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The Virtual Chemical Engineering Unit Operations Laboratory

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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

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1188.1 - 8.1188.11



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Paper Authors

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William Lan

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Karlene Hoo

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Jason Williams

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Harry Parker

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Charles Smith

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Theodore Wiesner

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


The Virtual Chemical Engineering Unit Operations Laboratory

Jason L. Williams, Marcus Hilliard, Charles Smith, Karlene A. Hoo, Ph.D., Theodore F. Wiesner, Ph.D., P.E., Harry W. Parker, Ph.D., P.E. and William Lan, Ph.D.*

Department of Chemical Engineering/*College of Education Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX 79409


There appears to be a growing trend in the chemical process industry (CPI) to reduce the dependency on pilot-plant studies by increasing the use of computer process modeling. For the CPI, this approach is reliable, safe, and cost effective. In the traditional pedagogy of unit operations laboratory, students are required to conduct experiments on lab-scale equipment. This practice may lead to a mismatch between the student's learning experience and later employment expectations. Therefore, while the traditional unit operations laboratory ought to remain an integral part of the chemical engineering curriculum, the instructional material should be modified to adapt to the increasing use of information technology in the chemical process industries. It is expected that with an increase in the authenticity and reliability of this form of pedagogy, student learning will be enhanced. A simultaneous benefit is a reduction in the financial burden associated with purchasing and maintaining expensive physical laboratory equipment and supplies.

To address this adaptation, we are developing a virtual unit operations laboratory. The pedagogical format includes the following.

(1)The partial replacement of selected lab-scale physical unit operations experiments with computer visualization of data from full-scale, industrial chemical processes. Using the process simulator, CHEMCAD™, which contains both steady state and dynamic unit operations models, we demonstrate the separation of mixture of organic acids using multiple distillation columns in series. The module simulates an actual separation train at the Celanese plant in Pampa, TX. We obtain excellent agreement with the archival data donated by Celanese. We also explore process conditions and alternative designs with the module, as would be done in an industrial process engineering department.

(2)Virtual analogs to the lab scale unit operations experiments of heat exchange, mass transfer, and humidification. Using LabVIEW software, we have developed a realistic control room interface overlaying a mathematical model of the unit operation. The student conducts the virtual experiment in the same fashion as the physical experiment.

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

Lan, W., & Hoo, K., & Williams, J., & Parker, H., & Smith, C., & Wiesner, T. (2003, June), The Virtual Chemical Engineering Unit Operations Laboratory Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11731

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