his trade [4]. Here, modern SME take comparable measures by using IUPAC nomenclature, patents, secrecy agreements, and other means to cloud involuntary passing of knowledge. The magic potion is the key requisite of all stories as it allows the independent operation and persistent resistance against all attempts of hostile takeover by the overwhelming Roman Empire under Gaius Julius Caesar (≈ 50 B.C.). Scientific exchange is an integral part of well functioning enterprises. Getafix, as the senior scientist, regularly takes part in the yearly druid conference in the forest of the Carnutes [5 – 8], in the south-west of Paris [9]. The forest of the Carnutes is a closed area to non-druids. Although, the R&D elite assembles in a single place, safety precautions are rather weak. In a peer reviewed process the Best Druid Award associated with a gift price is presented to the most outstanding scientist. Getafix wins the prestigious award twice against a super-fertilizer, a pain killer, and novel formulations [5, 7]. Interestingly, the education of druids is centralized [4] and no measures for the succession of

Chemie Ingenieur Technik 2012, 84, No. 4, 427–431

© 2012 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

From an economical and ecological point of view. some can be pieced together from information spread over all volumes. fish soup. the production of the magic potion is a highly desirable process. A blue dye can be added to expose doping offenders at the olympic games without negative effects on the improvement of the physical strength and endurance [15]. 427–431 . Getafix are mentioned. Figure 1. The process is robust as no failure occurs as long as Getafix is mentally capable. However. a golden hook and a stirred tank reactor (cauldron). reasonably fresh fish [14]. Necessary ingredients are mistletoes. Furthermore. and stone oil (petra oleum). Overview of the situation of the village as SME facing threats (inside arrows) and challenges (outside arrow). Heating is also based on renewable resources. Heat is delivered by a wood-fire with heat control via boiling of the solution. Such a variety of formulations would not be allowed for a modern active pharmaceutical ingredient formulation. the preparation of the magic potion is rather straightforward. Greiner et al. a full LCA is not possible. In contrast to many other chemical production procedures. 2 Production Process Although. not all essential ingredients can be found on Atlantis [16]. KGaA. © 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. The reaction mixture can be consumed as prepared. Lack of spare equipment leads to deadline pressure in view of the upcoming conference in the forest of the Carnutes [13]. The shape and material of the reactor itself seems to be of less importance. which is later substituted with beetroot juice [4]. careful upstream processing of the ingredients is key to the production process as examplified by the cutting of mistletoes by a golden hook as specialized device to maintain certain magic properties. No. flavor modifiers such as lobster. Even though he already was of advanced age in the childhood of Asterix and Obelix. cheese omelet. Within the boundaries of the historical context. 4. as a variety of cauldrons is used.428 L. This is true until today as small-scale fine chemical and pharmaceutical production is dominated by batch wise synthesis and most of the process know-how lies with the operator. continuous production is certainly not considered [17]. which need special attention in the upstream processing [12. The whole process is environmentally benign as all deducible ingredients are finally (see below) from renewable sources derived with production methods that with high probability are sustainable and would nowadays receive an eco-certificate for their production. This www. Weinheim Chemie Ingenieur Technik 2012. Mixing is achieved by stirring with the scoop.cit-journal. 13]. From a reaction engineering point of view. he seems not to be older when they are adults [10]. so that no waste streams are produced. It is carried out manually in batches and requires constant supervision. the ingredients of the magic potion are a carefully guarded secret. The solvent can be identified as water [11]. Interestingly. The technical equipment Getafix uses is mainly a stirrer (scoop). would have to take into account the secondary effects on human health such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) [18] and destruction of other materials. A full life-cycle assessment (LCA) however. As the raw material basis is not fully revealed and not likely to be fully accessible. or mousse au chocolat are not essential for the potency of the potion [12]. downstream processing is not required.

