Research Paper - Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering Chemical Engineering Notes | EduRev

Chemical Engineering : Research Paper - Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering Chemical Engineering Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering
Prof. Gennaro (Jerry) Maffia
Associate Professor & Chairman
Department of Chemical Engineering
Widener University
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013
ABSTRACT
The capstone course in chemical engineering at Widener
University is divided into two semesters. In the fall
semester, students experience the application of chemical
engineering principles to the development, design,
operation and evaluation of all major process equipment.
Two in-class examinations are given during the term and a
common project is assigned to all students. Students are
allowed to work in small teams, although each student must
submit a separate project report. Typical projects have been
the design and equipment specification for the manufacture
of propylene from ethylene via metathesis or the conversion
of methane to ethylene via oxidative coupling, among
others. In doing so, students also gain exposure to industrial
computing tools such as ASPEN, SIMSCI, HYSYS,
PROCEDE, and STELLA among other programs. The
course is taught in a state-of-the-art computer classroom in
which each student has his or her own computer station
which is part of a LAN that serves the school of
engineering.
In the second semester, students randomly pick a
technology out of an envelope. The course requirements are
for students to provide a process design package for a world
scale manufacturing facility by the end of the semester.
Such a document is often called a “black book” in industry.
Students are also required to present and defend their
design. Feedback from the students has been positive and
they exhibit pride and ownership in their work. There are
no tests given. Some suggestions on milestones are provided
in the course syllabus and the professor works closely with
students as they proceed with the design. However, it is the
student’s responsibility to perform the required literature
searches, develop a conceptual block diagram, and to
develop the process details during the semester. About
midway through the semester, the students give a short, five
slide presentation on the status of their process design to the
full faculty and fellow students. A final presentation is due
at the end of the course in which the students describe their
results. This is one of the few times in their college careers
in which their work is completely different than their fellow
classmates during the same course. It appears to be a good
learning experience for all those involved.
INTRODUCTION
The capstone design course at Widener University provides
students with the opportunity to develop skills for the design
and rating of chemical plants in a creative manner. The
senior design experience consists of two separate (and
sequential) courses: CHE 425, Process Design Methods
(offered during the fall semester) and CHE 428 Process
Design (offered during the spring semester). Students are
assigned a separate grade at the end of each semester. These
courses are open to students who have completed three
years of the chemical engineering curriculum, including all
the science and math courses, as well as, the basic chemical
engineering courses, such as, Chemical Engineering
Principles, Thermodynamics I and II, Transport Phenomena
and Mass Transfer (see Table 1; the senior design course is
highlighted in boldface). Engineering Controls, Reaction
Kinetics, and Introduction to Biotechnology are all taken
concurrently during the senior year. Additionally, many
students have a year of industrial experience obtained
through the highly successful cooperative education
program (also known as internships).
The philosophical approach to the presentation of the
design course (and therefore the course logistics) is very
much influenced by the professor. For example, in some
schools, an engineer from industry will provide guidance
and sometimes co-teach the design course. This allows for
the adequate flow of realistic problems to the students and
solid advice from a practicing engineer. In other schools,
where the ties to industry are very strong via the professor’s
current consulting or former employment, a co-teacher is
frequently not used. In such cases, the professor handles the
development of appropriate problems. Outside speakers may
be called in as needed to cover specific topics and to provide
another perspective regarding design and operation for the
students. Also, graduate students may help with the
implementation since the instruction of design requires
significant personal attention. Intense, personalized
attention is especially required during the student’s initial
exposure to the general process simulators, such as,
ASPEN, HYSYS, and SIMSCI. At Widener University, a
Page 2


Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering
Prof. Gennaro (Jerry) Maffia
Associate Professor & Chairman
Department of Chemical Engineering
Widener University
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013
ABSTRACT
The capstone course in chemical engineering at Widener
University is divided into two semesters. In the fall
semester, students experience the application of chemical
engineering principles to the development, design,
operation and evaluation of all major process equipment.
Two in-class examinations are given during the term and a
common project is assigned to all students. Students are
allowed to work in small teams, although each student must
submit a separate project report. Typical projects have been
the design and equipment specification for the manufacture
of propylene from ethylene via metathesis or the conversion
of methane to ethylene via oxidative coupling, among
others. In doing so, students also gain exposure to industrial
computing tools such as ASPEN, SIMSCI, HYSYS,
PROCEDE, and STELLA among other programs. The
course is taught in a state-of-the-art computer classroom in
which each student has his or her own computer station
which is part of a LAN that serves the school of
engineering.
In the second semester, students randomly pick a
technology out of an envelope. The course requirements are
for students to provide a process design package for a world
scale manufacturing facility by the end of the semester.
Such a document is often called a “black book” in industry.
Students are also required to present and defend their
design. Feedback from the students has been positive and
they exhibit pride and ownership in their work. There are
no tests given. Some suggestions on milestones are provided
in the course syllabus and the professor works closely with
students as they proceed with the design. However, it is the
student’s responsibility to perform the required literature
searches, develop a conceptual block diagram, and to
develop the process details during the semester. About
midway through the semester, the students give a short, five
slide presentation on the status of their process design to the
full faculty and fellow students. A final presentation is due
at the end of the course in which the students describe their
results. This is one of the few times in their college careers
in which their work is completely different than their fellow
classmates during the same course. It appears to be a good
learning experience for all those involved.
