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Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics: Transforming Thermo Lectures Into A Dynamic Experience

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.140.1 - 3.140.6

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Paper Authors

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Rebecca K. Toghiani

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

Session 1313

Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics: Transforming “Thermo” Lectures into a “Dynamic” Experience Rebecca K. Toghiani P.O. Box 9595 Department of Chemical Engineering Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS 39762


One of the more challenging subjects for engineering undergraduates is thermodynamics. From students’ comments in both chemical engineering and other engineering disciplines at the three different institutions where I have taught, it is often viewed as ‘voodoo’ magic (the students’ terminology) at worst and at best, limited in its applicability to problems they encounter in other courses. However, fundamental thermodynamic principles arise in so many areas of chemical engineering that a sound background in thermodynamics is of immense value to the undergraduate student. Providing the student with real world examples and applications of thermodynamic principles from other chemical engineering courses/concepts can help them to better integrate their understanding of thermodynamics with these other topics and affords them the ability to draw on this understanding to explore new and unfamiliar topics.

Most chemical engineering undergraduate curriculums require a two course sequence of thermodynamics. The first course generally focuses on the application of mass, energy and entropy balances to chemical and engineering processes. The second course generally entails an examination of non-ideal behavior – both for pure components and for mixtures, as well as phase and chemical equilibria. These courses are often steeped in theory (particularly the second course) and provide limited exposure to the specific applications in unit operations and in industry where these non-ideal effects are significant. If one were to poll undergraduates in chemical engineering, I believe that many would feel that their undergraduate training in this critical area of chemical engineering did not provide them with: 1) sufficient opportunities to examine applications where non-ideal behavior significantly impacts subsequent process design; 2) the ability to readily apply/incorporate the effect of non-ideal behavior as a function of process operating conditions in their subsequent unit operations and design classes; and 3) the opportunity to actually observe non ideal behavior in the liquid or gas phase.

The typical lecture format often utilized in these classes does not provide sufficient opportunity for students to visually observe the pertinent behavior that is described so well with mathematical formulae in their textbook. All of the chemical engineering thermodynamics textbooks available do present experimental data in graphical form; in some texts, extensive use is made of literature data in examples, explanations of phenomena and in end-of-chapter problems. These graphical representations and use of literature data in examples and problems can help students to integrate these concepts with material from other courses. A second method which can provide the opportunity to visualize various phenomena is through the use of in-class demonstrations and active learning experiences. Since the majority of students are visual learners

Toghiani, R. K. (1998, June), Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics: Transforming Thermo Lectures Into A Dynamic Experience Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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