(166b) Integration of the Unit Operations Laboratory with a Focus On Biofuel Production | AIChE

(166b) Integration of the Unit Operations Laboratory with a Focus On Biofuel Production


Pfaendtner, J. - Presenter, University of Washington

This presentation will highlight our reconfiguration of the senior chemical engineering unit operations (UO) lab (CHEM E 437) at the University of Washington.  Using the themes of biotechnology and renewable energy, we have developed a new pedagogical model, which emphasizes 1) collaboration between teams and 2) developing instincts for thinking about the impact of single unit operations on the operation of an entire production facility.  The production of renewable energy is one of the most important technological problems that we face today. This challenge also offers us an opportunity to motivate and shape the early careers of Chemical Engineering undergraduate students.  The most innovative component of the new laboratory is the complete integration of new and existing experimental stations. The senior UO lab was integrated to model a bio-fuel production plant where student groups work on individual operations that make up a complete process. This full-plant view of the laboratory allows students, for the first time, to evaluate the effects of their decisions on upstream and downstream plant operations. Furthermore, it also provides a common framework to promote active discussion and engagement among student groups. The transformation of the course included the development of completely new modules for fermentation of biomass and the modification of existing equipment and modules for the treatment, separation and extraction of product and waste streams. The new fermentation modules utilize internet-based remote monitoring technologies to track the development of fermentations while students are outside of the laboratory. Fully interconnected units now define a common goal of reducing costs and improving productivity and replace the original independent and unrelated experiments. The new structure also allows us to easily incorporate design concepts, such as cost analysis and environmental compliance, into the laboratory. The objective of the re-designed course is to provide a realistic structure that is congruent with what students will experience after graduation. The new laboratory structure is also designed to foster leadership, creative thinking, composure under uncertainty and the critical review of information. Furthermore, with the new structure, we also continue to meet the original learning objectives of instructing students on the basics of experimental planning and reporting.  We will additionally present evaluation and assessment of the student experience from the first round of the new lab and our updated plans for continuing to improve the student experience in our course.