Asee peer logo

Closing The Gap Between Numerical Software Packages And Spreadsheet Users In Process Computations

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovation in ChE Teaching

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.311.1 - 10.311.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Michael Elly

author page

Mordechai Shacham

author page

Michael Cutlip

Download Paper |

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

Closing the Gap between Numerical Software Package and Spreadsheet Users in Process Computations Mordechai Shacham, Michael B. Cutlip, and Michael Elly

Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel /Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA / Intel Corp., Qiryat Gat, Israel and Portland, OR


Recent surveys have found that most practicing chemical engineers do not take advantage of sophisticated numerical methods for their computational needs which may require the solution of systems of nonlinear algebraic equations and/or the integration of systems of ordinary differential equations. This is due in part to the use of spreadsheet programs which are most commonly used in the industry for problem solving. In the spreadsheets, the application of numerical methods often requires substantial modification and coding of the model equations which is difficult and challenging in the programming environment that is available. Additionally, there is no easily-used differential equation solver tool for use in spreadsheet programming.

The Polymath software package that we have authored has recently been upgraded so that automatic exporting of a problem to an Excel™ spreadsheet for solution in addition to problem solution within Polymath. An ordinary differential equation solver tool called ODE_Solver has also been developed as a separate Excel Add-In. In this paper we demonstrate the combined use of the tools that we have developed, and we then illustrate the use of Excel to solve fairly complex problems which include a three phase flash calculation (solution of a system of non- linear algebraic equations) and the simulation of a propylene oxide polymerization reactor (solution of a system of ordinary differential equations).

The automatic Excel export capability will be welcomed by practicing engineers for documenting their results and making them available as programs that run in Excel. In an industrial setting, Polymath can serve as a pseudo “compiler” that enables converting complex, realistic problems into Excel code while the results are obtained solely from within Excel. Since Polymath can also solve the same problems as those exported to Excel, there is the ability to verify the solutions found with these two separate software packages.

As this new version of Polymath has enhanced capabilities when compared to previous versions, it can also fulfill most of the numerical computational needs in undergraduate and graduate education. The main educational benefit of the Excel export capability is that the same techniques that are studied in the University can be applied in industry.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Elly, M., & Shacham, M., & Cutlip, M. (2005, June), Closing The Gap Between Numerical Software Packages And Spreadsheet Users In Process Computations Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15577

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015