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Cooking a Hamburger in Silico to Prevent Food Poisoning

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Chemical Engineering in Silico

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.384.1 - 22.384.8



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Paper Authors


Charles J. Coronella University of Nevada, Reno

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Chuck Coronella is an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he has been since 1993. He earned his B.S. from Lehigh University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. His research interests are in the areas of waste-to-energy processing and thermochemical conversion of biomass.

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Victor R. Vasquez University of Nevada, Reno

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Cooking a hamburger in silico to prevent food poisoning E. Coli in undercooked hamburger meat causes as many as 300,000 cases of foodpoisoning in the U.S. each year. The FDA recommends cooking hamburger until atemperature of 160°F is reached throughout, but that is an overly simplistic approach. The rateof destruction of E. Coli is approximately first order, with a temperature-dependent rateconstant. If the temperature profile of a hamburger is known, then it is possible to determinethe rate of destruction of E. Coli, and therefore to predict the time required for completedestruction of all bacteria. We give the assignment to simulate cooking a hamburger in a second-year computermethods class. The problem uses real data, and its solution is open ended. Students are guidedin the use of finite difference techniques, in interpolation, and in root solving. Students aregiven temperature dependent data for enthalpy and thermal conductivity, which must beconverted to a continuous function for the solution. Students select boundary conditions, inorder to determine the optimal cooking conditions. Students select the software tools forsolution of the problem. Students enrolled in this course are sophomores, and have had limited exposure to heattransfer and thermodynamics. The project is an excellent vehicle for introducing students tothose topics, and offers exposure to food engineering, as well. The project is used in a fourth-semester course for chemical engineering majors.Typically, the only chemical engineering course students have completed prior to this one is atraditional "Mass and energy balance", although they should have completed three semestersof calculus. Much of the course is centered around teaching basic numerical methods andteaching use of important software tools. Student feedback from the project has always been positive. Although the project isvery demanding, all groups have managed to complete the project, some needing more helpthan others. The students enjoy the challenge of solving a "real" problem that they can relateto, and report significant satisfaction upon completion.

Coronella, C. J., & Vasquez, V. R. (2011, June), Cooking a Hamburger in Silico to Prevent Food Poisoning Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17665

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