Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers

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Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium Rd. 2

This Wednesday the 2nd round of the undergraduate research symposium took place in grand fashion at the Steps concourse. There were more than 30 teams each presenting their hard work of research and projects. It exhibits the intensive qualities of Lehigh engineering students. It’s also a perfect demonstration of the exciting research opportunities Lehigh offers to undergraduate students. I found my ChE friends proudly presenting their work. In fact, two ChE groups presented on their excellent work on the senior design project.

One of the groups’ design project topic is Dry Methane Reforming. It’s a process that produces syngas by reacting carbon dioxide with hydrocarbons such as methane. According to Martin Halmann, In recent years, increased concerns on the contribution of greenhouse gases to global warming have increased interest in the replacement of steam as reactant with carbon dioxide.

The other group presented on Bio-production of 1,3-propanediol (PDO). Typically, PDO is produced from Ethylene Oxide, which ironically is the final product of my design project. Recently, companies started to invest in production of PDO from renewable sources such as corn. In fact, the picture of the carpet square in the slideshow below is an example of what can be made from bio-produced PDO. It’s very fluffy and awesome.

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Joining the M2 Program

I’m very excited to tell you that I’m accepting the offer to join the Lehigh Master of Science in Management (M2) program after graduation. M2 is a one year graduate program that lets engineering students to build a business skill set toward career goals. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to sharpen my business acumen, and really adding another strong tool into my skill sets. I made an earlier post about M2, and you can view it here. I really believe that diversifying my skills helps to succeed in life. And I wanted to share with you a short paragraph from my Personal Statement that I had do for program application:

“Along the road of growing up, I have picked up a few words of wisdom that were made popular over the millennium. One of my favorite ones was that “if you want to succeed in life, you have to be an expert at something.” It was not until the end of my junior year of college that the overwhelming amount of power and truth of these words began to sink in. Scrambling in a quest for expertise, I quickly discovered it is not enough to become just an expert in one field. I believe that in order to truly succeed I must build many tools around myself. A Swiss Army Knife is often more handy than a single screwdriver. A screwdriver might do one job well, but a Swiss Army Knife can do much more. Having the engineering technical background in my pocket, I wish to expand my horizon by joining the Master of Science in Management Program.”

I think that building a solid business education onto the foundation of my Chemical Engineering degree will not only hone my business acumen, but it will also provide me the necessary tools to contribute to my future company. It’s really about building up from my Chemical Engineering degree and take the talent to a different ground.Effective-Management-of-People-Large


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Last Unit Ops Experiment


My lab partner and I concluded our last Unit Ops experiment this past Wednesday. In fact, it was the last Unit Ops experiment session that we had to do, EVER. It’s bittersweet to think about the fact that we’ve been through so much with this lab class. All the ups and downs we’ve had, I’m going to treasure these moments. And when I graduate, I’m going to miss this place and all the fun we had. It’s been quite a journey. We’ve conducted a total of 10 different experiments in this room. We moved from one station to another, restlessly, one week after another. It was exhausting but also quite rewarding. I was not only be able to review the knowledge I learned from earlier classes, I was also able to apply it.

The last experiment we had to do was the Refrigeration experiment. The objective of this experiment is to analyze the vapor compression refrigeration cycle and assessing its performance from the coefficient of performance (COP). The system operates under varies conditions, and the experimentally generated COP will be compared to the theoretical COP. The three testing conditions that is going to be varied to generate real life conditions are the cooling water temperature, process water temperature, and the RPM of the compressor. Since many refrigeration units have air-cooled condensers, the seasonal changes in the temperature of the ambient air can be simulated by changing the cooling water flow rate. The variation in performance of the refrigeration system will also be assessed from the cooling duty changes by adjusting the RPM of the compressor.

In the center of the picture, my lab partner is carefully assessing the cooling water flow rates and making sure it maintains at the same level.

This Wednesday is the final presentation for this lab. After that, we need to submit a two page letter report summarizing the results. Once that’s submitted, we’ll actually be finished with Unit Ops. I’ll be ready by then to equipment myself with the knowledge I learned and take on future challenges.

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Leadership Consultant w/ SASE

At SASE, we like to learn while having fun. A few weeks ago, we invited trained leaders from the Office of Student Leadership Development (OSLD) to come over for leadership workshop that help the next year’s SASE eBoard members to better understand leadership roles. Two OSLD representatives came and they presented us with basic leadership concepts and fun activities to do.

One of the activities was to build the tallest tower with given pasta noodles and marshmallows. Sounds interesting right? Each person was given a random amount of pasta and marshmallows to start. The activity helped me to learn the dynamics of a team, and how the leader of a team is evolved. I learned that communication is a major aspect that affect the effectiveness of a team. Being able to get ideas across makes a important difference between a efficient team and a not so efficient team.

Having a solid engineering background is critical to my future success, however, I think having great leadership abilities is just as important. I wish to evolve as a leader in the future, and at the same time utilizing my Chemical Engineering knowledge to benefit my community. Chemical Engineering is a universal engineering; it means that the associated concepts could applied almost everywhere. Knowing that, it really offers diversified possibilities as to what I want to do with my Chemical Engineering degree. Going forward, I’m going to pursue a Master of Science in Management degree at Lehigh. It’ll not only add value to my Lehigh experience, but also provide me a well-rounded academic portfolio.

