Faculty Advisor

Clark, William M.


Senior chemical engineering undergraduates routinely operate industrially significant equipment in the Unit Operations laboratory in colleges and universities around the world. However, students do not always develop a thorough understanding of the processes occurring inside the equipment. The goal for this project was to develop a computer simulation of one particular unit operations experiment and adapt it for classroom use, targeted at students with little or no prior modeling experience. The objective of the module that this project produced was to test the hypothesis that computer simulation of laboratory equipment will solidify the link between experiment and theory and provide improved learning for students. A hollow-fiber polysulfone membrane air separation unit produced by Monsanto was modeled using the finite element modeling software COMSOL Multiphysics. This program was chosen for its user-friendly interface, most importantly displaying the differential equations when any boundary condition is selected. Modeling of the membrane unit with COMSOL is significant since no prior simulation of this unit operation using other programs allows students to visualize the variables changing inside the membrane (pressure, concentration gradient, velocity profile, etc.) while still maintaining a high degree of accuracy. Results of the simulation were similar to experimental data and more accurate than the algebraic model currently used by WPI students.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Date Accepted

January 2007


Chemical Engineering

Project Type

Major Qualifying Project


Restricted-WPI community only

Advisor Department

Chemical Engineering