News

January 24, 2008

Research Will Lead to New System for Student Experimentation

Jeffrey Helm, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Samuel Morton, assistant professor of chemical engineering, explore the uses of digital image correlation

Jeffrey Helm, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Samuel Morton, assistant professor of chemical engineering, are currently working on a system that will make student laboratory research more efficient and effective.

The goal of the project is to create a new, automated method to determine phase equilibrium of a mixture that has only two parts. This will be accomplished by using image processing techniques to determine the location of the liquid-liquid interface. Digital image correlation will also be used to measure the refractive index of each of the liquids.

“By combining my background in image based measurement technologies and Dr. Morton’s experience in the two-phase nature of ionic liquids, we hope to create a system that Lafayette College students can use that is both more consistent and less time consuming than the current experimental method,” says Helm.

Started this past summer, the research is still in an early phase. After determining which imaging techniques work best and developing the instrumentation and control systems to monitor and maintain environmental conditions for the test, students will be involved in the design and construction of the test instrument itself.

Helm expects the actual construction of the apparatus for the experiments to be built during the 2008-2009 academic year.

After it is completed, the system will have continuous use by students involved in research where phase equilibria measurements are important. Students will also use the instrument in the analysis of ionic liquid equilibria in Morton’s research in chemical separation methods.

“If successful, this work will yield an instrument that will produce better experimental data with less operator effort,” says Helm. “The ability to produce data that is independent of the skill of the operator will allow undergraduate students to concentrate on the analysis and interpretation of the experimental results rather than hone their ability with a pipette.”

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Exceptional Faculty

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