Our capstone undergraduate course is the Unit Operations Laboratory—known as Unit Ops for short. Experiments in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mass transfer, and chemical reaction engineering deliver a hands-on experience before our students head into industry or continue on in academia.
"You've been in physics labs and chemistry labs. Now, you finally get to work on a distillation column and reactor. This is the time to put all that theory to work."
Elio Eliakim Tarika Endowed Chair
Unit Operations in Chemical Engineering is our traditional senior-year course that focuses on unit operations and engineering analysis. The course has been revamped to emphasize areas of innovation in surface science, electrochemistry, and rheology. The course covers process design principles, equipment selection and sizing, engineering economics, and safety.
Half of the senior class takes Unit Ops in the fall and the other half takes it in the spring. Students attend lectures on Mondays and work on their experiments during the rest of the week.
Students learn how to operate several different types of reactors: a continuous stir tank reactor, plug flow reactor, batch reactor, and bioreactor. The separators include the continuous distillation column, a batch distillation column, and a liquid-liquid extractor. Students also work on an experiment involving pumps and piping, the polymer extruder, and an evaporator.
Using the bioreactor sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, students grow yeast cells and study all the factors that can impact their growth curve, from agitation to temperature. At the pumps and piping station, students examine why certain pipes and pumps work best for water versus Clorox 2, the stain remover and color booster. Students use the polymer extruder sponsored by LyondellBasell to process low-density polyethylene pellets into plastic bag material. They separate ethanol and water at the batch distillation station.
The course also covers process safety, a topic that ties back to their first year in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Students taking the introductory course CHBE 121 create posters about a chemical engineering disaster and the students from the Unit Ops course put their process safety knowledge to work to provide feedback.