LSU engineering students gain industry experience with new $1 million equipment

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — LSU Chemical Engineering students got some new tools. The department installed industry-ready equipment for its 618 students.

“So this has been about eight years in the making. When we built this building, we made this room special, a two-story room so we can house this distillation column,” said professor and Chair of the Cain Department of Chemical Engineering John Flake.

Distillation Columns

One LSU professor actually helped design the one million dollar distillation columns. This type of equipment uses heat to break chemicals into their purest forms, helping make everyday items like plastic and gasoline.

Distillation Columns

“All the things that make our cars lighter, all the things that make packaging lighter, all of those things basically come from products that are produced via distillation,” said Professional in Residence John Pendergast.

This was all in an effort to better prepare the next generation.

“My first couple of years in Chemi here, I’ve been in the textbooks and kind of in the weeds in understanding what these processes are, but we actually get to see it right there, it’s so exciting,” said Chemical Engineering student Erin Cochram.

“This is the largest and most advanced distillation system that I have ever seen at a university,” said Flake.

“We have two 6-inch diameter, 20-foot-tall packed, glass-wall columns that may be arranged in advanced configurations. Students can certainly read about distillation in a textbook and work problems, but the experience of running a steam reboiler and separating products at this scale is a much more meaningful experience,” he added.

Distillation Columns

Students are being prepared for the workforce, benefitting the industry and people everywhere.

“This is exactly what you can see out on a plant somewhere. So, to know that I have that right here on campus, I’m grateful for this opportunity,” said Cochram.

She said this is beneficial, especially after hands-on learning was with limited last year.

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