Aspenplus Instructional Tools for Chemical Engineers
Krishnan K. Chittur
Chemical and Materials Engineering Department
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Huntsville, AL 35899
(256) 824 3596 (V), (256) 824 3596 (F)
My homepage
Integrate chemical process simulation tools across the entire chemical engineering curriculum here at the University of Alabama in Huntsville

Comment We do not use Aspenplus anymore on our campus, but will keep these pages here for anyone that may find these useful. We have used ChemCAD in the senior design classes and a few of us have used ASCEND to simulate complex processes. Clearly, these notes are old and there are other vendors of simulation programs. One of these days, we will update these notes also. We are also fixing the links, many of them are broken ...
Chemical engineering seniors are currently introduced to programs that can perform material and energy balances, phase equilibrium calculations and equipment sizing and costing during their final year at UAH. These programs have a fairly steep learning curve and students are unable to derive as good a learning experience as we can provide. Since the objective of such programs is to help students with their Senior Plant Design Project, it would be helpful if we can teach the basic elements of such programs early in the curriculum.
Programs like Aspenplus, Winsim, ChemCAD, Pro II and such come with extensive documentation both in hardcopy format and as online help. These manuals are useful only after the students get some familiarity with the program itself. I am convinced that the best way to teach these program to our student is to write example problems, with detailed documentation, for each of the courses in Chemical Engineering. For this project, I am concentrating on developing instructional tools to help students understand how to use Aspenplus in their coursework. If there are detailed tutorial examples written for the other simulators (other than the ones that come with the program) and if you are willing to share, please do contact me
Prepare a set of notes on the WWW that students can use to start Aspenplus on UAH's Sun Workstations in the Engineering Building. Write a series of example problems to help students develop a basic understanding of Aspenplus' capabilities.
Plan Implementation
During the Fall 1997 semester, Colette Mitchell  one of my students, worked with me to write many of the examples you will see on the Aspenplus Examples Pages Colette finished here Chemical Engineering requirements during the Fall Semester, 1997 and is now working for Simulation Sciences, in Houston, TX. Simulation Sciences sells a simulation product called Pro II. Colette and her team of Chemical Engineers used Aspenplus extensively for their Capstone Design Project (The 1997 AIChE Student Design Project, they did a good job!).
Kevin Uptain another of my fine students, wrote a module on how Aspenplus can be used to develop a cost model for a process (Integrated Costing). Read Kevin's Module During the Fall 1997 Semester, with Colette Mitchell's assistance, I ran tutorial sessions (2 hours) on Aspenplus to students in ChE 244 (Stoichiometry), ChE 344 (Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics), ChE 441 (Reactor Design) and ChE 443 (Mass Transfer Operations). Similar sessions are planned for the Spring 1998 Semester, I am looking for bright students who can do a job as good as Colette Mitchell and Kevin Uptain
What did we learn?
Placing the notes and examples on the Engineering Web Server was very convenient as a teaching tool. Students used Netscape under Solaris to follow the instructions as they worked with Aspenplus.
What did the Students Learn?
I hope something! It is too early to tell what impact this activity will have on the students. I am in the process of collecting some feedback from some of the students.
The revolution in computer hardware and the availability of sophisticated software programs has changed the way a number of schools are approaching engineering education. Students can now tackle complex engineering problems with ease because of Spreadsheet programs like Excel, Lotus 123 or Quattro Pro, Symbolic Mathematical Tools such as Maple Mathcad and Mathematica and general and special purpose simulation tools. It has been my experience that unless students are given detailed instructions on the use of such tools (with example problems), they do not realize the full benefit of such tools. Aspenplus (appears) to be have a dominant position as the simulator used by Chemical Engineering Departments around the country. (I have no idea actually ...) Aspenplus has been used by our Chemical Engineering Seniors pursuing their Capstone Design projects. Students were given brief instructions on how to interact with these programs through a small set of elementary homework problems towards the tail end of ChE 443 (Mass Transfer Operations) and during the initial portion of ChE 448 (Capstone Design). Students had a lot of difficulty digesting new material taught in these two courses along with developing an understanding of how to use these programs well. It is clear that we must begin earlier, as early as ChE 244 (Material Balances). Ideally, ChE 197 (Computer Methods for Chemical Engineers) is the best place to begin such training, but we it is not easy to do that at UAH. A significant majority of our students are transfer students and we first see them in ChE 244.
This idea of preparing course specific notes for illustrating the use of process simulation programs is not new. The University of Ottawa has had such an effort for the past two years or so.
The more I look, the more I find, atleast that's what I am discovering! Cornell University has some information about how to use Aspenplus that will also be useful for many of our students, Aspen Technology has itself started a good collection of example problems, but are not as well documented as I would like.
Perhaps the best site to begin if you are looking for example problems using Aspenplus is at the University of Florida's Chemical Engineering Department in Gainesville, Florida, a site created and maintained by Dr. Dale Kirmse Follow the links to see example problems from a number of different areas in Chemical Engineering.
Naturally, the question arises: if example problems exist, why do we need to support this activity? What I have proposed is to target all of our courses in our curriculum with specific example problems. If students are provided with the basics in training and experience with the simulator in a structured manner, they will be in an excellent position to fully use the power of the simulator in their senior design project. I believe that this idea of structuring the training along with traditional instruction in the classroom is the unique feature of this proposal.
Visit the UAH Aspenplus Examples Page
I have started working with a FREE, large equation based modelling system called ASCEND IV Carnegie Mellon University. I am convinced that ASCEND is an excellent environment for teaching undergraduate students how they can develop complex process models, debug it, get solutions and check the solutions. I have started a separate page to describe how we can use ASCEND in undergraduate education, with detailed examples and code in the ASCEND language. Visit the ASCEND Page What does this program allow us to do? If we know how to model a specific system, know the equations that can be used to describe the system, the program provides an object oriented environment under which we can obtain solutions to the program. The program can solve sets of linear, non-linear equations. LSODE has been attached to ASCEND and hence the program will support the solution of initial value problems. The group from Carnegie Mellon University has also developed collocation models to allow one to do two point boundary value models.

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On 16 Jan 2006, 21:32.