Credited for his vision of combining fundamental molecular theory with practical thermodynamic applications in what he called molecular thermodynamics, John M. Prausnitz has profoundly affected the chemical engineering discipline. A tribute to Prausnitz in the September issue of the AIChE Journal explores this impact.
Early chemical engineering texts on thermodynamics provided all of the classical thermodynamic relationships between conceptual pure-component and mixture properties, including system energies and entropies, as well as component fugacities and activity coefficients, and system conditions. Those important texts, as well as others published during the mid-20th century, were of limited value for the design of industrial processes, because the general equations they provided were principally in the form of graphs or empirical equations that could only be solved by calculators.
Two developments occurred during the middle of the 20th century. First, technology advances made it possible to obtain data faster. Engineers began to record property and phase equilibrium measurements and then empirically correlate them for the design of new chemical processes. At the same time, significant advances in fundamental and applied statistical and quantum mechanics provided models of...
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