Research and Laboratories

Engineering Solids Workshop

Dr. Frank Jones Chemical Engineering Research Lab (EMCS 119)

This laboratory supports faculty and undergraduate research focused in two main areas: (1) design and construction of a chemical energy-powered car for the Chem-E-Car Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); and (2) design and analysis of microreactors for the production of biorenewable fuels.

UTC’s nationally recognized Chem-E-Car team regularly competes in the AIChE regional and national competitions. This competition tests a team’s ability to engineer a chemically powered vehicle that will carry a given water weight for a given distance and stop using a carefully timed and calibrated chemical reaction. UTC’s Chem-E-Car team has qualified for nationals four times in the last seven years. These undergraduate students continually develop and assess new car designs, including exploring new power methods such as microbial fuel cells, chemical batteries, and biodiesel fuel. UTC’s continued success in this competition provides national and international recognition for the department, the college, and the university as a whole.

The current focus of the biorenewable fuels research is the production of biodiesel in a microreactor. In comparison to biodiesel production using batch reactors, these microreactors are able to convert reactants (triglycerides and methanol) to products much more quickly. This efficiency is largely due to the ease of diffusion and availability of catalytic surface provided by scaling down to such a small size. Additionally, the use of heterogeneous catalysis over homogeneous catalysis eliminates unwanted saponification of free fatty acids in the process, and can actually convert the free fatty acids to biodiesel.

Dr. Jim Henry Controls Systems Lab (EMCS 120)

This laboratory supports the following: ENCH 3280L, Control Systems Laboratory; ENCH 3350, Unit Operations Laboratory; ENCH 4350, Chemical Processes Laboratory; and ENEV 4350, Environmental Processes Laboratory.  It contains lab stations involving unit operations such as absorption, distillation, heat transfer, fluid flow, and reaction kinetics. This lab is under continued development for deployment as a remote laboratory through the use of Internet of Things (IoT).

There are four stations in this laboratory devoted to the unit operations and chemical/environmental processes labs. These include a packed bed absorption column and a twelve-stage distillation column, both of which span two floors. There is also a chemical reactor station for studying reaction kinetics in a continuous stirred tank versus a packed bed, as well as a heat exchanger station for studying heat transfer in a variety of heat exchanger configurations.

There are also three stations in this laboratory used in control systems lab. First is the cooling duct consisting of an air blower, duct work, and a thermal element.  Secondly, there is a multi-tank level control system. The last station contains a simple pipe flow system with a water pump. 

Other equipment housed here includes two fume hoods, a rotary evaporator, a Parr calorimeter, a spectrophotometer, and other equipment common to a wet chemistry lab.