(271e) A Web-Based Unit Operations Lab for Enhancing Design, Control and Optimization in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Courses
AIChE Annual Meeting
Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 9:00am to 9:15am
A Web-Based Unit Operations Lab for Enhancing Design, Control and Optimization in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Courses
As we progress from delivery of instructional material from classroom to the internet, there is a need to develop virtual laboratory exercises to supplement the theoretical concepts covered in lectures. Many solutions are available on the Internet to deal with theoretical concepts remotely by the use of Learning Management Systems (LMS). However, solutions for laboratory exercises are usually scarce and most of the time they are substituted by theoretical exercises. Experimental exercises in a laboratory setting are really important in any discipline, but it is particularly relevant in engineering studies, where lab sessions are the connections between theory and practice by the use of real systems or semi-industrial processes. In the last decade, virtual labs have proven to be very versatile and valuable for providing practical experience for students in STE (Science, Technology and Engineering) fields (Alkhaldi, Pranata et al. 2016, Galan, Heradio et al. 2016, Heradio, de la Torre et al. 2016, Heradio, de la Torre et al. 2016, Potkonjak, Gardner et al. 2016). The main feature of these virtual labs is that they provide experiments that are based on realistic models of industrially important and technologically challenging process systems, what increases motivation of the students and at the same time provides relevant practical knowledge that enhances their educational experience.
There are many ways to provide web-based experimental experience. One approach is to create remote labs, which are web-based solution with access to actual experiments which can be operated remotely. Although this solution allows student to connect with the real system, it is limited to one user at a time which reduces its accessibility and it requires modifications in the real facilities to allow safe remote access and operation. A second approach is to develop virtual labs, which base the experiments on a virtual model of a system or process that mimics real-world behavior as much as possible. Such simulated exercises may be downloadable and run on a personal computer often using specialized software platforms such as Matlab or Aspen Plus. With the increased use of alternatives to personal computer such as tablets, smart phones and similar devices, the versatility of access and use can be improved if the virtual lab could be run entirely on the web without the need to download and use expensive software platforms.
In this presentation, we will discuss the development and use of a purely web-based simulation lab to teach concepts of design, operation, control and optimization of an anaerobic waste digester. The process is highly motivating to the students since it addresses two of the most pressing societal issues: waste biomass disposal and production of renewable energy. The anaerobic digester converts waste biomass into energetically useful biogas while producing organic manure.
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