Course: CBE441
Instructor: Avalos
S 2016

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

The goal of this course is to teach the kinetics of chemical reactions common to chemical engineering processes. These include thermodynamic vs. kinetic control, stoichiometry of reactions, the quasi-steady state assumption, fixed bed catalytic reactors, heterogeneous catalysis, and different types of reactors (e.g. CSTR vs. PFR). The bulk of the course concentrates on material and energy balances for chemical reactions. There is one midterm, one final, and nine problem sets, along with 10 precepts. The organization of this course aligns directly with chapters 2 -7 of the course textbook, Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design Fundamentals by Rawlings and Ekerdt. It is the rare engineering course in which the textbook lies at its heart, as the text is extremely well written and essentially serves as a syllabus for topics of the course. The sequence of topics in the course match the table of contents of the textbook, so it is very easy to follow along with the course topics. Ultimately, Professor Avalos is very dedicated professor who will actively shape the curriculum depending on his students’ challenges and comfort with the material. He is flexible enough to spend more or less time on certain topics until the students have truly grasped the concept, and is very keen to help in his own office hours. Above all, he is one of the kindest CBE professors, who makes it his priority that all students grasp the fundamentals of each topic before proceeding to the next; as a result, this CBE course, while challenging, is one of the most manageable courses as long as the required preparation and effort are made.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

This course contains four main aspects: lectures, precepts, problem sets, and office hours. The lectures are extremely thorough, and each step of calculation is shown for clarity. Because the topics align with those of the textbook, as do lecture examples quite often, it is a wise strategy to bring the textbook every day to lecture, as the material on the chalkboard can also be followed along within the textbook; slight differences in problem solving technique and explanations will then manifest readily. Unlike other engineering textbooks, this CBE text is compact and small, and thus can be carried easily every day.

Problem sets are the key to consolidating the material in class. Office hours are strongly recommended to not only complete the problem sets, but also to understand the types of patterns and steps taken to solve a type of question. For example, for thermodynamic equilibrium problems, one must first define eta, then set up the ICE table, then substitute into the equilibrium K expression, etc. The assessments very often parallel directly the types of questions provided on the homeworks, and thus understanding the calculation steps necessary for each “type” of problem – such as equilibrium, material balance, energy balance, etc. – will prove useful for the midterm and final. Make sure to find out the common “procedure” one must follow for each of these types of problems, because a very similar one will likely show in the assessment, and very often the same “steps” will have to be taken.

Precepts, though sometimes sparsely attended, are very helpful as those problems serve as a template to work from for that week’s problem set. Thus, the “solved” precept problem can be used as a guide on how to solve that week’s homework; the TAs are very dedicated to this portion as well as the office hours, and will often go above and beyond to get your questions answered.

Learning For and From Assignments

Main strategies have already been discussed. The main function of the problem sets is to reinforce the material learned in class via problems that very often are similar to the examples presented in class and precept. The exams most likely show problems identical to those in homeworks, save a “twist” or two that is designed to challenge the student. As discussed, the best strategy would be to understand the common “steps” or “procedure” taken to tackle each “type” of problem: finding the concentration of a product in a PFR via material or energy balance, finding the value of K using Clausius Clapeyron and ICE tables, finding the production rate of a catalytic pellet via the Thiele modulus, etc. These “steps “can then be replicated on the assessments for similar problems.

As discussed once more, it is critical for the student to have completed the reading prior to each lecture and to have the book available during lecture in order to follow along better. To study for exams, redoing the problem sets are helpful, as is completing past exams. The best study tools, once again, is to make a sheet of the steps taken of how to solve different types of commonly recurring problems, seen in the precepts as well as on the homework.

External Resources

The resources provided by the class – lectures, textbook, precepts, homeworks, and past exams – are usually substantive enough to prepare the student well for the class. There are 2 separate readings – regarding chemical reaction kinetics and heterogeneous catalysis – that will be provided to the student. It is recommended to complete those readings, as the material will be tested, even though it is not included within the textbook. Furthermore, MATLAB may be tested on certain problem sets, though they will not appear on the midterm or final exam – at least, they did not in Spring 2016. Though MATLAB can seem daunting to some, the first two precepts are usually dedicated to demonstrating some common techniques in MATLAB that will be helpful for the problem sets; furthermore, the MATLAB sections are often more interesting, as they demonstrate the “real-world” consequences of the reaction kinetics concepts when translated into an industrial setting (such as reactor runaway).

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This class is required for CBE concentrators, and rarely do students outside of the department take this class. However, with the correct preparation, CBE 441 should be manageable. The problem sets can take a little bit of time, but they are the main time commitment of this course outside of lecture and reading the textbook. This course introduces the basic fundamentals of analyzing chemical reactions from a non-molecular perspective: analyzing the concentration profile of a product over time, demonstrating the effects of reaction temperature and other conditions via mathematics, etc. It is also taught by a professor who not only works hard to ensure his students grasp the material well, but is also dedicated to ensuring no student feels lost or helpless during the course, as can sometimes be the case in a fast-paced, challenging engineering course.

Chemical Reaction Engineering

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