although the village lies in direct vicinity of the coast [14]. Nevertheless. 84. This anticipates the oil crisis 2030 years later caused by the modern OPEC. the potion shows the usual effect. 2). The production capacity of ≈ 250 L · 2d–1 300 days year–1 = 150 m3a–1 (see Fig. This implies delivery over the beeline distance of 600 km by oxcart which is disturbed by striking of heavy vehicle drivers. four [21]. which between Vitalstatistix and Asterix is tenfold (see also Fig. Nonetheless. and better tasting ingredient [4]. One such a hard to supply ingredient of the magic potion is petroleum/naphtha [4]. as well as chitin-based materials [12]. yet unknown. sterility precautions.C. Dimensions of the relevant devices and characters (the druid’s height was set as reference). or reheating before administration. puts the magic potion clearly in the range of a fine chemical. One vial carried in Asterix’s belt with an estimated volume of 250 mL lasts for typically three [20]. Nonetheless. Side effects and undesired interactions of the magic potion with other druids potions are reported in some cases [16. every inhabitant of the village gets one scoop from Getafix. The shortage is artificially reinforced by the Romans by hostile acquisition of all available resources. Getafix solves the fast recovery of the renewable feedstock and simultaneously creates an efficient as well as green method for sustainable CO2 fixation (assuming that the law of conservation of mass was valid. he demonstrates the dissolution of wood-based raw materials like mistletoe in aqueous solutions [11. strong acids or bases. Figure 2. because it already makes the recipients invinci- Chemie Ingenieur Technik 2012. An overdose leads to petrifaction which is reversible under certain circumstances [16]. complete dissolution of all solid ingredients of the magic potion is observed [5]. No. Pretreatment with ionic liquids. the authors have anticipated the change of raw material basis for the chemical industry before it was as apparent and discussed as today.Chemie Ingenieur Technik Chemical industry 429 leads to an E-factor (kg waste per kg product) [19] which is probably in the range of 0. With . the fishmonger of the village. In view of the population of the village of roughly 102. Apparently. In the times of Asterix and Obelix delivery on demand or supply chain management was in its infancies. But in view of possible shortages of raw material. escape from diplomatic incidents with Native Americans. 50 B. Compared to the batch size. the magic potion is distributed irrespectively to the weight of the recipient. liberate a fellow Gaul from slavery. or two applications with the surplus sufficient to top up a liquid cheese preparation for another 10 recipients. Unhygienix. that petrifaction is reported in only two cases: Obelix and the Roman admiral Crustacius get petrified due to an overdose. 2). organic solvents. it is prepared freshly and applied ceremonially to the fighting part of the population before major events. the common practice of adminstration is questionable as it does not take the huge apparent weight differences of the recipients into account. The effects of the magic potion itself have not to be further developed. the dose of potion per patient is relatively small. between 5000 – 170 applications are produced per batch. renewable. production capacity by far exceeds the needs of the village. Here. or other harsh conditions usually applied are not reported (see [25] and references cited therein). a value rather typical for bulk chemical production. Fresh fish is another ingredient that is subject to shortage. The motive for the changing accessibility of raw materials gives rise to several case studies. and finally return with fish. Getafix liberated the village from the dependency on petroleum exporting countries by shifting the raw material base. Extraterrestrial beings do not benefit from the consumption of the potion [23]. Unhygienix is unaware of the close by sea as an alternative resource and refuses to exploit the alternative.1. relies on an undisclosed fish supplier from Marseille in order to guarantee constant quality. 427–431 © 2012 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. The receiving inspection by Unhygienix based on olfactory judgement leaves some doubt concerning quality and reproducibility. even though the potion is stable over time without refrigeration. 24]. Fish fed with magic potion can be very dangerous for anglers [6]. paraformaldehyde. a forward-looking research for alternative ingredients is adviseable. In a futile attempt to persuade the Gauls to the Roman way of life a forest area is uprooted to provide building material. Thereby. Getafix provides an elegant solution for both land recovery as well as CO2 fixation. Normally. Interestingly. Weinheim www. Furthermore. which gives a conservatively estimated dose of ≈ 1 mL per kg bodyweight. Inspired by the environmental conscience of the Gauls impersonated by Dogmatix. Getafix addresses processing issues for the production of fine chemicals from renewables.cit-journal. Therefore. 4. 3 Threats to the Raw Material Basis ble. Specially treated acorns which grow to fully grown oaks within seconds are used to reclaim the forest [26]. In this context it is a miracle. Taking the weight distribution of the village with Asterix at the lower end and Obelix at the extreme upper end of the scale.). 22]. Asterix and Obelix set out to resolve the situation and in the course of events discover America before the Vikings. KGaA. toxic CS2. Thereby. The raw material basis was successfully changed to beetroot juice as a biogenic.

