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Ch E Power! A Hands On Introduction To Energy Balances On The Human Body

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

The Biology Interface

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.289.1 - 8.289.12



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Paper Authors

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Mariano Savelski

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Stephanie Farrell

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Robert Hesketh

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

Session 2613

ChE Power!

A Hands-on Introduction to Energy Balances on the Human Body

Stephanie Farrell, Mariano J. Savelski, and Robert Hesketh Department of Chemical Engineering

Department of Chemical Engineering Rowan University Glassboro, NJ 08028

Abstract Our lungs are membrane system that allows the exchange of O2, CO2, and H2O between the body and the air. When air is inhaled, oxygen is transported to the blood by diffusion through the alveolar membrane. Carbon dioxide is simultaneously removed from the blood to the air in the lungs, and is then exhaled. Oxygen in the blood is transported to cells where it oxidizes fats and carbohydrates to release energy, and carbon dioxide is a waste product of this reaction that must be removed. Breathing also plays a role in heat transfer and thermal regulation, since heat transferred to the air in the lungs is removed as sensible and latent heat during exhalation. We have developed a module based on a hands-on experiment that introduces chemical engineering principles through the exploration of the breathing and metabolic processes. Students use this information to (1) perform simple mass and energy balances on the lungs, (2) determine the total rate of energy expenditure (3) determine the composition of food oxidized for energy using reaction stoichiometry (4) use a process simulator to perform mass and energy balances on the breathing process and (5) to analyze the role of breathing in thermal regulation.

Introduction Rowan’s two-semester Freshman Clinic sequence introduces all freshmen engineering students to engineering in a hands-on, active learning environment. Engineering measurements and reverse engineering methods are common threads that tie together the different engineering disciplines. Previous reverse engineering projects have involved common household products such as automatic coffee makers [1,2,3], hair dryers and electric toothbrushes [4]. Recently, the human body was added to the repertoire of familiar machines to be reverse engineered. In a semester-long project, freshmen engineering students explore the interacting systems of the human body in a hands-on, active learning environment. They discover the function, interaction, and response to changing demands of various systems in the human body: the respiratory, metabolic, cardiovascular, electrical, and musculoskeletal systems. This paper describes a laboratory experiment in which students are introduced to engineering measurements and calculations, estimations and unit conversions through their application to the respiratory system.

Students measure physiologic variables such as breathing rate, and respiratory gas compositions at rest and during moderate exercise on an exercise bicycle ergometer. We have previously

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Savelski, M., & Farrell, S., & Hesketh, R. (2003, June), Ch E Power! A Hands On Introduction To Energy Balances On The Human Body Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11832

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