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3-D Printing and Arduino in the Chemical Engineering Classroom: Protein Structures, Heat Exchangers, and Flow Cells

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Hands-On Projects and Demos

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jacob James Elmer Villanova University

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Dr. Elmer earned dual B.S. degrees in Biology and Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri Rolla in 2003 and obtained a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Ohio State University in 2007. After a short posdoc at Arizona State University and some adjunct teaching at Grand Canyon University, he secured an Assistant Professorship at Villanova University in the Chemical Engineering department. He currently teaches heat transfer and several biochemical engineering electives (Lab Techniques, Protein Engineering, etc.). His research focuses on developing novel blood substitutes and optimizing gene therapy treatments.

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Daniel Adam Kraut Villanova University

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Daniel A. Kraut is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Villanova University and teaches in the Biochemistry Program. He received a B.A. in Biochemistry from Swarthmore College and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford University. Dr. Kraut studies the mechanism of protein degradation by the proteasome.

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Unlike other engineering disciplines, chemical engineering (ChE) students rarely get the opportunity to design and build models, devices, and prototypes in the classroom. ChE students are also less likely to obtain valuable skills like computer-aided drafting (e.g. AutoCAD or SolidWorks), programming (e.g. Arduino), and circuitry. These are undeniably useful skills, but it is often challenging to find practical ways to incorporate them into ChE courses that are already dense with material. This paper describes 3 different modules that simultaneously teach core ChE & BioChE concepts while also introducing the concepts of 3D printing, drafting, and programing/circuitry with Arduino. The overall goal is to use these interdisciplinary techniques to enhance the students’ understanding of ChE concepts.

Module 1: 3D-Printed Amino Acid Building Blocks to Teach Protein Structure This first module uses 3D-printed alpha carbon atoms (C) and peptide bond groups (CONH) to show students how amino acids assemble into peptides and form complex structures simply by rotating the bonds around the alpha carbons. Students can use the models to prepare their own Ramachandran plots or build secondary structures (e.g. alpha helices and beta sheets). No drafting or coding experience is required for this module, but a 3D printer is needed to print the parts.

Module 2: 3D-Printed Plate & Frame Heat Exchangers This module allows students to design, build, and test their own plate & frame heat exchanger. The plates for the heat exchanger can be easily drafted in SolidWorks and modified to include corrugation or other geometries that increase turbulence and heat transfer. The 3D printed plates can then be assembled and used for heat transfer experiments in which the students estimate heat transfer coefficients. Coding can also be included by using an Arduino to monitor inlet & outlet temperatures with thermocouples.

Module 3: An Arduino-Controlled 3D-Printed Flow Cell to Measure Enzyme Kinetics In this module, students design and build their own rudimentary spectrophotometer, which consists of an LED light source, photoresistor, cuvette, and an Arduino. The Arduino powers the LED and uses the photoresistor to measure how much light passes through the sample in the flow cell. This flow cell can be used to monitor chromogenic chemical reactions, including the reaction of beta galactosidase with ONPG, which produces a yellow product that absorbs light. Varying the concentration of ONPG allows students to collect data for Michealis-Menten plots.

Elmer, J. J., & Kraut, D. A. (2018, June), 3-D Printing and Arduino in the Chemical Engineering Classroom: Protein Structures, Heat Exchangers, and Flow Cells Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29653

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