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Egg Drop Competition w/ SASE

Last Friday afternoon was the 2nd Annual Campus Wide Egg Drop Competition. Egg Drop is becoming a engineering tradition at Lehigh where the goal is to protect the egg from breaking after dropping it from different heights. I was personally very excited about this event because SASE was one of the organizations that sponsored this event. SASE collaborated with National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) to make this event possible. There’s no better way to spend a lazy Friday afternoon than killing it with egg drop.

There’s a total of three drops, all from different heights. The eggs that survived the first round drop will move on to the next round. Each team is given 30 minutes to build their system that protects the egg. We were given common materials such as newspaper, rubber bands, plastic cups, straws, sandwich bags, and tape. And remember, NO PARACHUTE! Each item has a hypothetical prices, and a budget of $14 was given. The winner will be group that survived all three drops, with the least amount of hypothetical money spent.

It was very interesting to see all kinds of creative engineering solutions. For example, some groups wrapped the egg with loads and loads of newspaper, while other groups built a cone. Some groups built a propeller, while some others build a pyramid around the egg. The winner was the group that used newspaper strips attached to the end of a cone. The newspaper strips will slow down the speed of the drop, and the tip of the cone will absorb most of the impact. To my surprise, the group only spend $9 dollars!

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Here’s some raw footage of the competition! 

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Mass Transfer of Gases in an Agitated Vessel

Mass transfer of gases in agitated tanks has a wide range of applications in the real world. For example, it was used to dissolve oxygen into a fermenter or fish tanks. In addition, one of the Senior Design project groups is using this technique to produce liquid phase methanol. In their process, natural gas and steam are reformed in a furnace to make hydrogen and carbon oxides. The hydrogen and carbon oxides react under pressure in a gas phase reactor in the presence of a catalyst to produce methanol. In all of the described systems above, it involved sparging a gas into a stirred tank. Various correlations had been published by professional scientists to related mass transfer coefficient (kLa) with impeller speed and gas superficial velocities. They will be used to compare to the experimental results.

This experiment was broken down into two parts, the absorption of oxygen into the water from the air, and the desorption of oxygen out of the water by using Nitrogen. In the absorption part of the lab, a stream of air was injected into the tank from the bottom of the tank. An impeller run at constant RPM will ensure the oxygen is homogenously spread out in the tank. In the desorption cycle, air will be switched off and a stream of Nitrogen will be introduced to the system.

The rate of mass transfer of oxygen into vessel is primarily determined the kLa, which is liquid phase mass transfer coefficient. The kLa is affected by the temperature, flow rate and impeller speed. The concentration of oxygen in the tank will initially be zero when no oxygen is injected; then, concentration will increase steadily to saturation. At saturation, the concentration will not increase even when more oxygen is injected into the system. The set up looked like this:av setupThis system consists of a vessel that holds approximately 250 liters of water, with an internal diameter, DT, of 2 feed. An 11-inch, 6-blade impeller along with four 2.5 by 24 inch baffles are being installed at the bottom of the vessel. The vessel is made of stainless steel, and the heating jacket is made of 9 rounds of coil. A stream of steam and cooling water are being used to control the heating and cooling of the system.

In this experiment, a stream of air is injected into the vessel tank full of water through a circular distributer. An impeller is used to ensure the mixture in the tank is homogenous. The speed of the impeller is controlled by a motor. Dissolve oxygen probes are installed at two locations within the tank to monitor the change in oxygen concentration over time. Air will first be flowed through the tank at a fixed flow rate, temperature, and RPM of the impeller. When the oxygen concentration in water is saturated, Nitrogen will be switched on to flush the system free of oxygen. Once the concentration of oxygen dropped down to zero, air will be turned on again at a new operating condition of choice.

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ChE Formal

Last night was the long-awaited ChE Formal organized by the one and only Lehigh AIChE. AIChE stands for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Lehigh AIChE is the Lehigh chapter of this professional and academic organization. The Lehigh AIChE’s vision is to provide value as the Global Leader of the Chemical Engineering profession, the lifetime center for professional & personal growth, and security of chemical engineers, and the foremost catalyst in applying chemical engineering expertise in meeting societal needs. It’s ran by some of my dearest classmates, and it has been very successful in spreading popularity on campus.

The ChE Formal was a once a year experience. To be honest with you, I have been looking forward to this year’s Formal since last year’s Formal. I had a lot of fun socializing and bonding with my friends. It was a great opportunity to get to know people in the same major across different grades. The Formal was a great event in the way it promotes unity. I felt an overwhelming sense of togetherness that I can guarantee that I wouldn’t be able to experience if I was in a major. It was incredible that the Lehigh AIChE organized this event. It provided us a little fun and time to forget about the intense course work that we have been doing. It also a great kick start for the intense course work that we’re about to do in the next two weeks.

It’s a shame that I didn’t have any pictures or videos to share with you. I had a lot of fun both last year and this year. If you are thinking about coming to Lehigh to major in Chemical Engineering, this is should be one of your top reasons.

If I had to use use one picture how I felt, it kind of felt like this:


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