news
Published: 23 January 2018

New chemical engineering facility replicates industrial experience for students

As we begin semester 2, Surrey’s new £1.7m chemical engineering facility – which includes a fully operational process plant – is being used for undergraduate teaching across all years.

Chemical Engineering pilot plant

The new facility within the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering gives students access to state-of-the-art equipment that replicates what they will eventually use in industry.

The facility was part-funded by a donation of $1 million from Surrey alumni Neil and Elizabeth Chapman. Neil Chapman is a Chemical Engineering graduate and currently President of ExxonMobil Chemical Company, and Elizabeth is a Human Health and Biology alumna.

Featuring an open plan, light-filled learning space, the new facility includes:

  • A fully operational process plant replicating industry practice to demonstrate chemical reaction, solids handling, filtration, and CO2 capture. Modelled on a simple and safe whole process – producing very pure saline solution from a contaminated salt feed – the plant enables students to experience different unit operations commonly found in process plants.  Undergraduate students, self-organised as a team of 30, are challenged to run the plant for a working week, making tonnes of product, and meeting quality control requirements with changes in product grade. This experience is not offered at any other university

  • High spec control room situated on a mezzanine floor

  • Stand-alone equipment enabling students to understand key chemical engineering operations and conduct simple experiments before using the full pilot plant, including a refrigeration plant, gas absorption unit (to remove CO2 gases) and a crystallisation unit

The facility also houses a new computer lab which in the future will offer students a range of immersive, innovative learning experiences such as virtual plant simulations using VR headsets, and computer-based programmes for remote experiments.

The facility benefits students across all years of Surrey’s chemical engineering degrees, as well as being used for PhD research. First year students use the equipment during their ‘Scientific Fundamentals’ module while second year students construct industry-standard Process Flow Diagrams for the plant as part of their ‘Engineering Systems and Dynamics’ module. Third year students take part in intensive ‘production weeks’ at the facility.

Director of Learning and Teaching Professor Esat Alpay said: “The new facility has had a transformative effect on the student learning environment. The pilot plant, together with several new semi-technical-scale laboratory items, provides students with opportunities to develop a wide range of practical skills, and to experience real-world plant and process operations. This should place our graduates in an even stronger position when it comes to job applications.”

Discover our programmes in Chemical and Process Engineering.