• EfCE-33-36-44

A virtual laboratory to support chemical reaction engineering courses using real-life problems and industrial software

Authors: Juan Ramírez, David Soto, Sebastian López, Jethro Akroyd, Daniel Nurkowski, Maria Botero, Nicola Bianco, George Brownbridge, Markus Kraft*, and Alejandro Molina

Reference: Education for Chemical Engineers 33, 36-44, (2020)

  • A virtual laboratory was developed to support chemical reaction engineering courses.
  • Labs include real-life processes such as steam cracking, Diesel and H2 combustion.
  • Use of economic constraints to close an open-ended problem was highly valued by users.
  • The use of industrial software increased the real-life character of the experiments.

A virtual laboratory has been developed to support chemical reaction engineering courses. Real-life engineering challenges that are difficult to address in a university laboratory give the opportunity to illustrate basic concepts of chemical reaction engineering such as the relationship between temperature and reaction rate, space time and conversion, and inert concentration and selectivity. Six virtual experiments covering topics from petroleum refining, diesel combustion, nanoparticle growth, and hydrogen combustion form the basis of the virtual laboratory. The characteristics embedded in the experiments include the use of economic analysis to give closure to open-ended problems, the solution of engineering problems with high environmental relevance and finally, the ability to solve complex engineering problems related to state-of-the-art technologies, for example the synthesis of functionalized nanoparticles. Trial tests with senior students, with continual feedback and freedom in terms of the delivery date were used to evaluate and improve the experiments. Subsequently, a classroom test with 45 undergraduate students with a fixed deadline was performed. The challenges and opportunities to use virtual experiments supported by industrial software to teach real-life problems to undergraduate students have been critically assessed.

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*Corresponding author:
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 762784 (Dept) 769010 (CHU)
Address: Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology
University of Cambridge
West Cambridge Site
Philippa Fawcett Drive
Cambridge CB3 0AS
United Kingdom
Website: Personal Homepage