Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 2/3 Reflection

I chose this project because I wanted to know more about water distillation, and how to control a realistic large-scale distillation column. It is also probably because I am more interested in chemical sciences. My main role in the group was a photographer. I take pictures of my team in action and our learning journey. But of course I learnt the main key points and contents, and helped my friends to solve problems regarding the distillation column.
We met some challenges along our learning journey. One very good example was the failure in the distillation column that was given to us for us to solve. We are to solve the problem and ‘fix’ the distillation column given our knowledge of the concept of distillation and how to control the distillation column. Out of the 3 variables that we can change, we cannot change one of them as it is the variable that is causing the column to fail. We needed to experiment with the other 2 variables and how they affect the column and product. We had to gather and discuss what variable to change as to get the correct final product. Given our current knowledge of how each variable affects the column and the process itself, we managed to fix the column in under a short amount of time.
Through this project, we discovered that we need team-work to get things done correctly, fast, efficiently, and in an organized manner. We need to be focused in our project and not to be distracted easily. As an individual, I have learnt lots about distillation, operation of a large-scale distillation column, teamwork, and cooperation.
My aspirations are to be an environmental engineer, so I can help save nature.

Day 1 Reflection

  For the first Plenary Session, which was about the importance of water, I feel that the talk was very interesting, as most of the content that was presented to me were new, and the presenter was humorous and engaging. We mostly take water for granted, as here in Singapore we get access to clean drinkable water almost everywhere, even from the tap. But in some parts of the world, they are not so lucky. They have absolutely no access to safe and clean water to drink, and may have to drink polluted water, which may contain viruses from infectious diseases. Till today, 1.1 billion people worldwide have no access to drinking water, 2.4 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities, 3.4 million people die each year from waterborne diseases. The number will increase if we do not help these people. We are not just making a difference for ourselves, we are also making a difference for others.
  The second Plenary Session, which was about the revolution of microelectronics technology, taught me more about the microelectronics in our everyday lives, and how they have evolved over the years, from a heavy and slow computer to a light and fast computer. Electronics is pervasive. It enables entertainment, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, etc. Electronics and biology are converging at the Nanoscale. For example, programmable blood that can tell the blood glucose level of the patient, electronic contact lens that enables blind people to see, and brain implants that allow you to talk to each other just by thinking about him/her. Microelectronics Technology will be the future of practically everything.
  The third Plenary Session, which was about the innovative breakthroughs in Nano-Science and Nano-Technology, gave me new insight about Nano-Technology. Nano-Technology is all around us, in both living and non-living things. From the hull of the ship, to the body armor that soldiers use. They save lives both medically and in combat. The most important thing about nano particles would be that the smaller size for a fixed volume equates to a larger surface area. Thanks to Nano-Technology, we can treat more diseases and bacteria, have treatment for freckles, strong and light body armor for soldiers and police, and the list goes on…
  The forth Plenary Session, which was about animation, we were introduced to stop motion animation, 2D and 3D animation, how mathematics are applied in movies, and motion capture. Most of these I have some knowledge of, so this session fuels my knowledge for these topics. Some of the learning points from the session would be everybody can be an inventor; take the first step, start something big; and to keep things simple and perfect it later.
  The fifth and last Plenary Session for the day, which was mainly about gravity and sea levels, was very interesting, probably because I am more into the Earth’s geography. The main key learning point from this session would be the sea-level rise will not be the same everywhere. This is due to a very complex process formed by the glacier ‘denting’ the Earth’s crust, thus causing the sea water to be attracted to the glacier. When the glacier melts, the water would flow back into the sea and cause a sea-level rise. Sea-level rise will be highest farthest from the glaciers. This is different in different parts of the world. 
  The Plenary Session that leaves the deepest impression on me is the session on the innovative breakthroughs in Nano-Science and Nano-Technology. What I like about it is the fact that nano-technology is all around us, and they help improve our way of lives, sometimes without us knowing! They help save lives, practically in all areas. The fact that the smaller the size for a fixed volume equals to a large surface area fascinates me. If we can apply this formula into our everyday lives, life would be so much better.
  Overall reflection for day 1, it has been a fun and meaningful day. I am looking forward to the next 2 days and 1 night here in NTU.

Our Mission

  The mission for our group would be to be able to operate and control a large-scale distillation column, have some knowledge on distillation and how it works in a scientific manner, and to learn more about group team-work and problem solving skills along the way.

Day 1 reflection by Jonan Ling

Plenary sessions:
1: Water problems 'knock off' 2B+ people on the planet, simply due to water related problems or lack of access to water.
2: Microelectronics is set to permeate our daily lives and the objects we interact with.
3: Nano-tech has many applications in real life, like killing bacteria and cleaning water.
4: Animations are moving stories, and 3D computer animation is much cheaper and less labour intensive than traditional 2D hand-drawn animation.
5: Sea-levels near melting glaciers will actually fall when the glaciers melt, instead of rising.

The plenary session that leaves the deepest impression on me is Plenary session 5.
What I find important about it is that unlike all the other plenary sessions, the topic discussed within will affect us within the short term, unlike all the other discussed topics.

Our Gains

Our key learning points:

-How to operate a large scale distillation column
.Basic knowledge of the key concepts and controlling factors in the distillation column (feed rate, re-boiler temperature & reflux ratio)
.Knowledge of components, and how it operates - The water & ethanol solution from the feed plate travels up into the distillation column, which is separated into two sections, one that flows downwards with a higher concentration of water than ethanol, and some travels into a re-boiler that literally re-boils the solution to be fed back into the feed. It also distills into a bottom container which is mostly the high water concentration solution.

-The application to what we've learnt
.We can apply this into our chemistry procedure, where we have got to operate slightly smaller distillation columns. We can also use this knowledge to form theories on procedures to carry out practicals.