- AIChE Chemical Car Challenge
- Kurdish Chemical Refinery Retrofit
- Platelet Storage Optimization
- Device for Reducing Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy
Combustion in cars results in emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change or global warming. The design team therefore developed a car that starts and stops solely using chemical reactions other than combustion.
The car cannot use mechanical timers or physical brakes to stop, so specific reactions are necessary to time and brake the car. To provide power, a translation of chemical energy to mechanical energy is necessary, so specific devices and systems are required. With all this in mind, a major goal was to stay within a budget specified
by the school and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) competition rules.
The project required students to think outside the box and solve a difficult engineering problem that requires good engineering practice and critical thinking. To address the problem, the team applied knowledge of chemistry to develop two viable solutions to the start and stop problems. They chose an acid-base reaction to generate heat as the source of chemical energy to the system, which was then translated to mechanical energy using thermoelectric generators.
For timing, the team chose a variation of the iodine clock reaction, which was used to cut off a light signal, triggering an Arduino board to cut power to the motor. To ensure both of these reactions work as designed, chemical engineering principles like reaction kinetics, heats of reactions, batch reactor design and extents of reactions were applied. The team also used mechanical and electrical engineering principles such as 3D modeling, coding and wire/circuit designs.
The impact of the solution is multifaceted, and team members benefited from the work involved in the project, including presentations, group project work, realistic prototyping and project research.
This project extends to the next class of seniors who would like to further refine the design. Hopefully, future teams will take the best parts of this car and use them in a different way to build their own unique car. One day, perhaps this technology can lead to cars that operate without the combustion of fossil fuels, leading to a more sustainable world!
Senior design in chemical engineering synthesizes the entire curriculum, which is capped by a class project that draws upon student technical, teamwork and economic acumen.
In the latest project, graduating students simulated a refinery retrofit for the removal of hazardous benzene from petroleum fuels. In this expansive task, detailed simulation informed construction cost estimates and profitability projections. The winning class design demanded a $46 million investment, but could rapidly recoup costs through the sale of isolated benzene and other products.
Project economic planning required that students analyze risk under different tax regimes and feedstock (crude oil) availability. Additionally, the proposed retrofit equipment, for fabrication in the United States, was for export to Iraqi Kurdistan. Thus, the design was more than an engineering and economic exercise; unique geopolitical, ethical, and social issues were also weighed.
Thrombocytopenia and other platelet-related diseases have resulted in more than 2 million platelet transfusions in 2016. Platelet transfusions are essential in maintaining these peoples’ lives and are also used in many surgeries. However, platelet transfusions cost $3.6 billion USD in 2017.
The platelet life cycle is only 10 days in circulation within the body and, currently, only five days in storage. The short storage life is due to the platelet storage lesion (PSL), which refers to deterioration in storage of the platelets. When platelets become activated before the proper time they are useless in helping the patient’s blood to coagulate.
Activation and PSL are caused mainly by low oxygen concentration and high shear stress on the cells. Platelets consume oxygen at such a rate that static storage is not possible, but vigorous mixing can result in high shear stresses. Thus, there are two major factors that can be changed to maximize oxygen transport while minimizing shear stress: the platelet bag material and the agitation method.
This project focused on determining the optimal combination of these two factors. Experimental tests determined the permeability of different bag material while computer-simulated tests determined the effect of the agitation method. While these tests should help determine the optimal combination of these factors, PSL is a multifaceted issue that requires experiments with live platelet cells to verify the optimal combination.
Using better materials and agitation methods in industry will save money by increasing the viability of platelets and the time in which they can be used, which could save more lives.
This project aims to reduce the occurrence of peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients resulting from damage to peripheral nerves. The condition often causes weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet and is an adverse side effect of chemotherapy. Currently, no preventative measures exist to combat this side effect of the treatment. Literature demonstrates that 30-40 percent of all oncology patients exposed to chemotherapy medication will develop peripheral neuropathy. Patients who develop CIPN incur three times the medical costs of patients who do not.
Currently, drug therapy is the main treatment for this type of neuropathy. Two physical means are also used to alleviate the neuropathy by reducing the blood flow to the hands and feet during a chemotherapy session. One method relies on applying compressive pressure to a hand by wearing an elastic glove that is smaller than the hand. The other method is based on keeping the hands and feet at a low temperature using cold water or ice packs. However, these methods do not allow a precise control of the pressure and temperature, respectively.
We designed a controllable device that offers compressive pressure and a cool environment to the extremities. The prototype includes a two-layer compression glove and a circulating cold-fluid bath, both of which are adjustable to the patient needs and unique physiology.