A NEW APPROACH TO THE UNIT OPERATIONS LABORATORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Unit operations laboratories are a standard feature of most chemical engineering programs. Students spend long hours running distillation columns, gas absorbers, and work with pumps, valves and heat exchangers. This provides much of the hands-on learning that they take into industry after graduation. Process control laboratories are often integrated into the unit operations laboratory. The most common control laboratory involves heating a tank with a steady inflow of cold water. Our laboratory
... er. Our laboratory has all of these features. Our approach can be described as using 20 th century technology to control 19 th century type processes in an 18 th century learning environment while educating engineers for the 21 st century. A different way to say it is that our approach is nothing like what a new graduate engineer sees when they arrive at a chemical facility. Several years ago, our department created a team tasked with upgrading the approach to the unit operations laboratory, and several guiding principles were created. It is important to retain a "hands-on" operational component-students need to open and close valves, read gauges, as well as start and stop pumps. It is equally important to introduce students to a proper distributed control system. It is also important that the DCS is not seen as a "black box" that does everything-the link between the equipment, the P&ID and the DCS needs to be reinforced. The equipment is now in regular operation, and we continue to expand its capabilities. This submission describes the genesis of the system and the staged approach that has been taken to manage the time and budget pressures.