INTRODUCTION
The capstone design course at Widener University provides
students with the opportunity to develop skills for the design
and rating of chemical plants in a creative manner. The
senior design experience consists of two separate (and
sequential) courses: CHE 425, Process Design Methods
(offered during the fall semester) and CHE 428 Process
Design (offered during the spring semester). Students are
assigned a separate grade at the end of each semester. These
courses are open to students who have completed three
years of the chemical engineering curriculum, including all
the science and math courses, as well as, the basic chemical
engineering courses, such as, Chemical Engineering
Principles, Thermodynamics I and II, Transport Phenomena
and Mass Transfer (see Table 1; the senior design course is
highlighted in boldface). Engineering Controls, Reaction
Kinetics, and Introduction to Biotechnology are all taken
concurrently during the senior year. Additionally, many
students have a year of industrial experience obtained
through the highly successful cooperative education
program (also known as internships).
The philosophical approach to the presentation of the
design course (and therefore the course logistics) is very
much influenced by the professor. For example, in some
schools, an engineer from industry will provide guidance
and sometimes co-teach the design course. This allows for
the adequate flow of realistic problems to the students and
solid advice from a practicing engineer. In other schools,
where the ties to industry are very strong via the professor’s
current consulting or former employment, a co-teacher is
frequently not used. In such cases, the professor handles the
development of appropriate problems. Outside speakers may
be called in as needed to cover specific topics and to provide
another perspective regarding design and operation for the
students. Also, graduate students may help with the
implementation since the instruction of design requires
significant personal attention. Intense, personalized
attention is especially required during the student’s initial
exposure to the general process simulators, such as,
ASPEN, HYSYS, and SIMSCI. At Widener University, a
chemical engineering student will begin to use the computer
during the freshman year.
The instruction of design is more of a mentoring
process. The professor cannot actually teach creativity; it is
more of a nurturing process. Students develop their own
particular style and approach to chemical engineering
problems. The professor/mentor should offer minimum
guidance and is most valuable in the development of
appropriate course materials. Such materials include
problems and adequate design software.
     Table 1
Design in the Curriculum for the Year 2000 Graduate
Semester Courses taken by chemical engineering students that have design content
Fall 96 Engineering Techniques
Spring 1997 Computer Programming
Summer 1997 Mostly science & math; some students take Chemical Engineering Principles
Fall 1997 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Spring 1998 Chemical Engineering Principles
Summer 1998 Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, Transport Phenomena
Fall 1998 Mass Transfer, Chemical Engineering Laboratory I
Spring 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Summer 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Fall 1999 Process Design Methods, Introduction to Controls,
Engineering Economics, Chemical Engineering Laboratory II, Senior Project
Spring 2000 Process Design, Chemical Engineering Kinetics, Senior Project
ethylene loop
             C
3
H
6
 product
2 C
2
H
4
 ----> C
4
H
8
C
2
H
4
 + C
4
H
8
 <===> 2 C
3
H
6
  Ethylene        Dimer                        Metathesis
                               Reactor                      Reactor
 Ethylene &/or Butene-2                                                                                  Net C4s & Hvy
Figure 1     Schematic of a Dimer/Metathesis Plant for the Conversion of Ethylene to Propylene
METHODS PORTION (ChE 425)
During the methods portion (the fall semester of senior
year), the unit operations of chemical engineering are
reviewed with an orientation towards the tangible; that is,
the establishment and evaluation of equipment
specifications. Interpretation of plant and research data , as
well as, societal issues are included. Emphasis is placed on
the total design of process equipment including how the
individual unit operations fit together within the context of
an operating plant. The life cycle of the raw materials and
the products is also considered. With such an emphasis, the
environmental, social, economic, safety, logistical, and
strategic implications of a given design are covered. [1-3]
The concepts of performance rating of equipment versus
fresh design are presented and the students are given open
ended problems such as the propylene glycol reactor,
presented above. These problems often involve a choice
between design, retrofit, or modified operation strategy.
Examinations are given during this semester, in addition to
a course project. In fall 1996, the course project was the
design of a plant to convert ethylene to propylene via
dimerization of ethylene to butylene followed by the
metathesis of additional ethylene and the dimer (Figure 1).
Dimerization/Metathesis Example
The normal value of polymer grade propylene is about 81%
of the ethylene value. This situation is true on average over
Page 3


Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering
Prof. Gennaro (Jerry) Maffia
Associate Professor & Chairman
Department of Chemical Engineering
Widener University
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013
ABSTRACT
The capstone course in chemical engineering at Widener
University is divided into two semesters. In the fall
semester, students experience the application of chemical
engineering principles to the development, design,
operation and evaluation of all major process equipment.
Two in-class examinations are given during the term and a
common project is assigned to all students. Students are
allowed to work in small teams, although each student must
submit a separate project report. Typical projects have been
the design and equipment specification for the manufacture
of propylene from ethylene via metathesis or the conversion
of methane to ethylene via oxidative coupling, among
others. In doing so, students also gain exposure to industrial
computing tools such as ASPEN, SIMSCI, HYSYS,
PROCEDE, and STELLA among other programs. The
course is taught in a state-of-the-art computer classroom in
which each student has his or her own computer station
which is part of a LAN that serves the school of
engineering.
In the second semester, students randomly pick a
technology out of an envelope. The course requirements are
for students to provide a process design package for a world
scale manufacturing facility by the end of the semester.
Such a document is often called a “black book” in industry.
Students are also required to present and defend their
design. Feedback from the students has been positive and
they exhibit pride and ownership in their work. There are
no tests given. Some suggestions on milestones are provided
in the course syllabus and the professor works closely with
students as they proceed with the design. However, it is the
student’s responsibility to perform the required literature
searches, develop a conceptual block diagram, and to
develop the process details during the semester. About
midway through the semester, the students give a short, five
slide presentation on the status of their process design to the
full faculty and fellow students. A final presentation is due
at the end of the course in which the students describe their
results. This is one of the few times in their college careers
in which their work is completely different than their fellow
classmates during the same course. It appears to be a good
learning experience for all those involved.
