Jan 312012

*Note: This article assumes you have rudimentary knowledge of how a simple distillation column operates.  Though much of the basics of the simple model for a distillation column will be covered below, it should not be considered as a stand alone reference.


While taking my separations and mass transfer operations course at UF, I took a particularly interesting exam where I was tasked with predicting the performance of a distillation column with two inputs.  This may be getting ahead of myself, as the problem’s information was written into the proof, but the problem was as follows:

The Test Problem

Given a distillation column separating n-pentane and n-heptane, with a feed rate of 200 kgmol/hr of a 40 mol% n-pentane liquid at bubble point, a 95 mol% distillate stream, a 5 mol% bottoms stream, a 30 mol% side stream with a flow rate out equal to that of the bottoms leaving, a reflux ratio equal to twice that of the minimum, and a 50% average tray efficiency, use the McCabe-Thiele graphical method and the provided vapor-liquid equilibrium data to determine a) the flow rate and composition of all streams, b) the minimum reflux ratio, c) the number of theoretical plates required, and d) the optimum placement of the feed stream and side stream.

So, the information given so far is

  • F=200 kgmol/hr
  • x_F=0.40
  • q_F=1
  • x_D=0.95
  • x_W=0.05
  • G=-W (negative sign due to opposite orientation)
  • x_G=0.30
  • q_G=1
  • R_D=2R_{min}
  • \epsilon_a=0.50

Continue reading »

Jan 162012
 Old Work to be Posted Over the Next Few Months  January 16, 2012  Posted by at 1:28 pm Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Education, Projects, Publications, Random Musings, Research Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Old Work to be Posted Over the Next Few Months

Over the next few months I will be posting about many of the independent projects and research projects I did as an undergraduate.  They range from metabolic models to full process designs and cover a diverse selection of chemical engineering principles, several with significant real world applications.  Starting things off will be a walk through of a proof I wrote in response to a test grade I did not agree with and how the results of the proof may be used both to simplify and enhance a graphical method for predicting distillation column behavior.  This proof will be the basis for a paper I will be writing on the subject as well.

Jan 112012
 January 11, 2012  Posted by at 8:00 pm Law and Order, Programming, Projects Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Quick Project: A Blackout Banner for Protesting Censorship

So, while perusing Techdirt earlier today, I saw an article about WordPress coming out against the Stopping Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  To me, this was just another tech sector company proclaiming, rightfully so, how ripe for abuse the proposed legislation is in its current form.  I noted that WordPress it quite capable of mass distributing a plugin to spread awareness and calls to action in the comments.  Another commenter pointed me to the already successful campaign by americancensorship.org and the small piece of code they provide to blackout a small portion of a website with a banner.  I saw a simple solution: wrap the aforementioned code inside a plugin and submit it myself.  This was a somewhat challenging project as I am not intimately familiar with the details of php, nor had I ever previously delved into the WordPress API.  I was able to cobble together what I feel is a stable plugin that more or less acts like an on/off switch for WordPress websites.  I have submitted my request to place the plugin into the repository, and they will eventually get back to me so I can upload it to the svn.  In the meantime, I thought it was an interesting project and I’ve placed the cleaned up bare-bones source code for the plugin below.

The majority of the effort was actually fixing minor mistakes like blacking out the dashboard where I was editing the plugin and many, many php error message frustrations caused by a single leading “?” prior the rest of the code above.   Beyond those small details it was a matter of figuring out which hook would allow me to place the banner most effectively.  After some fiddling around with different locations, I simply set the dimensions to “100%” and blacked out most of the sandbox I had setup.  So, the plugin works, I got to play with the insides of WordPress, and I was able to complete my project in just a few short hours.

Jan 102012
 January 10, 2012  Posted by at 1:56 pm Photos, Random Musings Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Skiing Vacation in Utah, Day 6 and Return Home

Well, I am back home and I had a fantastic time skiing with my family and friends.  It was nice to be able to spend time with them without the looming stress of going back to class hanging over my head.  Now its just finishing up graduate school applications.

The last day on the mountain was a lot of fun, though a little wearing.  We skied from ~9am until ~8pm, and the slopes were wide open (my guess is most people were still hung over from new year’s eve) for most of the day.

I also took a video while going down the Payday run.  Unfortunately, its a bit large and I’ll need to compress it before posting it.  It starts about 50ft down from the top of the lift and ends a bit after I end back at the bottom of the lift.  It should probably be watched without the sound on.  This wasn’t my fastest run, but I was a little tired and I was worried I might crash and lose my (crappy) camera.  I’ll have the video up when I get the time to pare it down to a manageable size.

The flight home was rather uneventful, but it was nice to finally be back in town.

Jan 012012
 January 1, 2012  Posted by at 8:00 pm Photos, Random Musings Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Skiing Vacation in Utah, Days 4 and 5

Day 4 was a day to stay up the mountain.  Even though there was a little snow from the previous night, it quickly mixed in with the slush.  We avoided the slush near the base by exploring the McConkey area, but there was only a couple runs and no bowls open.  Unfortunately, the McConkey area was also a bit rocky.  Day 5 was great, there was a bit of fresh snow from the night before and brief flurries in the morning.  Thankfully, it was cold enough that most of the new snow stayed powder.