Support a new initiative to equip Chemical Engineering students with hands-on skills

The COVID-19 pandemic and restricted access to both laboratory facilities and process control rooms highlights the pressing need for new and innovative approaches to integrate digitalisation technologies including remote operation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning into regularized chemical engineering education. These needs are fully aligned with R&D needs at companies as well as the best practices in process operation.

To meet this need and address current and future challenges, the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University is building an on-campus student-run pilot plant that will be fully integrated into the curriculum and equip students with the skills they need to succeed in their professional careers.

The student pilot plant is an exciting “co-creation” opportunity where we are engaged with the Australian manufacturing sector to provide key support for improvement of industry practices and workforce training.

Wastewater treatment has been selected for the focus of the pilot plant because of its broad applicability to Australian industry as well as being an area in which Monash has world-leading expertise (BioPRIA; ARC EESep; MCMI). The target scale is 10s to 100s L/hr, putting the pilot well above the traditional millilitre scale of benchtop laboratory equipment and opening the pathway to deep industry collaboration.

The design will be modularised and flexible, including multiple unit operations (e.g. feedstock preparation, pretreatment, membrane separation, post-processing, analysis) that can be run manually or automatically, locally or remotely, standalone or combined. Feedstock options include plain water for closed-loop modeling of complex control operations, model contaminants to focus on particular societal challenges such as PFAS, and industrial wastewater samples to solve challenges for industry partners.

The plant will have local and distributed control, be remotely accessible, and be digitally twinned. We will employ state of the art digitalisation technologies providing maximum access to and utilisation of the plant and broad application for learning and problem solving in our 1st to 4th year units. Distributed control and remote access better mimics the way engineers interact with processes, and access to a digital twin enables offline trials and extreme scenarios to be played out safely.

The pilot will be integrated across the curriculum for BEng and MEng students, who will interact with the plant from day one. First year students will start with equipment recognition and matching textbook descriptions to reality. Higher year levels will delve deeper into the unit operations, exploring equipment operation and application to a real process. Final year students will have the opportunity to solve real industry problems using the facility as part of their final year research project, and its design documents will stand as a tangible example for use during the capstone design project. A dedicated pilot plant unit will also be developed to give students another opportunity to take on and solve a real problem using a real process. The project will be industry-driven and the students will work directly with the business client to provide practical, engineering solutions.

We’re seeking passionate alumni who can help us bring the student pilot plant to life through financial support. Donate now by clicking this link and choosing the option for Chemical Engineering Student Pilot Plant

Alternatively, please contact to find out how you, or your business, can support this vital initiative.