June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.1045.1 - 12.1045.21
Measuring the Energy Content of Food: A ‘Relevant’ First Law Experiment for a Thermodynamics Class
What marginally motivated undergraduate student would not perk up at the thought of working with food or a “bomb”, or both, in a thermodynamics laboratory experiment? Sure, our experience has shown that students express some slight disappointment when they find out that the experiment in question does not involve any loud explosions or flashes of light, and that the food amounts are miniscule (on the order of a few grams, sealed in an unappetizing gelatin capsule); but, overall, students greatly enjoy performing the experiment described in this paper, and along the way learn some important lessons about applying the First Law of Thermodynamics and its relevance to our everyday lives.
In this paper we describe a thermodynamics experiment that involves measuring the energy content of a food sample, whose contents are unknown to the students. This is achieved by burning the sample in a combustion bomb, measuring the temperature rise of the water in the calorimeter, applying conservation of energy principles to estimate the energy value of the food sample in calories/gram and scurrying down supermarket aisles (or the internet) to collect nutritional information on a number of potential food items. The description will include an outline of the relevant measurements, calculations, engineering principles and their relevance to Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Program Outcomes.
Engineering Thermodynamics is a basic engineering science that deals with energy and energy transformation, as well as principles of problem-solving that span all engineering disciplines. The importance of energy to our economy and the relevance of energy to current economic, political and social problems cannot be overstated. That said, thermodynamics is often perceived as a difficult subject, and students often have a difficult time seeing relevance for the material during the early stages of their studies. Additionally, in those programs that require a thermodynamics course of all engineering majors, the non-mechanical engineering students often “resist enjoying” the material because they don’t immediately see relevance to their curricula or to their everyday lives.
The engineering curriculum at Oakland University consists of a common engineering core that has included engineering thermodynamics since its inception. In the fall of 2004, a Core Curriculum Review Committee was established to study the core and propose a revised common core that would include subject material deemed necessary to a well-rounded engineering education, while considering the additional constraints imposed upon the various programs resulting from accreditation requirements, the incorporation of modern technologies and increasing general education content on our campus. For those of us that wished to see thermodynamics remain a part of the core,
Sangeorzan, B., & Guessous, L. (2007, June), Measuring The Energy Content Of Food: A ‘Relevant’ First Law Experiment For A Thermodynamics Class Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2808
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