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Chemical Rection Engineering (CRE) Education: From the Era of Slide Rules to the Digital Age

H. Scott Fogler, The University of Michigan, 2300 Hayward St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2136 and Michael B. Cutlip, University of Connecticut, 191 Auditorium Rd., Rm. 204, Storrs, CT 06269-3222.

The complexity level of CRE problems that student work and study in both undergraduate and graduate courses has increased very dramatically in the last 40 years. In the era of slides rules, the major focus was on reactors operated isothermally where charts, nomographs and linear differential equations were used to describe very simple situations. However, today's students are routinely solving problems involving complex problems such as multiple reactions with heat effects in CSTRs and PFRs that are either operated adiabatically or have co-current or countercurrent heat exchangers. The ability to solve such complex high-level problems has been enabled by user-friendly software packages, such as POLYMATH, that easily allow solution of systems of ODEs. Numerical solutions of CRE problems can easily be incorporated into example problems and special simulation where many “What if” scenarios can be examined very quickly. These provide for not only a greater understanding of CRE but also serve as a vehicle for students to develop and practice their creative thinking skills.

The application of CRE fundamentals has been extended to many new and emerging areas such as biological systems (fermentation and enzymatic reactors), electrochemical systems (fuel cells), combustion processes, pharmacokinetics, and environmental engineering, to mention only a few. As new technologies emerge, it is clear that the fundamentals of CRE will continue to be applied and will make enabling and substantial contributions.