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re-thinking the approach to theory

Chemical engineering is a collaborative effort between the worlds of physics and mathematics to search for ways to change raw materials into new or more useful products.  Examples of this pursuit include the creation of pharmaceuticals and the work done at oil refineries.

The boiling point, vapor pressure, and density of chemicals are just a few of the properties which are monitored in order to understand how a particular chemical will behave under certain conditions.  These properties become the variables used in the mathematical models which predict outcomes in different environments.

These models are very useful, but they may be less than ideal.  Some models only work when the subject lies within certain parameters, such as a temperature range.  Others are so complex that the relationship between given values may be very difficult to discern.  And of course, there is a vast amount of information on the properties of each chemical to measure, record, and recall

This is where the research conducted by Dr. Michael Misovich of the Hope College Engineering Department comes into play.  With the help of undergraduate students Andrew DeDoes and Matthew Goetz, Misovich is using his background in phase equilibrium to develop models which are simpler and cover a broader range for each variable.

The model that Misovich and his team have come up with uses 3 variables: critical temperature, pressure, and the acentric factor.  In an article published in Chemical Engineering Progress entitled “A Simple Approach to Vapor Pressure Prediction”, Misovich and his team write that “this approach allows quick determination of Antoine constants for any substance for which the critical temperature, critical pressure and acentric factor are known.”

They note that this model tops other models through its ability “to reproduce [Soave-Redlich-Kwong and Peng-Robinson] vapor pressure predictions with near exactness as well as its ability to estimate actual vapor pressures with accuracy equivalent to these [equations of state]...This method is especially applicable at temperatures and vapor pressures between the normal boiling point and critical point, a range of conditions outside the scope of accuracy of most existing tabulations of Antoine equation constants.”

Summer researchers include Laura Petrasky ’11.  In February 2008, Petrasky was informed that she had been chosen to receive a research grant from the Michigan Space Grant program.  The application process involved composing an essay outlining her proposed research project, the benefits of the research, and her academic and individual goals.  “I hope to become fully literate in programming this summer,” she said, “and I hope to be successful in generating a more general empirical Antoine equation in terms of the acentric factor.”  If she accomplishes this task, she hopes to continue research in the fields of vapor pressure and physical properties—other areas related in Dr. Misovich's work.