Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M. Eng.


Chemical Engineering

Degree Program

JB Speed School of Engineering

Committee Chair

Willing, Gerold

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Gerstle, Jim

Committee Member

Gerstle, Jim

Committee Member

McNeil, Jacqueline

Author's Keywords

engineering education; runaway reaction; unit ops lab; active learning techniques


According to the Chemical Safety Board’s 2002 report entitled "Improving Reactive Hazard Management,” the CSB identified 167 serious accidents involving uncontrolled chemical reactions in the United States between 1980 and 2001 causing 108 deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. Of the 167 accidents, 35% involved runaway reactions. One noteworthy incident from recent history is the fatal explosion that occurred at T2 Laboratories in Jacksonville, FL as a result of improper scale-up and an insufficient cooling design for the system.

One recommendation resulting from the CSB investigation of the incident was that the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Inc. (ABET) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE) work together to add reactive hazard awareness to baccalaureate chemical engineering curricula requirements. In response to this recommendation, a lab teaching the hazards of exothermic reaction scale-up was created and added to the University of Louisville Chemical Engineering Department Unit Operations II Laboratory course. This lab involves performing the exothermic iodide catalyzed decomposition of hydrogen peroxide using tabletop lab equipment and having students analyze the temperature versus time results for increasing reactor volume while other parameters remain constant. Results of these experiments prove the proposed Exothermic Reactor Scale-Up lab is repeatable and able to be used as a viable experiment in future years of the Unit Ops II course.

Introducing this new experiment to the Unit Ops lab allowed for experimentation with new teaching techniques with the goal of facilitating improved student learning in the lab. In order to test whether these new changes were beneficial to student learning, student experience surveys were created and distributed to everyone enrolled in the Spring 2018 Unit Ops II course. Results confirm that the exothermic reactor scale up lab is well-received by students and that the new teaching techniques are successful. Statistical analysis shows that the exothermic lab is significantly different from other Unit Ops II labs when similar categories are compared thus showing improvement to the Unit Ops course. Overall, the Exothermic Reaction Scale-Up lab is a valuable addition to the Unit Ops II laboratory.