INTRODUCTION
The capstone design course at Widener University provides
students with the opportunity to develop skills for the design
and rating of chemical plants in a creative manner. The
senior design experience consists of two separate (and
sequential) courses: CHE 425, Process Design Methods
(offered during the fall semester) and CHE 428 Process
Design (offered during the spring semester). Students are
assigned a separate grade at the end of each semester. These
courses are open to students who have completed three
years of the chemical engineering curriculum, including all
the science and math courses, as well as, the basic chemical
engineering courses, such as, Chemical Engineering
Principles, Thermodynamics I and II, Transport Phenomena
and Mass Transfer (see Table 1; the senior design course is
highlighted in boldface). Engineering Controls, Reaction
Kinetics, and Introduction to Biotechnology are all taken
concurrently during the senior year. Additionally, many
students have a year of industrial experience obtained
through the highly successful cooperative education
program (also known as internships).
The philosophical approach to the presentation of the
design course (and therefore the course logistics) is very
much influenced by the professor. For example, in some
schools, an engineer from industry will provide guidance
and sometimes co-teach the design course. This allows for
the adequate flow of realistic problems to the students and
solid advice from a practicing engineer. In other schools,
where the ties to industry are very strong via the professor’s
current consulting or former employment, a co-teacher is
frequently not used. In such cases, the professor handles the
development of appropriate problems. Outside speakers may
be called in as needed to cover specific topics and to provide
another perspective regarding design and operation for the
students. Also, graduate students may help with the
implementation since the instruction of design requires
significant personal attention. Intense, personalized
attention is especially required during the student’s initial
exposure to the general process simulators, such as,
ASPEN, HYSYS, and SIMSCI. At Widener University, a
chemical engineering student will begin to use the computer
during the freshman year.
The instruction of design is more of a mentoring
process. The professor cannot actually teach creativity; it is
more of a nurturing process. Students develop their own
particular style and approach to chemical engineering
problems. The professor/mentor should offer minimum
guidance and is most valuable in the development of
appropriate course materials. Such materials include
problems and adequate design software.
     Table 1
Design in the Curriculum for the Year 2000 Graduate
Semester Courses taken by chemical engineering students that have design content
Fall 96 Engineering Techniques
Spring 1997 Computer Programming
Summer 1997 Mostly science & math; some students take Chemical Engineering Principles
Fall 1997 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Spring 1998 Chemical Engineering Principles
Summer 1998 Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, Transport Phenomena
Fall 1998 Mass Transfer, Chemical Engineering Laboratory I
Spring 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Summer 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Fall 1999 Process Design Methods, Introduction to Controls,
Engineering Economics, Chemical Engineering Laboratory II, Senior Project
Spring 2000 Process Design, Chemical Engineering Kinetics, Senior Project
ethylene loop
             C
3
H
6
 product
2 C
2
H
4
 ----> C
4
H
8
C
2
H
4
 + C
4
H
8
 <===> 2 C
3
H
6
  Ethylene        Dimer                        Metathesis
                               Reactor                      Reactor
 Ethylene &/or Butene-2                                                                                  Net C4s & Hvy
Figure 1     Schematic of a Dimer/Metathesis Plant for the Conversion of Ethylene to Propylene
METHODS PORTION (ChE 425)
During the methods portion (the fall semester of senior
year), the unit operations of chemical engineering are
reviewed with an orientation towards the tangible; that is,
the establishment and evaluation of equipment
specifications. Interpretation of plant and research data , as
well as, societal issues are included. Emphasis is placed on
the total design of process equipment including how the
individual unit operations fit together within the context of
an operating plant. The life cycle of the raw materials and
the products is also considered. With such an emphasis, the
environmental, social, economic, safety, logistical, and
strategic implications of a given design are covered. [1-3]
The concepts of performance rating of equipment versus
fresh design are presented and the students are given open
ended problems such as the propylene glycol reactor,
presented above. These problems often involve a choice
between design, retrofit, or modified operation strategy.
Examinations are given during this semester, in addition to
a course project. In fall 1996, the course project was the
design of a plant to convert ethylene to propylene via
dimerization of ethylene to butylene followed by the
metathesis of additional ethylene and the dimer (Figure 1).
Dimerization/Metathesis Example
The normal value of polymer grade propylene is about 81%
of the ethylene value. This situation is true on average over
the last thirty years. Hence there should be little economic
incentive for a technology that converts ethylene into
propylene.However, in the early 1980’s, the traditional
economic situation was reversed. Propylene became more
valuable than ethylene as ethylene fell to about $ 0.14/lb
and propylene remained at about $ 0.17-0.18/lb. The
project, to convert ethylene into propylene, that the students
performed gave some insight into traditional technology
(dimerization and metathesis) that could be applied in a
totally different situation than normal.
Typical Design Methods Problems
All students do the same project during the fall term and the
designs usually involve hydrocarbons, several reactions and
the associated separation system that contain recycles, by-
passes and purges. The concept of unsteady-state in plant
design and operation is presented in the coverage of start-up
and control of upsets.
Examples of successful and disastrous actual designs are
presented as illustrations of “what to do” and “what not to
do”. Students are exposed to the concept and procedures for
flowsheeting. This includes block flow diagrams and
schematics, process flow diagrams (PFDs),  and piping and
instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs). Isometrics and plot plan
are usually not covered in any great depth although the
department maintains a miniature model of an actual
methanol plant.
DESIGN PORTION (CHE 428)
At the beginning of the spring semester, senior year, plant
assignments are distributed. These are the plants that the
students are responsible for specifying and evaluating. In
terms of the logistics of the assignment distribution, a
student will pull a sheet of paper out of an envelope on
which a product and a technology are identified. The
selection is completely random and special requests from
students are not honored. This procedure will represent
much of what happens during their first industrial
assignment, in which they will be assigned a project(s).
