ChEn 3603 – Mass Transfer & Separations


Administrative Information

  • Text Book (required): Separation Process Principles, 3rd or 4th edition, by Seader, Henley & Roper.
  • Instructor: James C. Sutherland, Professor of Chemical Engineering
    • Office location: MEB 3290H. However, I will be working remotely most of the time during spring semester.
    • Office hours:
      • Regular class time is when most Q&A will occur, as the class is “flipped”
      • Alternatively, email me to set an appointment for a one-on-one virtual meeting.
    • For help on class topics (including homework), please use Piazza.
  • Accessing lectures: see information sent out on Piazza or on the canvas page for the link to access live lectures.

Getting Help:


We will be using Piazza for class discussion. Rather than emailing questions to Professor Sutherland or the TAs, I encourage you to post your questions on Piazza.

Class announcements will also be made through Piazza, so be in the habit of checking it (there is a nice mobile app as well).

TA Help hours (tentative)

The TAs will provide help on the following days/times:

  • Monday 12:55-1:45 (Marcus)
  • Tuesday 10:45-11:35 (Patrick)
  • Wednesday 2:00-2:50 (Marcus)
  • Thursday 4:10-5:00 (Patrick)
  • Thursday 5:00-6:00 PM (Marcus)
  • Friday 2:00-2:50 (Patrick)

To access the help hours, follow the link provided on Piazza or on the class canvas page.

Python programming help:

Python is very ubiquitous and a google search can usually turn up answers to many of your questions.  But here are a few ideas of places to look if you want to learn python:

  • Some resources I’ve put together:
    • A brief tutorial on arrays in python that includes discussion of python lists as well as numpy arrays.
    • A brief tutorial on Jupyter notebooks including Markdown, LaTeX and plotting basics.
  • Python has a vast number of libraries to simplify many tasks. Among those that you will probably use regularly:
    • matplotlib provides very powerful (but sometimes challenging to use) plotting capabilities. A quick way to get started on a plot is to look at the matplotlib gallery to obtain code to generate a plot like the one you want to create.  Here is another great resource on matplotlib.
    • NumPy provides really powerful array handling capabilities like those in Matlab to allow you to create and manipulate arrays of data. It also has some algorithms that operate on the data.  We will use numpy extensively in this class.
    • SciPy has a large number of algorithms such as interpolationquadrature (numerical integration), optimizationODE solverslinear algebra tools, etc. There is some duplication between NumPy and SciPy.
    • pandas provides a lot of data analysis tools.  This includes tools to read/write data, analyze and manipulate data, etc.
    • SymPy provides support for symbolic mathematics within Python.
  • If you are a Matlab user, here are a few resources to help you in python:

Course topics:

  1. Mass transfer:
    • Integral and differential mass/mole balances.
    • Fick’s first and second laws for binary mass transfer.
    • Mass transfer in turbulent flow.  Film theory models.
  2. Single equilibrium stage operations:
    • Gibb’s phase rule & degrees of freedom.
    • Binary vapor-liquid equilibrium.
    • T-x-y diagrams.
    • Azeotropes.
    • Multicomponent flash calculations & the Rachford-Rice equation.
    • Ternary liquid-liquid systems.
  3. Absorption & Stripping:
    • Minimum flow rate, Number of equilibrium stages.
    • Stage efficiency.
    • Packed columns.
  4. Binary Continuous Distillation:
    • McCabe-Thiele method.
    • Design considerations: feed stage location, minimum reflux/boilup ratio, minimum number of stages.
  5. Binary batch distillation
  6. Adsorption:
    • Properties of sorbents.
    • Isotherms – models for adsorption.
    • Introduction to chromatography

Learning Objectives & Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe diffusion of species using Fick’s law as well as mass transfer coefficients for binary systems.
  • Perform integral and differential mass & mole balances on systems.
  • Analyze systems involving multicomponent 2-phase equilibrium and perform multicomponent flash calculations.
  • Use T-x-y diagrams to understand flash in two-component systems
  • Design basic distillation columns using the McCabe-Thiele technique.
  • Understand the tradeoffs between packed & trayed towers and analyze both for absorption, stripping and distillation.
  • Analyze batch distillation processes.
  • Understand design considerations for adsorption.

Teaching Philosophy:

I assume that you are here to learn. I will do my best to help you achieve that goal. However, learning is primarily your responsibility. You should come to class prepared to participate in the lecture and ask questions. I am happy to meet with you outside of class to discuss questions you have. I also try to respond to email in a timely manner.


Homework is designed to provide you with the opportunity to solidify concepts discussed in class. Homework assignments will typically require you to assimilate several concepts to solve a problem. I do this purposely, since I believe that this will help you to learn problem solving skills that will be crucial to your success as an engineer.

Homework assignments will be posted on the homework page of the course web site. No late homework submissions will be accepted unless arrangements are made prior to the due date with Prof. Sutherland.

Solutions will be posted on the class web site shortly after the due date.

I strongly encourage you to work together on homework assignments. Discuss the problem and your solution approaches with each other. However, you must submit your own work. Copying others’ work is plagiarism and will not be tolerated. Consequences of cheating and plagiarism include failure of homework assignments, failure of this class, and possibly dismissal from the chemical engineering program.

Homework assignments must be submitted electronically. You should write a report describing the problem, your solution, and presenting your results. Submit your report as a Jupyter notebook. For more information, see the Homework page.

Grading Policy

  • 30% Homework
  • 15% quizzes
  • 10% each midterm (four midterms)
  • 15% Final

Grades will be assigned on the following scale, normalized to the highest student in the class:

  • 92: A,  89: A-
  • 86: B+,  81: B,  78: B-
  • 75: C+,  69: C,  65: C-
  • 61: D+,  55: D,  50: D-

I reserve the right to adjust this scale downward if I deem it necessary.

Student Resources

Please read through this material which summarizes a number of resources on campus.  Here are a few links that you should be familiar with:

  • The college of engineering has a dedicated counselor who you can see free of charge.
  • The University counseling center 801-581-6826, available for appointments to discuss issues you may be having.
  • – a collection of student resources available on campus.
  • SafeUT – smartphone application that provides access to resources.
  • University Neuropsychiatric institute (UNI) hotline: 801-587-3000
  • Crisis intervention
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • To report suspicious activity or to request a courtesy escort, call campus police at 801-585-COPS (801-585-2677).

Addressing Sexual Misconduct

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression) is a Civil Rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, color, religion, age, status as a person with a disability, veteran?s status or genetic information. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 135 Park Building, 801-581-8365, or the Office of the Dean of Students, 270 Union Building, 801-581-7066. For victim support and confidential consultation, contact the Center for Student Wellness, 426 SSB, 801-581-7776. To report to the police, contact the Department of Public Safety, 801-585-2677(COPS).

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