Part I of the Chemical Engineering course occupies the second year, and is taught full-time in the Department. Although the Part I class is made up of students drawn from Computer Science or Natural Sciences (Section (1)) and Engineering (Section (2)), the vast majority of lectures (85%) are given jointly to the two groups. However, section (1) students do receive some dedicated lectures on general engineering, whereas Section (2) students do receive some dedicated lectures on chemistry.
No lectures on Saturdays are given in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology.
The topics that are taught in the Chemical Engineering course can be divided into five themes: Fundamentals, Process Operations, Process Systems, Mathematical Methods and Enabling Topics. The topics are examined in four 3 hour papers at the end of the year.
Fundamentals: Fluid Mechanics introduces the basic equations, and shows how to use them in practical applications. Transport Processes covers the transfer of heat by conduction, convection and radiation, and the transport of molecules by diffusion and convection. Process Calculations covers the calculation of thermodynamic properties with the aim of answering questions such as 'Is this process possible?' and 'What energy does it require?'. It includes mass and energy balances, power and refrigeration cycles, the thermodynamics of mixtures and reaction equilibrium. The course on Biotechnology describes the scientific and engineering background behind this increasingly important area. It covers some fundamental principles of the biology of cells, before going on to discuss microbial growth and the design of bioreactors.
Process Operations: Equilibrium Staged Processes considers the separation of binary mixtures using distillation, solvent extraction, leaching and gas absorption in plate columns. In contrast, the unit on Transport Processes looks at heat and mass transfer in co-current and counter-current devices, such as heat exchangers and packed columns. Reactors gives an introduction to chemical reaction engineering by considering the design of simple isothermal reactors.
Process Systems: The unit on Introductory Chemical Engineering gives some perspective on why the various unit operations are necessary and how they can be put together to form a plant flowsheet. The study of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) and Economics is an essential part of a chemical engineer's training.
Mathematical Methods: The Engineering Mathematics course teaches numerical methods for solving equations, and these principles are then tested by a set of practical computer exercises. The course also gives significant coverage to linear algebra and the theory of differential equations which occur often in Chemical Engineering problems.
Enabling Topics: Section (1) students, those entering from the Natural Sciences and Computer Science routes, are required to take lecture units on Mechanics and Materials, Stress Analysis and Dynamics. Section (2) students, those entering from the Engineering route, are required to take lecture units on various topics in Chemistry: chemical thermodynamics and reaction kinetics, chemical bonding and inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and analytical chemistry. Both Sections receive lectures on further aspects of mechanical engineering related to construction of process plant equipment.
Coursework: All students must complete a Fluid Mechanics and Transport Processes Laboratory comprising 8 x 2 hour experiments. Students also complete 5 classes in which they use computing packages to solve Chemical Engineering problems. Section (1) students attend an Engineering Drawing course (4 x 3 hour sessions) and an Engineering Applications Laboratory (2 x 2 hour sessions) which focuses on how particular items of process equipment are designed and constructed. Section (2) students must complete 5 x 2 hour experiments on Physical Chemistry.
Each fortnight during the 8-week teaching periods, students are issued with an engineering problem to tackle; these 'Exercises' or mini-projects require more time to solve than is possible in an examination or a taught class and many require the use of computer tools. Students submit their solutions as a report for assessment. The last exercise is a small design project in which students design an item of process equipment such as a heat exchanger.
A series of workshops is given in the Easter Term in which students are encouraged to develop their abilities in giving oral presentations, working in groups, project planning and team leadership.