The unit operations lab facility houses equipment that provides emerging chemical engineers with hands-on experiences with processes encountered in industry. This lab is the home to two essential courses in the chemical engineering curriculum:
The first course, Chemical Engineering Principles Lab Course, introduces the basics of fluid flow, heat transfer, composition analysis and filtration. The students work with pumps, valves, pressure sensors, flow meters, temperature sensors, heat exchangers, viscometers, spectrometers, gas chromatographs, and other key components of industrial processes.
This laboratory utilizes many small pieces of equipment/measurement devices that are components of larger processes. The lab consists of a series of instructional modules in which students are trained in groups of 3-4 students, and is very hands-on. One of the modules employs portable process flow carts which is used to train the students in the fundamentals of fluid flow and heat transfer. The cart is equipped with components commonly used most industrial pilot-scale and production-scale processes. There are Isomatic displacement pumps, Swagelok fittings, Micro-Motion Coriolis flow meters, Honeywell pressure sensors and digital displays. The students disassemble/assemble the pump, assemble the cart based the process requirements, learn how to apply compression fittings, and learn to deliver fluids subject to a variety of constraints. Students study pump efficiency, valve operation, pressure drops in pipe flow (using different diameters/lengths of Polyflow tubing) and also analyze the data using excel spreadsheets. They also perform composition/concentration measurements using a Gas Chromatograph and bench top spectrometers. In a module on fluid rheology, a Brookfield viscometer is used to characterize different fluids with differing rheological characteristics, including Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids (shear-thinning, yield-stress fluids, etc.). In all sections, spreadsheets are created, data is plotted, and in-depth summaries are required.
In the second course, Chemical Engineering Processes Lab Course, students work with major process equipment including reactors, distillation columns, absorption towers, adsorption towers, and ultra filtration equipment. The lab helps the students integrate their knowledge from fundamental and applied chemical engineering courses to gain in-depth knowledge of reaction and separation processes. Student project space is also a part of the Unit Operations Facility, and there is an adjacent storage/fabrication space to augment lab activities.
This 4th year laboratory focuses on the most common unit operations utilized by chemical engineers that are required to react and separate chemicals. While the Chemical Engineering Principles Lab course teaches students about the fundamental elements of processes flow and measurement, the Chemical Engineering Processes Lab course focuses on larger pieces of equipment that utilize these components. Students work in small groups to operate the following large pieces of equipment: an eight-stage continuous distillation unit with an automatic feeder, a gas absorption column, a fixed bed adsorption tower, and a Millipore ultrafitration system. The students also work with isothermal batch and continuous stirred-tank reactors, to study both chemical reactions and also study the influence of mixing and non-isothermal operation All equipment is state-of-the-art and computer controlled, with LabVIEW as the software interface.
We are grateful to Eastman Kodak Company for donating equipment to our facility, and also for numerous contributions of their time during the set up of our lab courses.