Here. Weinheim Chemie Ingenieur Technik 2012. as with a heat capacity of 4. overambition. even in tight situations Getafix refrains from consumption of the magic potion [12]. 27]. on some occasions magic potion is given away to gain an advantage [3. Mainly. a draconian contractual penalty can be circumvented. are outstanding. Psychoanalytix. Externally. physical threatening of hostages. In one study selected Goths are provided with one dose of magic potion to initiate a civil war and ensure peace for the Gallic population [5].430 L. Interestingly. An external expert. KGaA. The most sophisticated approach is initiated by Gaius Julius Caesar who dispatches the spy Dubbleosix who (barely) passed the druid examination. The Normans visit the Gauls to participate in a soft skill course to learn enabling mental abilities [28]. Technology transfer and export are carefully avoided as it would degenerate the superior position. Interestingly. 8 Summary 6 Consultancy The Gauls are renown and they act as consultants on several occasions. married relationships. 84. Notably. In the end the attempt fails for a number of reasons. Whether. Thus. 7 Technology Transfer and Export 5 Industrial Espionage Industrial espionage is another threat to the trade secret and thereby the independence of the Gallic village [4. 15. the accuracy of the antique setting has been praised by historians [9. so far. in this way they obtain the knowledge about the existence of the potion [12]. trials on involuntary subjects.2 MJ kg–1 for water. The clinical trials are a reflection of antic times as voluntary self trials as well as involuntary human subjects would not pass a modern ethic commission. High Roman executives are tempted by gaining an unfair advantage for infighting and send spies in order to either obtain the secret of the formulation of the magic potion or to gain general information. Competing with the Belgians for reputation they are offered magic potion to equalize the competitional advantage [3]. Later. Despite.cit-journal. both his physical or mental absence represent a severe danger for the whole village. The physical absence is exemplified when the druid is hijacked by the Romans or the Goths in an attempt to obtain the recipe for the magic potion [5. By fueling the vanity of Roman centurion and exploiting both Roman and Gothic infighting the situations are resolved and allow the successful escape. No. is consulted but by retracing the accident also experiences a similar TBI and its consequences. Getafix is consulted as a healer for a Roman executive to recover from consequences of infighting and lack of competence and trust within the Roman Empire [29]. the economic bubble bursts as the funding provided by Ceasar is depleted. placebo studies without consent. This leads to a reorganisation of the village induced by dishonest external consultancy. e. Because the export fails. the responsible Roman executive Preposterus is dismissed without bonus payment. The ancient world background is used to caricature modern context. Asterix can be regarded as highly intriguing and educational literature. By creating a dolmens business they shift the focus of productivity towards this hitherto marginal product. Dubbleosix is highly equipped but despite technical gadgetry rather unsuccessful. this is due to the code of conduct or other reasons is not disclosed. Asterix and Obelix also try to deliver one barrel of magic potion to Asterix’s cousin Anticlimax in Britain [6]. a number of Roman and Greek companies jump on the bandwagon with second generation products. prejudices about nations and their pecularitiers as well as human nature itself. Getafix develops a potion to heal himself and hostile takeover is prevented.g. This would allow obtaining the trade secret of the formulation as it is traditionally only passed from a druid’s mouth to a druid’s ear [4]. Internally. 4. 12]. The resulting potions are either administered to themselves or to an involuntary subject. the Gauls regain unity and focus. 4 Loss of Technology/Know-How With the central role of Getafix.2 kJ K–1 and an enthalpy of vaporization of about 2. 11. Whether the actions and means of the Gauls to reach their goals such as violence. 31]. Only. Furthermore.. can be considered best practice and would comply with modern ethics boards is debatable but www. Greiner et al. Magic potion is also produced for the Egyptian workers to allow timely construction of a palace (see Section 6) [27]. In one case. This proves another time the power of Getafix. 6. a strict austerity programme is introduced to save the Roman Empire from bankruptcy. Getafix accompanied by Asterix and Obelix supports Egyptian architect Edifis to hold an overambitious deadline imposed for the construction of a palace for Cleopatra by providing magic potion as well as advice [27]. 427–431 . tea is successfully introduced as a substitute repeating non-consensual testing practice as given above. the Roman olympic athletes are tricked into drinking a dyed potion which leads to their disqualification making Asterix the winner of the prestigious olive branch award [15]. and only one exception is reported [16]. the Romans try an alternative approach for hostile takeover as. Mental absence is described as Getafix suffers from a TBI effecting memory loss including the recipe of the magic potion [11]. 5. By semi-randomly testing recipes directly on production scale a number of thermal runaways with catastrophic consequences are © 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. By coincidence. 12]. they failed by military action [30]. creating runaways is an issue.

