ChE447/EID447: Sustainability and Pollution Prevention

Prof. Davis

Course Syllabus

Course Description:

The population of the earth is at its highest level and still growing. We have long since exceeded a level at which people can ignore their effects on their environment. Scientific research in the past few decades has performed a commendable job in exposing the environmental impacts of our constantly growing society: climate change, toxic spills, depletion of fisheries, deforestation, species extinction, disease epidemics, desertification, air emissions, soil eutrophication, water pollution, and many more. A question thus arises as to the consequences of our actions: how sustainable is our present course? (The answer is, unfortunately, "Not very.")

This question begs for a definition of (and a measurement scheme for) sustainability. Once we can identify what it means for something to be sustainable, it is then important to identify what you, as a citizen and as an engineer, can do about explaining and improving our current path. One of the goals of the chemical engineering curriculum at Cooper is for students to have an understanding and awareness of the professional, ethical, and safe application of their knowledge; this course aims to help achieve that goal by instructing students about environmentally responsible (but still economically sound) manufacturing.

The first part of this course discusses in detail one methodology for defining and assessing the sustainability of an entity. The course then proceeds with more traditional topics in pollution prevention for chemical processes, outlining concepts on the macroscale (life-cycle assessment) and mesoscale (pollution prevention for unit operations).

My goal is to provide you with some prospective on what issues must be considered in order to make things for our growing (and increasingly affluent) population in an economical way that has minimal impact on our valuable ecosystems.

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

Explain what sustainability is and how it is affected by time, geography, and people
Choose a set of indicators which could be used to approximate or assess the sustainability of a country, company, university, etc.
Use a fuzzy-logic-based methodology to define and assess sustainability
Write a detailed report assessing the sustainability and environmental impact of a corporation relative to its industry
Perform a sensitivity analysis which identifies the most critical components of sustainability for a given corporation
Explain what a life cycle assessment is and what needs to be considered to create one
Perform a life-cycle assessment on two or more process or product alternatives to assess their relative costs and impact on the environment
Apply chemical process design methods to find targets (lower or upper bounds) for waste minimization, energy efficiency, and minimal environmental impact

Example Student Projects:

Example 1
Example 2