There is usually only minimal input from the employee on
choice of assignments. The results of 1997 selection are
listed in Table 2; fourteen students are participating. The
selection is a good cross-section of the chemical processing
industry, representing organics and inorganics, large scale
facilities and specialties, traditional processing and
bioprocessing.
Table 2
                     1997 Chemical Plant Design Projects
Product Raw Material Key Technology
Methanol Natural Gas Reforming/Conversion
Ethylene Propane Steam pyrolysis
Chiral propylene oxide Propylene Fermentation
Hydrogen Natural Gas Reforming
Sarin Thionyl Chloride Sulfonation
Ethylene Oxide Ethylene Catalytic partial oxidation
Styrene Benzene/Ethylene Alkylation/Dehydrogenation
Toluene Diisocyanate Benzene/Nitric acid Phosgenation
Hydrogen, Chlorine Seawater Electrochemical cell
Hydrogen Peroxide Hydrogen & oxygen Cycling of ethyl anthraquinone
Propylene Glycol Propylene, O
2
 & H
2
O Oxidation and hydrolysis
Tissue Plasminogen
Activase [TPA] Glucose, oxygen Fermentation
Ethylene Dichloride Ethylene, Chlorine Addition
Polyvinyl Alcohol Vinyl Acetate Saponification
Page 4


Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering
Prof. Gennaro (Jerry) Maffia
Associate Professor & Chairman
Department of Chemical Engineering
Widener University
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013
ABSTRACT
The capstone course in chemical engineering at Widener
University is divided into two semesters. In the fall
semester, students experience the application of chemical
engineering principles to the development, design,
operation and evaluation of all major process equipment.
Two in-class examinations are given during the term and a
common project is assigned to all students. Students are
allowed to work in small teams, although each student must
submit a separate project report. Typical projects have been
the design and equipment specification for the manufacture
of propylene from ethylene via metathesis or the conversion
of methane to ethylene via oxidative coupling, among
others. In doing so, students also gain exposure to industrial
computing tools such as ASPEN, SIMSCI, HYSYS,
PROCEDE, and STELLA among other programs. The
course is taught in a state-of-the-art computer classroom in
which each student has his or her own computer station
which is part of a LAN that serves the school of
engineering.
In the second semester, students randomly pick a
technology out of an envelope. The course requirements are
for students to provide a process design package for a world
scale manufacturing facility by the end of the semester.
Such a document is often called a “black book” in industry.
Students are also required to present and defend their
design. Feedback from the students has been positive and
they exhibit pride and ownership in their work. There are
no tests given. Some suggestions on milestones are provided
in the course syllabus and the professor works closely with
students as they proceed with the design. However, it is the
student’s responsibility to perform the required literature
searches, develop a conceptual block diagram, and to
develop the process details during the semester. About
midway through the semester, the students give a short, five
slide presentation on the status of their process design to the
full faculty and fellow students. A final presentation is due
at the end of the course in which the students describe their
results. This is one of the few times in their college careers
in which their work is completely different than their fellow
classmates during the same course. It appears to be a good
learning experience for all those involved.
INTRODUCTION
The capstone design course at Widener University provides
students with the opportunity to develop skills for the design
and rating of chemical plants in a creative manner. The
senior design experience consists of two separate (and
sequential) courses: CHE 425, Process Design Methods
(offered during the fall semester) and CHE 428 Process
Design (offered during the spring semester). Students are
assigned a separate grade at the end of each semester. These
courses are open to students who have completed three
years of the chemical engineering curriculum, including all
the science and math courses, as well as, the basic chemical
engineering courses, such as, Chemical Engineering
Principles, Thermodynamics I and II, Transport Phenomena
and Mass Transfer (see Table 1; the senior design course is
highlighted in boldface). Engineering Controls, Reaction
Kinetics, and Introduction to Biotechnology are all taken
concurrently during the senior year. Additionally, many
students have a year of industrial experience obtained
through the highly successful cooperative education
program (also known as internships).
The philosophical approach to the presentation of the
design course (and therefore the course logistics) is very
much influenced by the professor. For example, in some
schools, an engineer from industry will provide guidance
and sometimes co-teach the design course. This allows for
the adequate flow of realistic problems to the students and
solid advice from a practicing engineer. In other schools,
where the ties to industry are very strong via the professor’s
current consulting or former employment, a co-teacher is
frequently not used. In such cases, the professor handles the
development of appropriate problems. Outside speakers may
be called in as needed to cover specific topics and to provide
another perspective regarding design and operation for the
students. Also, graduate students may help with the
implementation since the instruction of design requires
significant personal attention. Intense, personalized
attention is especially required during the student’s initial
exposure to the general process simulators, such as,
ASPEN, HYSYS, and SIMSCI. At Widener University, a
chemical engineering student will begin to use the computer
during the freshman year.
The instruction of design is more of a mentoring
process. The professor cannot actually teach creativity; it is
more of a nurturing process. Students develop their own
particular style and approach to chemical engineering
problems. The professor/mentor should offer minimum
guidance and is most valuable in the development of
appropriate course materials. Such materials include
problems and adequate design software.
