MEng Chemical Engineering

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Catalytic Reaction Engineering

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEN30051
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? No


The unit consist out of eight main topics:

1.         Introduction to heterogeneous reactions: in this topic the main principles of heterogeneous reaction systems are introduced. The focus will be on how to describe the basic steps for a solid-catalysed reaction system, the contacting patterns for multiphase systems, the rate limiting steps, and applying the concepts of film theory for multiphase systems.

 2.         Kinetic models for heterogeneous reactions: in this topic the methodology of deriving a rate law and mechanism and rate limiting step for solid-catalysed reaction systems are presented. The focus will be on how to develop adsorption, surface-reaction, and desorption-models to describe the overall rate equations for a solid-catalysed reaction.

 3.         Internal mass transfer: in this topic the internal diffusion and reaction in catalyst pellets are introduced.  The focus will be on how to develop pore models for analysing diffusion and reaction and show how the Thiele Modulus affects the rate of reaction in heterogeneous catalytic reactions.

 4.         External mass transfer: in this topic the fundamentals of external diffusion and molar flux are introduced and designing reactors when the reactions are limited by mass transfer are discussed. The focus will be to incorporate Fick’s first law into the mole balances to model diffusion through a stagnant film to a reacting surface.

5.         Solid-fluid reactor design - Packed bed reactors: in this topic the basic principles of solid-fluid packed bed reactors are discussed and the factors that influence the choice and performance of these reactors are identified. The focus will be on how to account for the non-isothermal behaviour of packed beds.

 6.         Solid-fluid reactor design - Fluidized bed reactors: in this topic the basic principles of solid-fluid fluidized bed reactors are discussed, and various types and applications of these reactors are introduced. The focus will be on how to account for the non-ideal flow of gas in fluidized beds using different flow models.

 7.         Fluid-fluid reactor design: in this topic the main principles of heterogeneous fluid-fluid reaction system are introduced. The focus will be on how to describe the overall rate expression, equilibrium solubility and contact pattern for a fluid-fluid reactions. Thereafter, the focus will be on how to design a fluid-fluid reactor contactor (tank and tower).

 8.         Reactor design with software packages: in this topic the concepts and methodology use to design heterogeneous reactors using computer based software packages are introduced. The focus will be on how to design a complex multiphase reactor system using simulation and modeling software packages.



 The unit aims to:

develop an understanding of the kinetics and design of chemical reactors for different types of heterogeneous systems.

Learning outcomes

ILO 1.Describe the rate steps and overall rate equation for heterogeneous reaction systems.

ILO 2.Develop mathematical expressions to describe the behaviour of different types of heterogeneous and multiphase reactors (such as catalytic packed bed reactor, fluidized bed reactor, and slurry reactor).

ILO 3.Evaluate and analyse how kinetics, mass and heat transfer affect the performance of heterogeneous and multiphase reactors.

ILO 4.Apply analytical and numerical methods to determine reactor behaviour and analyse the results.

ILO 5.Design (size) heterogeneous and multiphase chemical reactors and optimise operating conditions.

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures provide fundamental aspects supporting the critical learning of the module and will be delivered as pre-recorded asynchronous short videos via our virtual learning environment.

Synchronous sessions will support the lecture material with Q&A and problem-solving sessions where you can apply the new concepts. Surgery hours are also available for drop-in support.

Feedback on problems and examples, feedback on coursework and exams, and model answers will also be provided through the virtual learning environment. A discussion board provides an opportunity to discuss topics related to the material presented in the module.

Students are expected to expand the concepts presented in the session and online by additional reading (suggested in the Online Reading List) in order to consolidate their learning process and further stimulate their interest to the module.

Study budget:

  • Core Learning Material (e.g. recorded lectures, problem solving sessions): 24 hours
  • Self-Guided Work (e.g. continuous assessment, extra problems, reading)     : 44 hours
  • Exam Style Assessment Revision and Preparation: 32 hours

Assessment methods

Assessment Types

Total Weighting

Mid-semester exam style assessment


Final Exam


Please note that the exam style assessments weighting may be split over midterm and end of semester exams. 

Recommended reading

Reading lists are accessible through the Blackboard system linked to the library catalogue.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Percy Van Der Gryp 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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