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A New Set of Problems to Work…From the Early Days of Personal Computers

What Next?

from - 'Personal Computers'

from - 'Personal Computers'

We just completed working the ten problems from the 1997 ASEE workshop.  We worked a variety of problems that had solutions with other software packages such as Microsoft Excel, MATLAB, Mathematica, Maple and Polymath.  Please compare and let me know what you think.  Now, let’s look at the following journal article for a ‘journey into the past’.  In 1987, as personal computers were getting started, E. M. Rosen and R. N. Adams published an article in ‘Computers and Chemical Engineering’, Vol. 11, No. 6, pp. 723-736 describing solution approaches for the following problems:

  • Numerical integration to calculate the number of transfer units (stages)
  • Four component flash
  • Solve a ‘two reaction’ gas-phase equilibrium
  • Determine a molar volume from the Van Der Waal’s equation
  • Binary differential distillation
  • Steady state heat conduction in a plate
  • Un-steady state heat conduction in a slab
  • Material balance around a 5-unit nitric acid process

It was ‘cutting edge’ for its time and still relevant now as a way to understand basic numerical approaches for solving different types of chemcial engineering problems.  They used the ‘Visicalc’ spreadsheet program to set up and solve these problems.  Gosh, I’m old enough to remember Visicalc…well, that’s another set of posts.  You know, I sold my IBM PC 5150 a couple of years ago on eBay.  Really, I did!  You had to boot from the floppy and use DOS.   Thank God those days are over, for this we will use our IPython/Scipy/Matplotlib set (and maybe we’ll use Sage….) on our nice modern laptop, while listening to Grooveshark….

So, let’s begin…

We will follow the problem pattern that they used.  I urge you to get a copy of the article and read it.  These guys are pretty smart and we can still benefit from their knowledge.  So, let’s start with the next post about integrating to calculate transfer units.  We’ll see how things have changed (or haven’t changed in 20+ years….).

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