Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Two ChE senior design groups win best-in-category awards

The 2023 Engineering Senior Design Expo held at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum.

Seniors in the chemical engineering department experienced a group project like no other through the senior design course. The course allowed them to bring a project of their choosing to life through trial and error to create a better, more sustainable world.

Two groups’ efforts were recognized as they took home the best-in-category awards from the judges, who represented a variety of alumni, professionals from the Chicago region, and faculty from the College of Engineering.

Seniors design plant using vegetable oil for renewable diesel fuel Heading link

One of those winning teams included seniors Avidar Al-Kurdi, Salma Khalifa, Siddhi Patel, Ramiro Roman, and Tristan Suastegui who received the Petrochemical Engineering award for their project “The Future Is Clean, With Renewable Diesel Seen.”

The group used a process called Ecofining, developed by Honeywell UOP, to create a simulated plant for renewable diesel production. To create their simulated plant, the group modeled their project using soybean oil, which creates the most heat when turned into renewable energy, to determine cost and energy requirements.

“We wanted this to be as close to a real-life simulation and scenario as possible,” Al Kurdi said.

In doing so, the group continuously adjusted its model to create a profitable, environmentally friendly, and innovative process.

Other renewable fuel sources include animal fat, various cooking oils, and greases. Unlike biodiesel, renewable diesel is most similar in composition to crude diesel. Biodiesel is less efficient due to its composition, and it requires a nonstandard engine whereas renewable diesel can take almost any feedstock or be combined with crude oil to create renewable fuel.

CHE seniors improve existing biobased compound process for more sustainable products Heading link

Seniors Jesse Anderson, Abdul Hamideh, Thanh Nguyen, Ayush Patel, and Andres Rodriguez-Castro also received the Petrochemical Engineering award for “From Waste to Wonder: Bacterial Synthesis of 1,3-Propanediol from Crude Glycerol.”

The team hopes to inspire further research and development of alternative biobased processes for other high-demand compounds, contributing to the global movement towards greener and more sustainable chemical production methods.

To improve and redesign the existing bio-based process created by DuPont, the group worked to develop a more sustainable and optimized route for 1,3-propanediol (1,3-PDO) production. 1,3-PDO is an essential organic compound with high demand in various industries such as cosmetics, and cleaning products, and is also used in the production of polytrimethylene terephthalate, a commercial polyester used for carpets and textiles.

Their bio-based process utilizes crude glycerol as an underlying layer in a fermentation setup, which leads to fewer synthesized toxic chemicals and improved sustainability whereas traditional petrochemical method productions operate at high temperatures and pressures and involve the use of toxic chemicals.

The group’s changes contribute to a more economical, sustainable, and efficient production process for 1,3-PDO. The new process also addresses existing limitations incorporating several innovative improvements to reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption during the distillation process and lead to fewer byproducts. The enhanced process includes the recycling of roughly 86% of the water used in the process for resource conservation and reducing the environmental impact.