     Table 1
Design in the Curriculum for the Year 2000 Graduate
Semester Courses taken by chemical engineering students that have design content
Fall 96 Engineering Techniques
Spring 1997 Computer Programming
Summer 1997 Mostly science & math; some students take Chemical Engineering Principles
Fall 1997 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Spring 1998 Chemical Engineering Principles
Summer 1998 Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, Transport Phenomena
Fall 1998 Mass Transfer, Chemical Engineering Laboratory I
Spring 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Summer 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Fall 1999 Process Design Methods, Introduction to Controls,
Engineering Economics, Chemical Engineering Laboratory II, Senior Project
Spring 2000 Process Design, Chemical Engineering Kinetics, Senior Project
ethylene loop
             C
3
H
6
 product
2 C
2
H
4
 ----> C
4
H
8
C
2
H
4
 + C
4
H
8
 <===> 2 C
3
H
6
  Ethylene        Dimer                        Metathesis
                               Reactor                      Reactor
 Ethylene &/or Butene-2                                                                                  Net C4s & Hvy
Figure 1     Schematic of a Dimer/Metathesis Plant for the Conversion of Ethylene to Propylene
METHODS PORTION (ChE 425)
During the methods portion (the fall semester of senior
year), the unit operations of chemical engineering are
reviewed with an orientation towards the tangible; that is,
the establishment and evaluation of equipment
specifications. Interpretation of plant and research data , as
well as, societal issues are included. Emphasis is placed on
the total design of process equipment including how the
individual unit operations fit together within the context of
an operating plant. The life cycle of the raw materials and
the products is also considered. With such an emphasis, the
environmental, social, economic, safety, logistical, and
strategic implications of a given design are covered. [1-3]
The concepts of performance rating of equipment versus
fresh design are presented and the students are given open
ended problems such as the propylene glycol reactor,
presented above. These problems often involve a choice
between design, retrofit, or modified operation strategy.
Examinations are given during this semester, in addition to
a course project. In fall 1996, the course project was the
design of a plant to convert ethylene to propylene via
dimerization of ethylene to butylene followed by the
metathesis of additional ethylene and the dimer (Figure 1).
Dimerization/Metathesis Example
The normal value of polymer grade propylene is about 81%
of the ethylene value. This situation is true on average over
the last thirty years. Hence there should be little economic
incentive for a technology that converts ethylene into
propylene.However, in the early 1980’s, the traditional
economic situation was reversed. Propylene became more
valuable than ethylene as ethylene fell to about $ 0.14/lb
and propylene remained at about $ 0.17-0.18/lb. The
project, to convert ethylene into propylene, that the students
performed gave some insight into traditional technology
(dimerization and metathesis) that could be applied in a
totally different situation than normal.
Typical Design Methods Problems
All students do the same project during the fall term and the
designs usually involve hydrocarbons, several reactions and
the associated separation system that contain recycles, by-
passes and purges. The concept of unsteady-state in plant
design and operation is presented in the coverage of start-up
and control of upsets.
Examples of successful and disastrous actual designs are
presented as illustrations of “what to do” and “what not to
do”. Students are exposed to the concept and procedures for
flowsheeting. This includes block flow diagrams and
schematics, process flow diagrams (PFDs),  and piping and
instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs). Isometrics and plot plan
are usually not covered in any great depth although the
department maintains a miniature model of an actual
methanol plant.
DESIGN PORTION (CHE 428)
At the beginning of the spring semester, senior year, plant
assignments are distributed. These are the plants that the
students are responsible for specifying and evaluating. In
terms of the logistics of the assignment distribution, a
student will pull a sheet of paper out of an envelope on
which a product and a technology are identified. The
selection is completely random and special requests from
students are not honored. This procedure will represent
much of what happens during their first industrial
assignment, in which they will be assigned a project(s).
There is usually only minimal input from the employee on
choice of assignments. The results of 1997 selection are
listed in Table 2; fourteen students are participating. The
selection is a good cross-section of the chemical processing
industry, representing organics and inorganics, large scale
facilities and specialties, traditional processing and
bioprocessing.
Table 2
                     1997 Chemical Plant Design Projects
Product Raw Material Key Technology
Methanol Natural Gas Reforming/Conversion
Ethylene Propane Steam pyrolysis
Chiral propylene oxide Propylene Fermentation
Hydrogen Natural Gas Reforming
Sarin Thionyl Chloride Sulfonation
Ethylene Oxide Ethylene Catalytic partial oxidation
Styrene Benzene/Ethylene Alkylation/Dehydrogenation
Toluene Diisocyanate Benzene/Nitric acid Phosgenation
Hydrogen, Chlorine Seawater Electrochemical cell
Hydrogen Peroxide Hydrogen & oxygen Cycling of ethyl anthraquinone
Propylene Glycol Propylene, O
2
 & H
2
O Oxidation and hydrolysis
Tissue Plasminogen
Activase [TPA] Glucose, oxygen Fermentation
Ethylene Dichloride Ethylene, Chlorine Addition
Polyvinyl Alcohol Vinyl Acetate Saponification
There are no tests during CHE 428. The basis for grading is
the final plant design, that is,  the “black book” that the
student delivers at the end of the semester, the presentation
of the design to fellow students and faculty, and class
participation. Most students become comfortable with this
approach and begin to take pride in their design as it comes
together. This also provides the students with a creative
project that they can share with recruiters. On just one
occasion over the past four years, a student wrote on the
course review that they would prefer some testing during
the term. Imagine, a student asking to be tested.
 
Table 3
Typical Software Used
by Chemical Engineering Students During CHE 428
Type Programs in regular use
General Process Simulators ASPEN MAX, SIMSCI PROVISION
Structured Computational Packages MAPLE, MATLAB, TK SOLVER, etc.
