Quick! Tell me how Stratco has improved its sulfuric acid alkylation process in the last twenty years. Or design and specify a heat exchanger so it can be sent to vendors for bid. Wait, you mean you don't know how to do that? Well don't be alarmed if you don't. Many young engineers would be hard pressed to come up with a solution to those problems. In fact, some seasoned engineers would have some problems finding an answer in a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately, your bosses are aware of this too and will usually find someone with some seniority to work you through the process. But what if you're the only chemical engineer in your group? Or worse, what if the person who is suppose to mentor you ends up feeding you incorrect information and you aren't aware of it until someone else points out your mistakes years later? How would you know?
Beyond Google: finding reliable answers online
Believe it or not, these are actual scenarios that have happened to young engineers right out of college. More than likely, many of you will not be put into trying situations like these, but it is always a good idea to know that you have a place that allows you quick access to technically relevant information. Google and other Internet search engines are great tools for sniffing out such information, but with any search engine, you must sift through website after website in hopes that the information you are seeking is there - not to mention reliable. One of the few other alternates an engineer has at this point is to just buy a book on that specific topic, but any technical book will cost you in excess of $100 each. And for all the off-the-wall stuff an engineer will see over a career, those costs begin to add up.
However, AIChE has partnered with not only Knovel but also McGraw-Hill to provide its members access to their very extensive online library of technical books. It's AIChE's eLibrary. Access to the eLibrary is incredibly simple. First you must login into the AIChE main page.If you don't know your login information then click on the "Forgot Login Info" circled in red. You'll be prompted to enter your email address.
If you don't happen to know what email your AIChE membership is attached to, or you haven't register your online account, you can also enter your email address on the Request User Name and Password page and it will prompt you with a new user registration page. If your email address is not on file, you will be able to set up your account. You can also contact AIChE Customer Service at 800-242-4363 (US) or 01-203-702-7660 (outside US) to set up your account or update an email address.
Once you've logged in, go to menu bar on the AIChE front page and click on the Member Center and scroll down to AIChE eLibrary as shown below:
After clicking on the link, you'll be taken to this page:
From here you'll have direct access to both Knovel and McGraw-Hill (shown as AccessEngineering) online libraries. Each website might prompt you to agree to their terms of service, but it should be a simple matter of agreeing and clicking okay.
Now that you have access to the libraries, how does one go about finding the relevant information? Fortunately, the splash pages for both websites make it fairly easy to navigate and hone in on sources that are directly relevant to chemical engineers. So let's say you go to McGraw-Hill's website and you see this:
Among the categories on the front page, Chemical stands out amongst the group. Several other relevant categories are shown, but for most chemical engineering problems, that category covers most of them.
Immediately, you'll notice a list of books. Among them is a handbook on petroleum refining process. Well, alkylation is a refining process, so let's see if this book covers it.
Once you click on the book, you'll see the table of contents--and the second chapter is devoted entirely to Stratco's alkylation process. Included in the chapter are all sorts of general information about the process, including improvements made to it over the last several years.
As for Knovel, the splash page is even more straightforward, as it has a list of books chosen especially for AIChE members:
When the highlighted link is clicked, it will take you to a list of sources. If one were to scroll down the list, one particular source jumps right at you:
When clicking on the link about exchanger design, the contents are displayed like so:
From here, you can read up on the particulars of specifying an exchanger and learn about common pitfalls to avoid when calculating their design. In addition, the Knovel website has a few more interactive tools included. For instance, a user can pull entire tables from the book into a spreadsheet or even create line fits to graphs. For more information about other interactive tools the Knovel website has to offer, please check out their tutorial video on how to use their online library. With just a few clicks of a mouse, we were able to answer two questions that probably would have taken us significant amount of time to hunt down and read up on. Hopefully, this article has enlightened you to yet another benefit of being an AIChE member. Have fun and happy hunting!