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Using a Techno-Economic Model to Promote Consideration of Uncertainty in Bioengineering Design

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Development of Technical and Soft Skills in BME

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Paper Authors


Xuwen Xiang Oregon State University

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Xuwen is currently a doctoral candidate in Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He currently has research focused on techno-economic analysis of glucosamine and lipid from algae.

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James D. Sweeney Oregon State University

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James D. Sweeney is Professor and Head of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1988 and 1983, respectively, and his Sc.B. Engineering degree (Biomedical Engineering) from Brown University in 1979. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and a Senior Member of IEEE and AIChE.

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Natasha Mallette PhD Oregon State University


Christine Kelly Oregon State University

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Dr. Kelly earned her BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arizona and her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee. She served as an Assistant Professor for 6 years at Syracuse University, and has been an Associate Professor at Oregon State University in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering since 2004, where she also served for three and half years as the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs of the College of Engineering.

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Decision making is an integral aspect of the engineering design process. Engineers solve complex open-ended design problems with a variety of technical and non-technical constraints. In many engineering courses this kind of decision making can lack realistic context and uncertainty in the information available to students. Developing instructional materials that expose students to and guiding them towards increased comfort and skill in tackling design problems with inherent uncertainty should be of interest to engineering educators with interests in design course development focused on incorporation of more authentic and realistic engineering practices.

A project was delivered in the first term of a three quarter, revitalized senior design sequence in a bioengineering program that includes instruction in both biomedical and bioprocessing engineering. The first term is the bioprocessing course, which is followed by a bioproduct design course, and then a hands-on prototyping course. Teams of three students in a class of 37 students used a comprehensive techno-economic model (developed in MatLab) to recommend theoretical investments in Fall 2016. The model is of an algae cultivation and downstream process to produce the nutraceutical glucosamine and a lipid co-product. Students varied an assortment of input parameters (technical, economic and variability) to obtain the product selling price given an internal rate of return from the model. Example inputs include growth rates, chitin content, recycle fraction, internal rate of return, equipment costs, raw material and utility costs, etc.

Students were asked to consider a variety of technological, economic, ethical, regulatory, and environmental constraints and concerns about the process and the product in their memo indicating a recommendation for investment. Options include proceeding with a detailed plant design, optimizing the design, pursuing further process development, allocating funds for specific research, abandoning the project, or other options. Student teams developed memos that explained their decision, the data used from the model, other data they obtained, and the justification for their decision. The memos and post project survey were analyzed to understand how the project met the objectives and to give insight on the research questions. We believe the authenticity and open-ended nature of the assignment gave students an opportunity to integrate material they have learned from a variety of technical and professional skill courses.

Xiang, X., & Sweeney, J. D., & Mallette, N., & Kelly, C. (2017, June), Using a Techno-Economic Model to Promote Consideration of Uncertainty in Bioengineering Design Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29069

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