Spreadsheets EXCEL, LOTUS
General Purpose Programming TRUE BASIC, FORTRAN, C/C++
Languages
Flowsheet/Equipment [6] PROCEDE, CHEMWINDOWS,
Specification Software ASPEN MAX, SIMSCI PROVISION
Special Application Software PICLES, FLUENT, STELLA, CACHE 
METHODOLOGY  and the DESIGN PORTION
(CHE 428)
A significant amount of time is spent in the computer
classroom using the design tools for the particular plant
chosen; see Table 3. Graduate students, other faculty and
industrial mentors are available to the students and provide
guidance during the semester. Additionally, the professor
reviews selected topics related to design and specialty items
that may have received inadequate coverage within the
curriculum. A significant portion of the instructional
portion of the class time is devoted to reactor design
(especially to help develop creativity and confidence),
safety, responsible care, project management, data analysis
and solution methodology. [4-5]
Students are also encouraged to indicate to the
professor what areas they feel particularly weak in and these
are covered during the class period. For many of the
students this will be the last semester that they are ever in a
classroom again; this is also the last time that there will be
a safety net; in the form of the professor and the staff. 
For the professor, this is the last opportunity to hone
the skills of the graduates-to-be and also to debunk any
misconceptions. Many times, students are approaching
“burn-out”, so this is also the final opportunity for the
professor to motivate and instill enthusiasm in students who
will, in short order, be performing their first assignments in
industry.
RATING Vs NEW DESIGN
The concept of rating existing equipment, sometimes
called “reverse engineering” is very important for the
graduate in the year 2000 and must be heavily incorporated
into the design courses. As indicated by a historical review
of the domestic production of ethylene (Figure 2), the most
important building block chemical, a great portion of the
domestic capacity was built during the 1970’s and early
1980’s. During this period, large facilities were being built
that provided an additional 3-5% domestic production
capacity. Such plants are few and far between these days.
Consequently, the current need for process design
engineers in the traditional sense is greatly diminished.
Graduating students are more likely these days to be
involved in operations, evaluation, quality control,
validation, environmental systems and management; all
“reverse engineering” type areas. No longer is an engineer
given a blank sheet of paper and asked to come up with a
design. Many times, the equipment is built and installed
and the young engineers must find ways of maximizing
performance.
Many professors were educated and had their initial
employment as an educator or engineer in industry during
the steep portion of Figure 2. Even the general process
simulators, ASPEN and SIMSCI, also developed during the
1970’s, are oriented toward new design rather than
performance rating. Additional effort must be taken by
educators to include examples that provide the design and
ask students to solve for the performance.
Page 5


Capstone Design Course in Chemical Engineering
Prof. Gennaro (Jerry) Maffia
Associate Professor & Chairman
Department of Chemical Engineering
Widener University
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013
ABSTRACT
The capstone course in chemical engineering at Widener
University is divided into two semesters. In the fall
semester, students experience the application of chemical
engineering principles to the development, design,
operation and evaluation of all major process equipment.
Two in-class examinations are given during the term and a
common project is assigned to all students. Students are
allowed to work in small teams, although each student must
submit a separate project report. Typical projects have been
the design and equipment specification for the manufacture
of propylene from ethylene via metathesis or the conversion
of methane to ethylene via oxidative coupling, among
others. In doing so, students also gain exposure to industrial
computing tools such as ASPEN, SIMSCI, HYSYS,
PROCEDE, and STELLA among other programs. The
course is taught in a state-of-the-art computer classroom in
which each student has his or her own computer station
which is part of a LAN that serves the school of
engineering.
In the second semester, students randomly pick a
technology out of an envelope. The course requirements are
for students to provide a process design package for a world
scale manufacturing facility by the end of the semester.
Such a document is often called a “black book” in industry.
Students are also required to present and defend their
design. Feedback from the students has been positive and
they exhibit pride and ownership in their work. There are
no tests given. Some suggestions on milestones are provided
in the course syllabus and the professor works closely with
students as they proceed with the design. However, it is the
student’s responsibility to perform the required literature
searches, develop a conceptual block diagram, and to
develop the process details during the semester. About
midway through the semester, the students give a short, five
slide presentation on the status of their process design to the
full faculty and fellow students. A final presentation is due
at the end of the course in which the students describe their
results. This is one of the few times in their college careers
in which their work is completely different than their fellow
classmates during the same course. It appears to be a good
learning experience for all those involved.
INTRODUCTION
The capstone design course at Widener University provides
students with the opportunity to develop skills for the design
and rating of chemical plants in a creative manner. The
senior design experience consists of two separate (and
sequential) courses: CHE 425, Process Design Methods
(offered during the fall semester) and CHE 428 Process
Design (offered during the spring semester). Students are
assigned a separate grade at the end of each semester. These
courses are open to students who have completed three
years of the chemical engineering curriculum, including all
the science and math courses, as well as, the basic chemical
engineering courses, such as, Chemical Engineering
Principles, Thermodynamics I and II, Transport Phenomena
and Mass Transfer (see Table 1; the senior design course is
highlighted in boldface). Engineering Controls, Reaction
Kinetics, and Introduction to Biotechnology are all taken
concurrently during the senior year. Additionally, many
students have a year of industrial experience obtained
through the highly successful cooperative education
program (also known as internships).
The philosophical approach to the presentation of the
design course (and therefore the course logistics) is very
much influenced by the professor. For example, in some
schools, an engineer from industry will provide guidance
and sometimes co-teach the design course. This allows for
the adequate flow of realistic problems to the students and
solid advice from a practicing engineer. In other schools,
where the ties to industry are very strong via the professor’s
current consulting or former employment, a co-teacher is
frequently not used. In such cases, the professor handles the
development of appropriate problems. Outside speakers may
be called in as needed to cover specific topics and to provide
another perspective regarding design and operation for the
students. Also, graduate students may help with the
implementation since the instruction of design requires
significant personal attention. Intense, personalized
attention is especially required during the student’s initial
exposure to the general process simulators, such as,
ASPEN, HYSYS, and SIMSCI. At Widener University, a
chemical engineering student will begin to use the computer
during the freshman year.
