Asee peer logo

Using Your Unit Operations Lab

Download Paper |


1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.588.1 - 4.588.5

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Valerie L. Young

Download Paper |

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

Session 2213

Using Your Unit Operations Laboratory Valerie L. Young Department of Chemical Engineering, Ohio University


Through planned exposure to the unit operations laboratory, students in introductory courses gain a deeper understanding of chemical engineering. In the "Energy Balances" course at Ohio University, students worked in groups to design a system to preheat the feed to the distillation column in the unit operations laboratory, using waste heat from the column. In their anonymous end-of-course review, many students named this project as the one they learned the most from, citing the need to tie together multiple concepts, and the feeling they were working on a real problem. Performance on the project suggests that students are competent in the technical content of the course, but need to develop a systems approach to engineering analysis and design. Providing more explicit guidance will make the project a more valuable learning tool.


Considerable space and resources are devoted to working demonstrations of concepts and process equipment in a unit operations laboratory. It typically stands empty except during the "Unit Operations Laboratory" course, which appears late in the curriculum. Until then, process equipment is treated as "a box on a page". Many students succeed with this abstract approach, some only because test questions fail to expose fundamental misconceptions. Stories abound of students who believe the two streams entering the heat exchanger mix inside and then magically separate when exiting. Because it is often idle, equipment in the unit operations laboratory can be used to reinforce and extend course content in undergraduate classes, without interfering with the laboratory course. Wankat and Oreovicz1 note that visits to local facilities are an underutilized teaching method. However, they also point out the loss of time to cover content, and the failure of some students to take the trip seriously since it is not covered on an exam. The author has addressed these drawbacks by incorporating "field trips" into graded projects designed to reinforce course content.2,3

The project described in this paper uses the distillation column in the Ohio University unit operations laboratory to reinforce concepts of sensible heat, latent heat, and binary vapor-liquid equilibrium in an introductory chemical engineering course. Its limited scope is appropriate for use as an introductory design project. Thus, the project contributes to meeting "technical content" objectives for the course and broader "a-through-k"4 objectives for the curriculum.


"Mass Balances" and "Energy Balances" are a two-quarter sequence of introductory chemical engineering courses at Ohio University. Their content is largely based on the classic text by Felder and Rousseau.5 Phase equilibrium, Raoult’s Law, and T-x,y diagrams are introduced in

Young, V. L. (1999, June), Using Your Unit Operations Lab Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1999 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015