Modifying a U.O. Lab Experiment to Make Ethanol Fuel from Grain
John Wagner, Majid Salim, and Allen Hersel. Chemical Engineering, Tri-State University, 1 University Ave, Angola, IN 46703
Laboratory and design courses bring students closer to real world projects than in any other part of the engineering curriculum. However, most of our departments laboratory courses use well defined systems that have mathematically predictable outcomes, whereas, most of the industrial systems are much more complex. Graduates of our program sometimes had problems extending their education to these much more complex systems. Furthermore, while the experiments serve to reinforce classroom topics, none of our past Unit Operations Laboratory experiments directly connected students with modern topics in the outside world or leant themselves to economic analysis. To address these concerns, the McKetta Department of Chemical & Bioprocess Engineering modified its existing methanol / water distillation experiment to produce E-85 grade fuel (denatured dry ethanol) from grain. Additional equipment was purchased to enzymatically convert the starches to sugar (mash), ferment the sugar into alcohol, and dry the distilled ethanol. These enhancements cost under $5000 and can produce over 1 gallon of E-85 per batch. The benefits include an increase in student's interest, the inclusion of a much more complex system into our laboratory mix and a direct connection to trends in modern society. In addition, this laboratory may help performance on outcomes associated with the departments learning objective on both “Social Awareness and Responsibility” and “Problem Solving Ability”.