Second edition off to the printer!

The second edition was sent to Wiley in mid-October and page proofs should be ready soon. When they are returned to Wiley, the course website mentioned below will be setup.


            Computers have revolutionized the way chemical engineers design and analyze processes, whether designing large units to make polyethylene or small microreactors used to detect biological agents. In fact, the engineering problems that many of you will study as undergraduates are similar in complexity to problems PhD students solved 30 or 40 years ago. Computer programs can now solve difficult problems in a fraction of the time it used to take.  Nowadays, you no longer have to write your own software programs to use computers effectively.  Computer programs can do the numerical calculations for you, but you’ll still need to understand how to apply these programs to specific engineering challenges.

The goal of this book is to help you practice better chemical engineering.  Computers are valuable tools that enable progressive, far-reaching chemical engineering. Sometimes computer programs do not work properly for the parameters you have given them.  Thus, you must be careful to use them wisely.  

This book will also:

(1) Illustrate the problems that you as chemical engineers may need to solve;

(2) Compare the types of computer programs you can use and illustrate which ones are best for certain applications;

(3) Describe how to check your work to ensure you have solved the problems correctly.

This book demonstrates four computer programs: Excel®, MATLAB®, Aspen Plus®, and Comsol Multiphysics®.

Computer skills are invaluable, but as an engineer, you also need to understand the physical phenomena. Each chemical engineering application chapter starts with a description of the physical problem in general terms.  Then those general terms are put into a mathematical context so the computer can represent them.   Next, the chapter gives several examples in which such problems are solved, providing step-by-step instructions so you can follow along on your own computer.  Sometimes the same problem is solved using different programs so you can see the advantages of each program.  Finally, the chapters give more complicated problems your instructor may use as homework problems. 

            Examples throughout this book demonstrate how to check your work and how to learn from the answers the computer gives you. 

Part of Preface: WHAT IS NEW?

            One big change from the first edition is the fact that all four programs now have different interfaces than they did in 2005. More importantly, they have greatly enhanced capabilities. I’ve cut back on some explanations and refer the user to the help menus that come with the programs, since those have improved, too, and they give more information than the book can. But, I provide hints where to look.

            The number of problems has approximately doubled. More importantly, the added problems are concentrated in the field of energy: integrated gas combined cycle, including low temperature air separation, making ethanol from switchgrass, and pressure swing adsorption to make hydrogen to fuel cars. In each case a discussion of the field precedes the definition of the problem so that students can see the applicability. Microfluidics has expanded since 2005, and there are added problems in the field of biomedical applications. An important addition was made in Aspen Plus 7.3: now you have direct access within the program to experimental data on pressure-volume-temperature of pure components and binary vapor-liquid equilibria as summarized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  The thermodynamic sections of the book include industrial guidelines, some molecular considerations, and experimental data for comparison. Aspen Plus also has the capability to easily summarize the greenhouse impact of a process. Aspen Plus runs under Microsoft Windows, but the author ran it under Windows by using Parallels Desktop for Mac on an Apple computer. The second edition also has examples running Aspen Plus with a simple user-defined FORTRAN program.

            Some professors like to have more numerical programming in their courses, so a number of problems like that have been added to the end of many chapters. A few problems in the book ask the students to do the actual numerical analysis (and compare with other programs). Instructors may say, “If you don’t program the method, you haven’t really understood the problem.” I reply by pointing out that when a doctor prescribes an MRI, you don’t say you won’t do it until he/she explains how the magnetic field works in the machine, discusses hydrogen molecules flipping orientation, and describes how the imaging takes place. The doctor and technician know how to interpret the results and how to detect if the machine is not operating correctly; engineering students can do that, too.

            The number of problems has about doubled, and they are organized into easy problems (subscript 1), harder problems (subscript 2), and problems that are suitable as projects, either for one student or for teams.


About chemecomp

Bruce A. Finlayson, retired Rehnberg Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Washington
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