MEng Chemical Engineering with Energy and Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Distillation & Absorption

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEN20072
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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

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

ILO 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.

ILO 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. 

ILO 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.

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

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

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

Continuous 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
Peter Martin Unit coordinator
Rosa Cuellar Franca Unit coordinator

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