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MEng Chemical Engineering / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Distillation & Absorption

Unit code CHEN20072
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science
Available as a free choice unit? No


Equilibrium stages: Conceptual characterisation of binary separations.
Batch distillation: Rayleigh distillation and batch rectification for ideal mixtures.
Continuous distillation: Flash and continuous binary distillation, McCabe-Thiele construction, total and partial reboilers and condensers, plate efficiencies.
Continuous absorption: Binary vapour-liquid absorption in column, mass transfer analysis, design using theoretical units.
Column hydraulics: Characteristics of different types of plates and packaging, flooding, flooding correlations and sizing of columns, column control strategies.




Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Process Engineering Fundamentals CHEN10041 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Momentum, Heat & Mass Transfer CHEN20112 Co-Requisite Compulsory


The unit aims to:

Develop a basic competence in making equilibrium, mass transfer and hydraulic calculations for binary distillation and absorption.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to:

1 Interpret, arrange and gather equilibrium data (VLE, K values) using various tabulated and graphical formats.

2 Apply equilibrium data and mass balances to construct models for batch and continuous separation systems: Rayleigh distillation, batch rectification, flash distillation, multiple stage distillation and absorption.

3 Calculate preliminary design parameters (minimum number of theoretical stages, minimum reflux ratio, feed stage) for a multi stage distillation unit using the McCabe-Thiele graphical method. 

4 Calculate preliminary design parameters (minimum number of theoretical stages, minimum stripping/scrubbing carrier flow rates) for a multi stage absorption unit using stepping or theoretical unit analysis.

5 Distinguish the difference between VLE and absorption/desorption, and translate distillation theory to plate absorption columns.

6 Recognize the key effects of fluid dynamics and flow within a distillation or absorption column.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures will be delivered as pre-recorded asynchronous videos. Problem solving tutorials, on-line video examples and on-line quizzes. Handbook (hardcopy and electronic version), notes and slides available on Blackboard throughout the semester.


Assessment methods

Assessment task Weighting
Continuous assessment 30%
Exam style assessment 70%


Recommended reading

  1. Coulson JM & Richardson JF, Chemical Engineering Volume 2, 5th Edition, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002, ISBN 0750644451, Joule Library 660 COU (e-book available)
  2. Geankoplis CJ, Transport Processes and Unit Operations, Prentice Hall, 1993, Joule Library 660.02 GEA


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 16
Tutorials 8
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Martin Unit coordinator
Rosa Cuellar Franca Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.

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