Thermodynamic Challenge

UC Davis and NAIST Students Take on Thermodynamic Challenge

By Aditi Risbud Bartl

On Thursday January 25, visiting graduate students from Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan and UC Davis chemical engineering graduate students collaborated in an engineering design challenge to create a container for a temperature-sensitive drug to be shipped overseas.

Eight teams consisting of four or five students each were presented with the same scenario: “You are a scientist/engineer for a pharmaceutical company and your company needs to ship overland a temperature sensitive drug to a distant city. During shipping the temperature of the drug should not exceed a specified temperature, and ideally be above a specified temperature. It has been suggested that the drug be packaged with dry ice to meet the temperature requirements during shipping. For safety reasons the packaging of the drug during transit must be sealed. No vents in the packaging are allowed.”

The students were asked to design their container by carrying out a dry-ice cooling experiment in a closed container. Andre Knoesen, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Davis, and his student Ranil Ganath, designed and built the equipment for the challenge.

Based on their analysis of the data from the cooling experiment, the teams had to demonstrate temperature-time and pressure profiles inside the container, along with the relative humidity.  Afterward, each group gave a short presentation about their approach and experimental outcomes. Each team had students from both NAIST and UC Davis to encourage the exchange of ideas.

This event was a highlight of the international cultural exchange between graduate students in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UC Davis and Nara Institute of Science and Technology, or NAIST, in Japan. Each multinational team had to decide quickly how to best allocate/optimize their intellectual resources for the betterment of the project given language/cultural differences of the group.

“Engineering programs at UC Davis already offer several courses that emphasize group participation, but what makes this project unique is that the group is now truly multinational,” said Brian Higgins, professor emeritus of chemical engineering. “Interacting within a multinational group is a key skill that engineering students need to master in order to be successful in a global economy.

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