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A Survey of Thermodynamics and Transport Properties in Chemical Engineering Education in Europe and the USA

Peter Ahlström, School of Engineering, University College of Borås, -, SE-501 90 Borås, Sweden, Karel Aim, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic, Ralf Dohrn, Bayer Technology Services GmbH, Leverkusen, Germany, Richard Elliott, University of Akron, Chem Eng Dept, Akron, OH 44325-3906, Ljudmila Fele Žilnik, National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia, George Jackson, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London, Centre for Process Systems Engineering, London, United Kingdom, Jean-Noel Jaubert Jaubert, University of Nancy, Nancy, France, Maria Eugénia Rebello de A. Macedo, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal, Juha-Pekka Pokki, Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki, Finland, Kati Reczey, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary, Alexey Victorov, St Petersburg State University, St Petersburg, Russia, and Ioannis G. Economou, Institute of Physical Chemistry, National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos”, GR-15310, Aghia Paraskevi, Greece.

Thermodynamics and Transport Properties (TTP) is a central subject in the majority of chemical engineering curricula worldwide and it is thus of interest to know how it is taught today in various countries if chemical engineering education is to be improved. A survey of graduate thermodynamics education in the USA was performed a few years ago by Visco et al. [1] but as far as we know no systematic study of the undergraduate thermodynamics education has been performed, at least in recent years. In the present study, a survey about TTP education in Europe and the USA is presented. Results were obtained from nearly twenty different European countries and the USA and in total answers from about 150 universities were used for this study. The study is performed under the auspices of the Working Party of Thermodynamics and Transport Properties of the European Federation of Chemical Engineering.

The survey was performed using a web based surveying system for which invitations were sent out to the universities by local representatives who were responsible for one or more countries each.

Of the universities that answered more than 70 % offer BSc education 65 % offer MSc education and 55 % offer PhD education. Most universities offer at least two courses of thermodynamics. The following discussion is mainly based on the first two (undergraduate) courses reported. Half of these are taught to chemical engineers exclusively whereas the rest are taught with other branches of engineering, mainly mechanical and / or process engineering.

In general two sets of course lengths were observed, corresponding either to a full semester of full time studies or to quarter of a semester. Most courses are centered around lectures and exercise classes with little or no laboratory work whereas home assignments are given in the vast majority (70-80 %) of the courses.

The first course is mainly centered around the first and second law of thermodynamics whereas the second course is frequently more concentrated on phase equilibria. Both of these courses are mainly comprising of classical thermodynamics whereas the molecular interpretation often is touched upon. An analysis of the differences between thermodynamics education in Europe and the USA in presently being undertaken and results from this will also be presented. An investigation of the use of thermodynamics within industry is also on-going within the Working Party and results will be reported in the near future.

[1] S.K.Dube, D.P. Visco, Chem. Eng. Ed., 2005, 258-263.