Department Facilities

In addition to the laboratories operated by the Grove School of Engineering in Steinman Hall, the Department of Chemical Engineering provides separate teaching laboratories for the study of powder technology and soft materials. In addition, it has facilities for a number of advanced experiments in materials science, a virtual computation center as well as numerous laboratories for advanced research.

Powder Science and Technology Laboratory

This laboratory is attached to the course with the same name (ChE I5200) and is given together with it as demonstration of theoretical principles presented in class. The students are first introduced to powder characterization such as particle size, size distribution (using standard sieves and a light scattering instrument) and shape and surface structure using optical and electron microscopes. Instruments to measure powder specific surface area and pore volume using gas adsorption (BET and gas pycnometry) and mercury intrusion are also presented. Characterization of bulk powders properties is achieved in the Jenike Shear Cell used to measure powder-yield loci at different initial compression levels. This is a special instrument, characteristic of powder engineering, used to determine powder flowability as well as for the design of powder storage vessels such as hoppers and bins. Finally, the MikroPul Hosokawa Micron Powder Characteristics Tester provides six mechanical measurements with one easy-to-use instrument, including 1) angle of repose, 2) compressibility, 3) angle of spatula, 4) cohesiveness, 5) angle of fall and 6) disperse-ability. Measuring such properties has great importance in the design of storage hoppers, feeders, conveyors and other powder processing equipment. The laboratory also has a significant research component dedicated to the measurement of dry powder flows in different geometries and the study of powder granulation (size-enlargement). Principles of these processes are also demonstrated to students using the existing research equipment.

Soft Materials Laboratory

The course provides students with exposure to surface modification chemistry and the standard techniques used for the characterization of surface properties. Written and verbal reports are required. In addition to use of instrumentation, students will familiarize themselves with surface preparation and modification techniques, including self-assembly, evaporation, spin coating, and Langmuir-Blodgett techniques. The modules currently available are:

  • Contact angle goniometry, which will be used to measure the surface energy for various materials. Students will compare the surface properties of hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces and mixed surfaces prepared via self-assembly and Langmuir-Blodgett transfer techniques and/or plasma or corona treatment.
  • Air-liquid and liquid-liquid interfacial tension measurement using shape characterization (pendant drop and bubble techniques) and the interfacial balance (Kahn Balance). The effects of surfactants present at these interfaces will be investigated, as well as surfactant transport to the interfaces.
  • Fluorescence imaging and Brewster Angle Microscopy (BAM) investigation of surfactant phase behavior at fluid-fluid interfaces and its effect on the interfacial properties of the system.
  • Spectroscopy (reflection infrared spectroscopy) will be used to determine the surface coverage and ordering of surfaces prepared by the students.
  • Ellipsometric measurement of thin films fabricated by the students via evaporation, spin coating, Langmuir-Blodgett films, and self-assembly.
  • Students will utilize atomic force microscopy (AFM) characterization of surfaces, and compare the constant force, lateral force, and tapping modes.
  • Colloidal particle size distributions and particle stability measurements will be made using light backscattering.

Materials Science Facilities

State-of-the-art equipment is available for advanced materials science laboratory experiments. These include two Fourier-Transform Infra-Red spectrometers, a Differential Scanning Calorimeter, a Thermal Mechanical Analyzer, an Atomic Force Microscope, Single-wavelength Ellipsometer, three Langmuir-Blodgett Troughs, a Fluoroscence Microscope, High-Speed Video Cameras (up to 100000 fps), three high resolution optical microscopes with image analysis capabilities, a Contact Angle Goniometer, an Argon Plasma Cleaner, a Light Scattering instrument, a UV-spectrometer, an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, a Refractometer, a Confocal Microscope, and a Scanning Electron Microscope. For soft materials studies, two research-grade rheometers are available, a Texture Analyzer, and a bubble tensiometer are all available.

The A.X. Schmidt Virtual Computer Laboratory

The Chemical Engineering Department is equipped with a Citrix Server System that can be used by students for their coursework. All students have access to the Internet and E-mail. Application software available on the network includes ASPEN, Mathematica, Matlab, COMSOL, and Visio, Super- Pro Designer. Many courses make use of the Citrix network and software. The virtual laboratory is available for unlimited student use including external access. All students are expected to become proficient in its use.