The instruction of design is more of a mentoring
process. The professor cannot actually teach creativity; it is
more of a nurturing process. Students develop their own
particular style and approach to chemical engineering
problems. The professor/mentor should offer minimum
guidance and is most valuable in the development of
appropriate course materials. Such materials include
problems and adequate design software.
     Table 1
Design in the Curriculum for the Year 2000 Graduate
Semester Courses taken by chemical engineering students that have design content
Fall 96 Engineering Techniques
Spring 1997 Computer Programming
Summer 1997 Mostly science & math; some students take Chemical Engineering Principles
Fall 1997 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Spring 1998 Chemical Engineering Principles
Summer 1998 Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics, Transport Phenomena
Fall 1998 Mass Transfer, Chemical Engineering Laboratory I
Spring 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Summer 1999 COOPERATIVE EDUCATION ASSIGNMENT
Fall 1999 Process Design Methods, Introduction to Controls,
Engineering Economics, Chemical Engineering Laboratory II, Senior Project
Spring 2000 Process Design, Chemical Engineering Kinetics, Senior Project
ethylene loop
             C
3
H
6
 product
2 C
2
H
4
 ----> C
4
H
8
C
2
H
4
 + C
4
H
8
 <===> 2 C
3
H
6
  Ethylene        Dimer                        Metathesis
                               Reactor                      Reactor
 Ethylene &/or Butene-2                                                                                  Net C4s & Hvy
Figure 1     Schematic of a Dimer/Metathesis Plant for the Conversion of Ethylene to Propylene
METHODS PORTION (ChE 425)
During the methods portion (the fall semester of senior
year), the unit operations of chemical engineering are
reviewed with an orientation towards the tangible; that is,
the establishment and evaluation of equipment
specifications. Interpretation of plant and research data , as
well as, societal issues are included. Emphasis is placed on
the total design of process equipment including how the
individual unit operations fit together within the context of
an operating plant. The life cycle of the raw materials and
the products is also considered. With such an emphasis, the
environmental, social, economic, safety, logistical, and
strategic implications of a given design are covered. [1-3]
The concepts of performance rating of equipment versus
fresh design are presented and the students are given open
ended problems such as the propylene glycol reactor,
presented above. These problems often involve a choice
between design, retrofit, or modified operation strategy.
Examinations are given during this semester, in addition to
a course project. In fall 1996, the course project was the
design of a plant to convert ethylene to propylene via
dimerization of ethylene to butylene followed by the
metathesis of additional ethylene and the dimer (Figure 1).
Dimerization/Metathesis Example
The normal value of polymer grade propylene is about 81%
of the ethylene value. This situation is true on average over
the last thirty years. Hence there should be little economic
incentive for a technology that converts ethylene into
propylene.However, in the early 1980’s, the traditional
economic situation was reversed. Propylene became more
valuable than ethylene as ethylene fell to about $ 0.14/lb
and propylene remained at about $ 0.17-0.18/lb. The
project, to convert ethylene into propylene, that the students
performed gave some insight into traditional technology
(dimerization and metathesis) that could be applied in a
totally different situation than normal.
Typical Design Methods Problems
All students do the same project during the fall term and the
designs usually involve hydrocarbons, several reactions and
the associated separation system that contain recycles, by-
passes and purges. The concept of unsteady-state in plant
design and operation is presented in the coverage of start-up
and control of upsets.
Examples of successful and disastrous actual designs are
presented as illustrations of “what to do” and “what not to
do”. Students are exposed to the concept and procedures for
flowsheeting. This includes block flow diagrams and
schematics, process flow diagrams (PFDs),  and piping and
instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs). Isometrics and plot plan
are usually not covered in any great depth although the
department maintains a miniature model of an actual
methanol plant.
DESIGN PORTION (CHE 428)
At the beginning of the spring semester, senior year, plant
assignments are distributed. These are the plants that the
students are responsible for specifying and evaluating. In
terms of the logistics of the assignment distribution, a
student will pull a sheet of paper out of an envelope on
which a product and a technology are identified. The
selection is completely random and special requests from
students are not honored. This procedure will represent
much of what happens during their first industrial
assignment, in which they will be assigned a project(s).
There is usually only minimal input from the employee on
choice of assignments. The results of 1997 selection are
listed in Table 2; fourteen students are participating. The
selection is a good cross-section of the chemical processing
industry, representing organics and inorganics, large scale
facilities and specialties, traditional processing and
bioprocessing.
Table 2
                     1997 Chemical Plant Design Projects
Product Raw Material Key Technology
Methanol Natural Gas Reforming/Conversion
Ethylene Propane Steam pyrolysis
Chiral propylene oxide Propylene Fermentation
Hydrogen Natural Gas Reforming
Sarin Thionyl Chloride Sulfonation
Ethylene Oxide Ethylene Catalytic partial oxidation
Styrene Benzene/Ethylene Alkylation/Dehydrogenation
Toluene Diisocyanate Benzene/Nitric acid Phosgenation
Hydrogen, Chlorine Seawater Electrochemical cell
Hydrogen Peroxide Hydrogen & oxygen Cycling of ethyl anthraquinone
Propylene Glycol Propylene, O
2
 & H
2
O Oxidation and hydrolysis
Tissue Plasminogen
Activase [TPA] Glucose, oxygen Fermentation
Ethylene Dichloride Ethylene, Chlorine Addition
Polyvinyl Alcohol Vinyl Acetate Saponification
There are no tests during CHE 428. The basis for grading is
the final plant design, that is,  the “black book” that the
student delivers at the end of the semester, the presentation
of the design to fellow students and faculty, and class
participation. Most students become comfortable with this
approach and begin to take pride in their design as it comes
together. This also provides the students with a creative
project that they can share with recruiters. On just one
occasion over the past four years, a student wrote on the
course review that they would prefer some testing during
the term. Imagine, a student asking to be tested.
