Vortex founder Neil Peterson dies

by Arvin Donley
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Vortex Founder Loren Peterson
Neil Peterson,  founder of Vortex.

SALINA, KANSAS, U.S. – Neil Peterson, 87, founder of Vortex and an innovator in dry bulk solids handling, died Jan. 29.

Peterson’s career in dry bulk solids began in the 1950s with Salina Manufacturing (now known as Coperion). As a mechanical engineer he developed formulas for conveying material other than flour, which was unproven at that time. After much experimentation and analysis, he ascertained how to test a gallon-sized sample of product, and scale it up to a full-size system. He also invented equipment for the company, including a patent on a “Y”-type diverter valve and coupling system with a straight-line layout to reduce pressure losses in pneumatic conveying systems.

In 1977, Peterson left Salina Manufacturing to co-found Vortex with his son-in-law, Lee Young. At that time they developed a new type of slide gate called an Orifice Gate. The valve was designed to sheer through flowing material, self-clean on the opening stroke, and eliminate areas of build-up through the bore. The design also incorporated a shimming system, allowing factory maintenance personnel to perform simple adjustments to sealing tolerances while the valve remained in-line.

Vortex was granted a patent on the Orifice Gate in 1980 and received the John C. Vaalar Award by Chemical Processing magazine judging it “a major contributor toward more efficient and effective operation of plants in the chemical processing industry.” Peterson continued to develop new products during the 1980s until his retirement in 1989. This included the Wye Line Diverter, Roller Gate, and Fill Pass Diverter. He was awarded his last patent for the Clear Action Gate in 1990.   

Joe Walton, former CEO and president of Walton/Stout Inc., remembers Peterson’s acumen as an engineer: “Neil was great. Nobody worked harder than him. When I left Salina, I looked everywhere for the same caliber of engineer. Unfortunately for me, he was one of a kind.”  

Peterson was born July 26, 1929, in Concordia, Kansas, U.S., to Rena and Eugene Peterson. He married Joyce Cozad in Barnard, Kansas, U.S., on Aug. 7, 1949. He spent most of his life in Salina, Kansas. He attended grade school in Salina and graduated from high school in Luray, Kansas, U.S.  He attended Kansas Wesleyan University and Kansas State University.

He is survived by his wife, Joyce; sister Doris Simpson (Verle) and brother Roger Peterson (Ann-Marie); children John Peterson (Brenda) and Christine Young (Lee); daughter-in-law Lisa Peterson; seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son, Michael and sister Doris Amadio.

A memorial graveside service and Celebration of Life were held Feb. 4 in Salina.  Memorials are suggested to Hospice of Salina or Redeemer Lutheran Church, in care of Ryan Mortuary, Salina. For more information, visit www.ryanmortuary.com.

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