On Teaching Chemical Engineering Fundamentals Using FEMLAB

William M. Clark,
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

We are investigating the feasibility of using FEMLAB as an integral part of the educational experience of chemical engineering students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Our current practices and immediate plans for using FEMLAB in teaching include homework and projects in a graduate course, simulations of unit operations laboratory experiments for use as pre-lab preparations for actual lab experiments and alternatively as substitutes for some lab experiments, and open ended senior thesis modeling projects.

In this paper we describe a graduate separations process course that serves as a platform for introducing FEMLAB modeling to graduate students and a model that approximates the behavior of the heat exchange experiment in our unit operations laboratory. The heat exchanger model is designed to illustrate the concepts of conduction, convection, laminar boundary layer, and turbulent flow that underlie the process and are sometimes misunderstood by students when using empirical engineering approaches based on algebraic equations with average heat transfer coefficients.