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Use Of Process Simulation And Mccabe Thiele Modeling In Teaching Distillation

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Control in the Classroom

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1237.1 - 7.1237.8



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Paper Authors

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Kevin Dahm

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Main Menu Session 3513

Use of Process Simulation and McCabe-Thiele Modeling in Teaching Distillation

Kevin Dahm Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ


The increasing prominence of process simulation has led to new ideas on how to teach separation processes such as column distillation to students. Graphical techniques such as McCabe-Thiele modeling have value in that they provide a compact framework for visualizing the process and illustrating concepts and phenomena, but no longer represent the state-of-the-art in engineering practice. Process simulators are recognizable as practical engineering design aids, but have pedagogical drawbacks. A student can use process simulation to model a distillation column without understanding the physical process of distillation at all. The challenge is to strike a balance that will prepare students for engineering practice, giving them both a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the physical process and a familiarity with modern computational tools.

This paper will give a detailed description of the method employed in the Equilibrium Staged Operations course at Rowan University during the Fall 2000 and Fall 2001 semesters. The first introduction to column distillation employed a complete HYSYS model prepared by the instructor. This was used for inductive illustration of such cause-effect relationships as the increase in reboiler heat duty that accompanies increases in the reflux ratio. The instructor then led the class through hand calculations that further illustrated physical explanations for the trends uncovered by the HYSYS model. This ultimately led to a deductive derivation of the McCabe- Thiele model. Hand calculations and HYSYS modeling were then combined in the solution of practical design problems. The paper will detail each step in this process, with examples. It will also discuss how this approach engages students with a wide variety of learning styles. The paper uses column distillation as an example but the approach is readily extended to other processes.


Standard texts on equilibrium staged separations 1,2 present the McCabe-Thiele, graphical approach as a primary tool for modeling and designing staged separation processes such as distillation, absorption, extraction and stripping. The development of process simulation software, however, has impacted the way this material is taught. In a recent survey3 of U.S. chemical engineering departments, 57% of respondents indicated that they now use process simulators in teaching equilibrium-staged separations.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Dahm, K. (2002, June), Use Of Process Simulation And Mccabe Thiele Modeling In Teaching Distillation Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10416

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