The Chemical Engineering BA/MEng course at Cambridge is supported by a Teaching Consortium of industrial companies. One of those companies, ABB, has generously donated an experimental rig to help with teaching process control to undergraduates.
It is vital for chemical engineers, in both the design and operation of chemical processes, to be able to design and analyse process control systems. These are used both to regulate (e.g. to ensure a stream composition remains at the desired value when the process is subject to disturbances) and to provide servo action (e.g. to allow changes in specification of an outlet temperature). These systems, like virtually all process systems, are dynamic in nature, i.e. their behaviour is time dependent.
The process control course that undergraduates take during their third year (Part IIA) aims to give students the core skill of ability to describe process dynamics with mass and energy balances and to apply the knowledge in providing the necessary process control systems to ensure that the process operation is stable and the objectives (of providing regulator and servo action) are met.
At the moment, the course is lacking a practical, experimental, component to help the students to understand these principles. In discussions with ABB, we identified this short fall in the teaching of process control and working with them over the course of a year, a solution was found. First, the problem was defined and a flowsheet produced. The needs and constraints were incorporated and ABB also used the development of the rig as an educational exercise for their graduate engineer training scheme. The graduate engineers made it, supervised by experienced engineers.
ABB have now completed this bespoke rig and gifted it to us. It will be installed in the Teaching Lab when we move into the new building and third year students (Part IIAs) will be using it in the next academic year.
ABB (www.abb.com) is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility, industry, and transport and infrastructure customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in roughly 100 countries and employs about 140,000 people. ABB is involved with several UK universities and has made philanthropic donations to top universities.