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A Real Time, Dynamic Binary, Distillation Simulation For Web Based Instruction

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.91.1 - 6.91.9

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Paper Authors

author page

Charles Nippert

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2526

A Real Time, Dynamic, Binary Distillation Simulation for WEB Based Instruction Charles. R. Nippert Associate Professor Widener University


Simulation of complex processes in real time is essential for web-based instruction. Dynamic distillation has unique problems because of the large number of differential equations that must be solved simultaneously. This paper describes a simplified model that simulates the dynamic operation of the distillation of isopropanol/water. The model simulates all aspects of batch operation; beginning from cold startup, through the startup, total reflux operation, production of product, through shutdown. The control scheme is included so that users can operate and tune controllers. In spite of numerous simplifications, the model preserves the essential features for a real time simulation. The entire applet is only approximately 70K and is used for Internet based laboratory instruction. This paper focuses on the derivation of the model. A more complete discussion of the results will be presented at some other time.


A process simulation of a binary batch distillation column was desired for a portion of the on line Virtual Chemical Engineering Laboratory (VCEL) being developed at Widener University1. The model was to be used to acquaint students with the operation of an existing seven-stage distillation column and had to simulate the operation from cold start- up, through operation and shut down. Therefore, it was necessary to simulate the entire behavior of the unit. Still feed is a mixture isopropanol/water at a composition of approximately 3 mole% isopropanol (an azeotrope exists at ~76 mole % isopropanol). Additionally, the finished model would be part of an interactive JAVA applet that would run at least at real time speed. The use of JAVA applets reduces the load to the web server by shifting the computational work to the client computer. However, this mode of operation places severe restrictions both on the size of the model (because the applet containing the entire model and associated graphical user interface must be sent across the web) and the speed of calculation. The calculations must be done on the client computer quickly enough so that the applet has adequate time to update screen graphics and scan the user’s keyboard and pointing device. The design criteria was that the finished applet be able to run on a Pentium 1 100 MHz machine, which was judged to be the slowest machine likely to be used by a student. Therefore, the model was made as simple as possible while still preserving behaviors of the unit essential to familiarize students with its operation.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Nippert, C. (2001, June), A Real Time, Dynamic Binary, Distillation Simulation For Web Based Instruction Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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