Hachette Livre. Hachette Livre. Paris 1976. Goscinny. A. Sjöholm. Paris 1963. Le Combat des Chefs. [10] R. Paris 1972. which typically exaggerates and dramatizes in order to entertain. 13. Chemie Ingenieur Technik 2012. Hachette Livre. Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques. Ind. KGaA.201100037 [18] M. 6. Goscinny. I. [21] R. 1. Vol. Uderzo. Paris 1966. A. We thank Dr. Uderzo. Astérix et les Goths. 83. Commun. [4] R. Uderzo. Kamp. [11] R. Anugwom. Uderzo. Paris 1980. Hachette Livre. Goscinny. 2008. Vol. Beck. Vol. 24. Vol. L’Odyssée d’Astérix. A. A. 33. Goscinny. We advocate it as mandatory reading matter nicely combining work and recreation. Uderzo. Uderzo. Goscinny. A. Paris 1964. Hachette Livre. Paris 1965. 3352 – 3365. Steiger. Astérix légionnaire. [17] A. [24] R. A. DOI: 10. Goscinny. S. Uderzo. Asterix die ganze Wahrheit. Weinheim www. Paris 1962. Paris 1970. [23] R. Vol. Paris 1968. A. Vol. [13] R. Goscinny. A. References [1] R. J. Hachette Livre. DOI: 10. Vol. [30] R. H. Goscinny. Tech. A. A. Astérix gladiateur.1016/ j. Le ciel lui tombe sur la tête. Paris 2005. Vol. Uderzo. La Serpe d’or. van Royen. [28] R. Obélix et compagnie. No. Pashkova. Le Grand Fossé. A. 10. 5. in truth is specialist literature and should not be amiss in any decent chemical or chemical engineering library. Hachette Livre. Ing. Hachette Livre. Hachette Livre. Virtanen. Sarikaya-Seiwert. Astérix chez les Bretons. [7] R. 19. van Royen. Goscinny. Asterix auf Grosser Fahrt. Le Devin. C. Uderzo. Uderzo. Hachette Livre. Astérix et Cléopâtre. Paris 1966. 2011. S. Paris 1981.cit-journal.van der Vegt. Uderzo. Vol. Vol. Vol. Greiner. Paris 1971. 3. Hachette Livre. Goscinny.-J. [2] R. P. Vol. 153. Hachette Livre. Böck (Wiley-VCH) for her support of the project. [31] R. Astérix le Gaulois. Goscinny. Uderzo. 30. B. Uderzo. Vol.1002/cite. 32. Le Chaudron. Hachette Livre. 23. Uderzo.indcrop. [6] R. Paris 1966. Goscinny. Goscinny. [25] P. [3] R. Goscinny.1007/s00701-011-0993-6 [19] R. A. Hachette Livre. DOI: 10. 2. Paris 1975. Goscinny. La galère d’Obélix. .1039/b803584a [20] R. Paris 1972. the motives exemplified are of high relevance today for chemical industry. Goscinny. [29] R. Chem. Vol. Le Domaine des Dieux. Paris 1968. Hachette Livre. Astérix et les Normands. Paris 1967. Vol. Vol. Uderzo. Uderzo. A. We thank colleagues and friends for discussion and suggestions. A. 4. Goscinny. A. 427–431 © 2012 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. 1351 – 1355. A. Slotty. 8. Goscinny. Paris 1961. This also acts as an eye-opener in education as the revelation that the illustrated literature. Goscinny. Hänggi. Vol. [22] R. A. 15. Vol. Mikkola. H. Astérix chez les Helvètes. Astérix et la rentrée gauloise. [16] R. A. Hachette Livre. Hachette Livre. A. Hachette Livre. Hachette Livre. 4. Hachette Livre. Goscinny. Overall. Mäki-Arvela. C. Vol. Uderzo. Vol.04. S. 16. Uderzo. [8] R. H. 2010. A. [5] R. A. The series rightly puts chemistry and chemical engineering at the heart of success and prosperity. Vol. Hachette Livre. Hachette Livre. Uderzo. A. Vol. Uderzo.Chemie Ingenieur Technik Chemical industry 431 allowances have to be made in view of the time setting and the medium. Vol. A. [15] R. 175 – 201. Goscinny. Crops Prod. Uderzo. 1337 – 1342. 11. Chem. Goscinny. La Grande Traversée. Paris 1965. Goscinny. Hachette Livre. Beck. [9] R. 22. Paris 1979. Astérix chez les Belges. [27] R.005 [26] R. 17. Uderzo. P. Paris 2003. Uderzo. Hachette Livre. Vol. 2011. München 2001. A. DOI: 10. We would like to point out that the copyright owner of Asterix Les Editions Albert-René does not comply with our analysis and we therefore refrained from using any original material for illustrations. Acta Neurochir. Paris 1970. 32. [14] R. 84. Sheldon. D. Goscinny. Hachette Livre. P. 25. A. Paris 1996. La Zizanie. 12. van der Vegt. 9. Goscinny. A. which many will already know by heart. 7. Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix. L. Uderzo. [12] R.2010. A. München 2008. 26. Uderzo. Le Bouclier Arverne. R.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful