(219e) Design Simulation for the Process Industries: An Inter-Institutional Initiative for Chemical Engineering Education in Ireland

Orefice, F., University College Dublin
Donnellan, P., University College Dublin
Hensey, C., Carmel.Hensey@Ucd.Ie
Mooney, D., University College Dublin
Glennon, B., APC Ltd.
Hannon, J., DynoChem Inc
Milne, J., National Institute for Bioprocessing Research & Training
Kieran, P., University College Dublin
Oliveira, J., University College Cork

Irish Engineering Graduates Advancing Global Manufacturing Competitiveness: Design Simulation for the Process Industriesis an inter-institutional project, sponsored by the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The aim of the project is to enhance integration of simulation tools in Chemical/Process Engineering curricula, with specific emphasis on applications of relevance to the pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical/chemical sectors. Irish Chemical/Process Engineering graduates play key roles in these robust sectors, which currently account for more than half of total annual Irish exports. The project involves all third-level institutions in Ireland offering relevant degree programmes (UCD, CIT, DCU, DIT, UCC, UL) and is supported by simulation tool users (graduates and graduate employers) and providers (DynoChem), as well as the Irish National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT).

The aim of the project is to develop suites of shared, online tools or Learning Objects, for use by Chemical/Process Engineering students, as part of or - supplementary to - scheduled learning activities, in 4 key areas: fermentation, chromatography, distillation and process control. Learning outcomes associated with the tools are developed with reference to professional (IChemE) accreditation guidelines. Where applicable, experimental work is coupled with simulation activities. On completion of the project, media-rich resources will be accessible to students and faculty via a shared, online platform, facilitating both independent and faculty-directed student access. This paper provides a summary of the project activities and outputs, over the course of the 20-month project period.

Learning Object Development

Through a series of 1-day workshops, learning outcomes relevant to each of the four thematic activities were identified and an initial specification development document for the multi-media content was developed, in terms of the types, number and pedagogical granularity of Learning Objects. For Chromatography, the focus was on the development of resources to provide students with virtual access to process-scale chromatography operations, to supplement traditional lecture-based materials and laboratory-scale experimental work; NIBRT provided access to state-of-the art bioprocessing facilities, including a full-instrumented process-scale chromatography skid. For Fermentation, a fermentation database was developed, for batch and continuous fermentation of S. cerevisaein a 15L bioreactor; the data are used as the basis for DynoChem-based simulations, to allow students to explore the fermentation process, beyond the experimental confines. The NIBRT industrial-standard bioreactor facilities feature in a video-based bioreactor tutorial, which includes segments on gowning and safety procedures for biopharmaceutical operations. The distillation work builds from laboratory- and pilot-scale experimental systems (batch, batch with reflux and solvent swap). Supporting video-based tutorials and exercises, in DynoChem and ASPEN, have been developed, to provide students with self-directed opportunities to become familiar with the simulation tools, and then to deepen their understanding of the relevant distillation concepts and processes. For Process Control, to date, a MATLAB-based simulation for PID control has been developed, as well as a database of MCQs for key process control principles. Student engagement is a priority of the National Forum and students (undergraduate students, Interns, IAESTE Trainees) were directly involved in the development and testing of Learning Objects in all subject areas.

Preliminary Application of Distillation Learning Objects

During the 2016-17 academic year, preliminary versions of the ASPEN-based distillation resources were trialled in Semester 1, in 3 x 3-hour interactive sessions, based in a computer-room. The 3rdYear (Junior-level) Chemical & Bioprocess Engineering students, who had not previously used ASPEN, completed exercises on NIST data retrieval, flash separations and distillation processes (using both short-cut and rigorous methods), supported by short video tutorials and written instructions. Cooperation was encouraged, with students assigned to small groups for the sessions. In Semester 2, using an approach similar to that described by Mott et al. (2013), the same students undertook 2 distillation-based experiments (laboratory-scale batch distillation and pilot-scale batch distillation with reflux), subsequently using ASPEN Batch Modeler to model the system under the operating conditions and then to explore the effect of conditions beyond the scope of the experiment.

Preliminary Conclusion

Based on preliminary trials of Learning Objects developed to date, the resources show potential for effectively supplementing student learning and for developing student proficiency in the use of simulation tools for key unit operations/processes for pharmaceutical/biopharmacuetical applications. The project presents a model for effective inter-institutional cooperation and engagement of stake-holders (including students, employers and simluation tool providers) in the development of shared learning resources.


Mott, L., Seay, J.R. & Silverstein, D.L. "Tools for Teaching Batch Distillation Inductively using Process Simulation”, 2013 American Society for Engineering Education Conference Proceedings, ASEE, June 2013.


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