 
Table 3
Typical Software Used
by Chemical Engineering Students During CHE 428
Type Programs in regular use
General Process Simulators ASPEN MAX, SIMSCI PROVISION
Structured Computational Packages MAPLE, MATLAB, TK SOLVER, etc.
Spreadsheets EXCEL, LOTUS
General Purpose Programming TRUE BASIC, FORTRAN, C/C++
Languages
Flowsheet/Equipment [6] PROCEDE, CHEMWINDOWS,
Specification Software ASPEN MAX, SIMSCI PROVISION
Special Application Software PICLES, FLUENT, STELLA, CACHE 
METHODOLOGY  and the DESIGN PORTION
(CHE 428)
A significant amount of time is spent in the computer
classroom using the design tools for the particular plant
chosen; see Table 3. Graduate students, other faculty and
industrial mentors are available to the students and provide
guidance during the semester. Additionally, the professor
reviews selected topics related to design and specialty items
that may have received inadequate coverage within the
curriculum. A significant portion of the instructional
portion of the class time is devoted to reactor design
(especially to help develop creativity and confidence),
safety, responsible care, project management, data analysis
and solution methodology. [4-5]
Students are also encouraged to indicate to the
professor what areas they feel particularly weak in and these
are covered during the class period. For many of the
students this will be the last semester that they are ever in a
classroom again; this is also the last time that there will be
a safety net; in the form of the professor and the staff. 
For the professor, this is the last opportunity to hone
the skills of the graduates-to-be and also to debunk any
misconceptions. Many times, students are approaching
“burn-out”, so this is also the final opportunity for the
professor to motivate and instill enthusiasm in students who
will, in short order, be performing their first assignments in
industry.
RATING Vs NEW DESIGN
The concept of rating existing equipment, sometimes
called “reverse engineering” is very important for the
graduate in the year 2000 and must be heavily incorporated
into the design courses. As indicated by a historical review
of the domestic production of ethylene (Figure 2), the most
important building block chemical, a great portion of the
domestic capacity was built during the 1970’s and early
1980’s. During this period, large facilities were being built
that provided an additional 3-5% domestic production
capacity. Such plants are few and far between these days.
Consequently, the current need for process design
engineers in the traditional sense is greatly diminished.
Graduating students are more likely these days to be
involved in operations, evaluation, quality control,
validation, environmental systems and management; all
“reverse engineering” type areas. No longer is an engineer
given a blank sheet of paper and asked to come up with a
design. Many times, the equipment is built and installed
and the young engineers must find ways of maximizing
performance.
Many professors were educated and had their initial
employment as an educator or engineer in industry during
the steep portion of Figure 2. Even the general process
simulators, ASPEN and SIMSCI, also developed during the
1970’s, are oriented toward new design rather than
performance rating. Additional effort must be taken by
educators to include examples that provide the design and
ask students to solve for the performance.
One of the goals of the design course is to provide
students with the ability to distinguish between a task that
requires rating and one that calls for a new design. In many
ways, the fresh design is easier since, given a blank piece of
paper, many designs are possible. The usual constraint is
one of economic viability.  In a rating problem, however,
there are minimal (if any) design degrees of freedom. The
equipment is in place and most times is in operation.
Economic factors are most likely exogenous variables.
                            
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000
year
Ethylene Production,  
B PPY
               Figure 2 Domestic ethylene production during the past 30 years;
years 1997- 2000 are projected values
(Note: period 1965-1980: average growth rate of 11%
period 1980-1996: average growth rate of 1%)
The assignment may become one of rating the performance
of the equipment under different operating conditions. In
order to perform this “reverse engineering” task, the
engineer must have a very clear picture of how the
equipment functions in the context of the surrounding unit
operations. The operating situation may have evolved over
many years and may be very far from ideal.
Reverse Engineering Example
As an example of a reverse engineering task that may be
presented to students, consider the design of a reactor for
the conversion of propylene oxide and water to mono-
propylene glycol. The hydrolysis of propylene oxide
includes four sequential reactions. These are all first order
reactions with respect to each component. The chemical
reaction mechanism is represented by  the following series
of equations:
PO + Water  
k
1
o MPG
     mono-propylene glycol
PO + MPG   
k
2
o DPG
                                       di-propylene glycol
PO + DPG    
k
3
o TPG
                                        tri-propylene glycol
PO + TPG    
k
4
o HEAVIES
       where k
1
, k
2
, k
3
, k
4
 are the respective rate constants
Industrially the reaction occurs in the liquid phase with an
excess of water. At neutral pH the reaction is thought to be
non-catalyzed. However, both acid and bases are known to
catalyze the production of polyols which is an extension of
the oligomerization reaction.
A long single tube arranged in the serpentine fashion as
shown in Figure 3 is used for the reaction. This form of
reactor is often used for systems that are nearly plug flow.
For an ideal tubular reactor (often called a plug flow
reactor) in steady state, the conditions at any axial position
in the reactor are independent of  time and compositions are
constant in the radial direction. The total mass flow through
any cross section of the reactor is  the same. These
assumptions are typically made for the design of the
propylene glycol reactor.
An ASPEN output for the simulation of a plug flow
reactor to manufacture propylene glycol is presented in
Figure 4. The results indicate that the reaction goes to
completion early in the first pass and that the reactor is well
overdesigned in the axial direction. The high Reynolds (>
1E5) number should guarantee turbulence and hence an
approach to plug flow. However, the yields that are
predicted by the ASPEN model do not match the actual
plant performance, provided by one of the major producers
of MPG. The yield of the non-selective, higher oligomers
DPG, TPG and heavy polyols are much higher in the actual
plant than predicted by the ASPEN run.
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