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An Alternative Route For Teaching Process Synthesis And Design

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.88.1 - 5.88.12



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Paper Authors

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Mauricio A. Colombo

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Maria R Hernández

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Jorge E. Gatica

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

Session 3613

Combining High-level Programming Languages and Spreadsheets An Alternative Route for Teaching Process Synthesis and Design

Mauricio A. Colombo*, María Rosa Hernández* and Jorge E. Gatica Chemical Engineering Department, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH * Instituto de Ingeniería Química, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, ARGENTINA


The present paper focuses on the combination of programming languages as an effective approach towards teaching process design concepts. The cornerstone for the success of this approach is the combination of widespread techniques, such as spreadsheets, with high-level languages as C or FORTRAN and object-oriented languages such as JAVA or Visual BASIC. This paper specifically demonstrates the combination of Microsoft Excel with FORTRAN programs, through a Visual BASIC interface. The popularity of spreadsheets makes them the ideal tools to illustrate nonlinear interrelations among different design variables in complex processes. These variables, however, are typically connected through a complex set of algebraic and differential equations, whose solution demands a robust numerical approach. Students are frequently distracted or frustrated in trying to deal with these difficulties. When these calculations are not essential to the process design principles being demonstrated, instructor-developed “black boxes” can be used to carry out cumbersome calculations in the background. This synergetic effect enables to highlight the most relevant process synthesis principles, while the student is kept away from the mathematical and numerical complexities involved in the solution of the problem. The case study presented serves to illustrate the effectiveness of a proper combination of programming techniques with conceptual design ideas.

I. Introduction

The use of calculation packages in Chemical Engineering (FLOWTRAN, PROCESS, and TK Solver) has become increasingly popular with technical advances in hardware. The use of these packages, however, is not an integral part of Chemical Engineering curriculum. Furthermore, there is not a consensus on which program or programs are preferable (Harb et al., 1997). This decision seems to depend in general of two factors: the instructor, and the course main topic.

Despite the technical advances in operating systems, and the development of graphical user interfaces that simplify the use of complex simulation packages, the controversy is still unresolved. The technological advances in new or alternative processes to deal with new financial, technical, environmental, and/or social issues impose new demands on instructors and course curricula. Indeed, while the total credits to obtain a Chemical Engineering degree has remained practically constant, a steadily increasing demand for supplementary material has been observed in courses covering fundamental Chemical Engineering principles (cf. Hernández and Gatica, 1997). Thus, much of the support material, such as computer programming and numerical analysis, has been relegated to support courses.

Colombo, M. A., & Hernández, M. R., & Gatica, J. E. (2000, June), An Alternative Route For Teaching Process Synthesis And Design Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8164

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