Teaching Facilities & Lab Highlights

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ChE Facilities

Most of the teaching facilities for the Department of Chemical Engineering are housed in the Engineering Building (EB), home to most of the College of Engineering. The chemical engineering facilities consist of three undergraduate teaching laboratories, numerous research laboratories, several storerooms, and office space for faculty, staff, and graduate students. The laboratory space is devoted to the Unit Operations Laboratory, ChE 316 (EB 1273 and 2265), the Polymer/Composites Laboratory, ChE 472 (EB 1254), and the Biochemical Engineering Laboratory, ChE 481 (EB 3262 and 3269). The room locator link may be used to find the location of each lab.

The Department has excellent undergraduate teaching laboratories and is also fortunate to have the people, including a full-time technician, and financial resources to maintain and improve these laboratories.

The Main Library, easily accessible remotely or in person, houses a variety of useful journals, texts and references to support the undergraduate program. The Division of Engineering Computing Services (DECS, EB 1338) plans, installs and maintains the undergraduate computing resources for the College of Engineering.

Descriptions of Individual Laboratories

Unit Operations Laboratory

The unit operations course, ChE 316, is a required course in the curriculum and thus must accommodate up to 140 students per year. The laboratory consists of four rooms on two floors, encompassing a total of approximately 2500 ft2. The course may be taken in either the junior or senior year. Chemical engineering principles, including material and energy balances and momentum, heat and mass transfer, are investigated via hands-on experiments.  In the lab, students work in groups of three on an experiment for five laboratory periods of three hours each; students conduct four or five experiments over the course of the semester.

The course includes an emphasis on the practice of engineering statistics by applying material taught in the lecture section of the course to analysis of data generated in laboratory experiments. Upon completion of the course, students are able to operate chemical engineering process equipment, collect, model, and analyze engineering data, work in teams, write clear, concise laboratory reports, and make oral presentations of their work. There are currently 15 active equipment stations in the unit operations laboratory:

Stagewise distillation system with two ten-stage columns
Stagewise distillation system with one eight-stage column
Packed column absorption with two towers
Double-effect evaporator
Shell and tube heat exchanger
Fluid flow/frictional loss apparatus
Karr extraction column
Spray dryer
Batch reactor
Permea gas membrane separator
Stirred tank reactor system
Laminar/Plug flow reactor system
Mixing tank/unsteady state heat exchange apparatus
Pneumatic conveying system
Pumps apparatus (centrifugal and gear)

Photo of two students looking at a distillation apparatus.
Reboiler and stripping section of distillation apparatus

Polymers and Composites Processing Laboratory

The Polymers and Composites Processing Laboratory, ChE 472, is an optional undergraduate course offered each fall semester to approximately 70 students.  It may be taken in either the junior or senior year.  This course is designed to teach students the relationships among processing variables, microstructure and mechanical performance of molded polymer products. Lecture topics are supplemented by laboratory experiments that demonstrate manufacturing processes for thermoset and thermoplastic matrix composites. Students also investigate mechanical, thermal and optical properties of composites along with transport properties, including the melt rheology and barrier properties of nanocomposites. 

This lab and the bioprocessing lab (described below) serve as important links between our undergraduate program and research activities.  The Polymers and Composites Processing Laboratory houses the following major pieces of equipment:

Instrumented 75 ton Wabash press for compression molding
Morgan press for prototype injection molding
Single screw extruder with capillary rheometer assembly
Differential scanning calorimeter
Discovery HR-2 rheometer
Thermomechanical analyzer
Optical microscope with camera
Mechanical test frame with environmental chamber
Metricon prism coupler


Photo of a mini RIM machine in the polymers and composites processing laboratory.
Mini RIM machine.

The first three pieces of equipment serve to illustrate different types of molding or manufacturing methods. The next three are used to illustrate the characterization of thermal and rheological behavior of the materials used. The optical microscope is used to illustrate comparisons of microstructure obtained with different molding methods and processing conditions. The test frame is used to illustrate the effect of process induced microstructure on the mechanical performance of the product. The prism coupler enhances our ability to analyze the orientation state in transparent polymers and polymer nanocomposites through refractive index measurements. In addition, the students have access to MOCON units in the Composite Materials and Structures Center for measuring oxygen permeability of polymer films.

Biochemical Engineering Laboratory

The Biochemical Engineering Laboratory, ChE 481, is an optional undergraduate course offered each fall semester to approximately 50 students.  It may be taken in either the junior or senior year.  The lecture component of this course emphasizes the application of traditional chemical engineering concepts to interdisciplinary technology areas that involve biological cells or their components. Lecture topics are supplemented by laboratory experiments that demonstrate applications of microbiology and biochemistry to biochemical engineering processes that are commonly used in the food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries, but are not included in unit operations laboratory. Students investigate the kinetics and thermodynamics of biochemical reactors, and explore transport phenomena in biological systems.  They also consider elements of bioreactor design and scale-up.

The Biochemical Engineering Teaching Laboratory (BETL) was opened about 30 years ago to give chemical engineering students hands-on experience with biochemical processes. The 2300 ft2 BETL was the result of capital-campaign investment by the MSU Engineering College and Chemical Engineering Department, as well as matching equipment donations from several companies and the State of Michigan vaccine production facility.  The BETL allows students to gain hands on practice with the following experimental techniques:

Aseptic techniques for culture growth and maintenance
Batch ethanol fermentation
Enzyme kinetics
Plasmid stability
Diffusivity in immobilized cell biocatalysts
Oxygen mass transfer
Fermentation power transfer
Membrane filtration

Photo of a 100 gallon bioreactor in the Biochemical Engineering Teaching Laboratory
The 100 gallon bioreactor.

These experiments reinforce student outcomes in the understanding, design, and analysis of biochemical processes, proficiency in the use of modern engineering tools, laboratory skills and data analysis, and the ability to work in teams on multidisciplinary problems.