Integrating chemical engineering fundamentals in the capstone process design project

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All B.Eng. courses offered at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) must now follow CDIO standards. The final “capstone” course in the B.Eng. education is Process Design, which for many years has been typical of chemical engineering curricula worldwide. The course at DTU typically has about 30 students. The B.Eng. education lasts for 3½ years (seven semesters), of which the 5th semester consists of practical training with a company and the final (7th) semester consists of a research project. The design course falls in the 6th semester, and is thus the last formal instruction that the students receive. The education is designed to provide students with the necessary tools to become productive in a company in a short time – so there is a strong industrial focus. Some students choose to continue with their studies and can then complete an M.Sc. after a further two years of study. The demands of the CDIO standards – especially standard 3 – Integrated Curriculum - means that the course projects must draw on competences provided in other subjects which the students are taking in parallel with Process Design – specifically Process Control and Reaction Engineering. In each semester of the B.Eng. education, one course is designated the “project” course, which should draw on material learned in parallel courses. In the 6th semester, Process Design is the project course. Process Control and Reaction Engineering are then incorporated into the final plant design project. Specifically, almost all chemical plants will incorporate one or more chemical reactors. In the initial stages of a process design, it is sufficient to express simply the reactor inputs and outputs. However in later stages, details about the reactor need to be specified. This is only possible using tools learned in the course Reaction Engineering. In order to incorporate reactor design into process design in a meaningful way, the teachers of the respective courses need to collaborate (Standard 9 – Enhancement of Faculty CDIO skills). The students also see that different components of the chemical engineering curriculum relate to each other. Similarly, in process design, steady state is always assumed for processes (i.e. production of a given chemical occurs at a constant rate, temperature, pressure and composition; feeds enter the plant at constant rates, etc.). However, in practice, chemical plants need to be carefully controlled to operate at a specified set of steady-state conditions. This is the science of Process Control and the students are asked to apply what they have learned here in order to show how to control the operation of the plant they have designed. The key difference from typical (earlier) process design courses is that the interaction between the courses is formalized, requiring (amongst other things) increased, broader teacher competence and communication between teachers across different disciplines, thereby also tying in with Standard 9 – Enhancement of Faculty CDIO skills. From a CDIO perspective, Process Design provides an opportunity for a comprehensive implementation of CDIO principles in a single course. Already the traditional chemical engineering “capstone” design course has for decades embodied many of the essential features of CDIO (for example the focus on group work, development of interpersonal skills, the open-ended nature of design problems, etc.).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of CDIO conference
Publication date2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventCDIO conference - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 1 Jan 2010 → …


ConferenceCDIO conference
CityMontreal, Canada
Period01/01/2010 → …


  • Enhancement of Faculty CDIO skills
  • Integrated Curriculum
  • Process Design
  • Capstone Project


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