Systems Measurement and Optimisation
Chemical Engineering  - CHEN 20014



Systems Measurements and Optimisation

I taught this course to the second year Undergraduate students in Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester in 2009.


Following the merger of the University of Manchester and UMIST in 2004, the newly formed School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science found itself in a unique position, with expertise encompassing traditional chemical engineering subjects such as fluid flow, thermodynamics, chemical reaction engineering, and bio-systems together with subject specialists in analytical science, digital systems integration and chemical and biochemical measurement systems.

In order to maximize the teaching potential within the newly formed school and expand the scope of the undergraduate teaching curriculum, facilitating the training of a new breed of chemical engineering graduates, skilled not only in the fundamentals of chemical engineering, but also versed in the areas of measurement systems, electronic control systems and data acquisition.

The eventual aim of this curriculum change was not to force chemical engineers to become experts in electrical engineering, but was rather a desire to develop a more rounded graduate, able to interface with a range of professional scientists (electrical, chemical, physical, and control scientists), such that they are able to communicate effectively and are familiar with the terms commonly used in these disciplines. The belief that this was required by industry was reinforced by personal communications with a number of instrument vendors, and chemical engineering companies exhibiting at the Process Engineering Live Event in Manchester between the 10th and 11th March 2009 (

The measurement systems course was implemented as a level 2 - second year undergraduate core module with a 10 credit weighting (typically students study for 60 credits per semester, with two semesters per year). This provided sufficient study time for students to become familiar with the their core subject in year 1, and enabled those students spending time in industry to become familiar with the new subject prior to there industrial experience.

Learning Aims and Objectives
The following aims and learning objectives were stated to the students at the beginning of the course.

  • Facilitate chemical engineering students in adopting a conversational approach to measurement systems, rather than a black box approach.
  • Introduce the concept of automated and semi-automated measurement.
  • Examine the components of a measurement system
  • Understand the generation of signals in a measurement context and the digital processing of such signals into useful data.
  • Expand knowledge of measurement systems to methods for quality control and process feedback

Course Topics
  • Measurements, Instruments and Methods
  • Process Plant Instrumentation
  • Basic Digital Electronics and Microprocessors
  • Signals and Noise  - Sources and Reduction Methods
  • Introduction to Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
  • Data Acquisition & Communications.
  • Intrinsically Safe Measurements
  • Virtual Instrumentation Systems