Faculty/Staff

Kenneth Robert Jolls

  • Professor Emeritus

Other Office(s)

2121 Sweeney
IA




Education

Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, University of Illinois, 1966
M.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Illinois, 1963
B.S. Chemical Engineering (high honors), North Carolina State University, 1961
A.B. Music, Duke University, 1958

Interest Areas

Visualizing computer-based analyses through high-performance graphics holds great promise for chemical engineering research, practice, and teaching. Visual thinking utilizes powerful intellectual pathways that have traditionally been underused by scientists and engineers. Many branches of chemical engineering analysis possess visualizable components - concepts dealing with structures, stresses, fields, and phases. Computer simulation in these areas yields results that are often more readily interpreted visually - through static or dynamic views of carefully conceived structures. My students and I are endeavoring to exploit these visual techniques as they apply to the fields of chemical thermodynamics and separations.

Research Interests
Visualizing computer-based analyses through high-performance graphics holds great promise for chemical engineering research, practice, and teaching. Visual thinking utilizes powerful intellectual pathways that have traditionally been underused by scientists and engineers. Many branches of chemical engineering analysis possess visualizable components - concepts dealing with structures, stresses, fields, and phases. Computer simulation in these areas yields results that are often more readily interpreted visually - through static or dynamic views of carefully conceived structures. My students and I are endeavoring to exploit these visual techniques as they apply to the fields of chemical thermodynamics and separations.

Research Projects 
Scientific Visualization: A New Way to Teach Old Subjects
No tool since the hand calculator has offered more pedagogical promise than computer visualization. With today's visually oriented students, there is a need for both teaching and research methods that give more emphasis to visual thinking. Chemical thermodynamics is a natural focus for these techniques because of the geometry-based models in its origin.

Computer graphics is being used to model a variety of fundamental and state equations, data tabulations, and reaction equilibrium functions of interest to chemical engineers. One product of this research is the "Equations of State" program, an interactive teaching package for visualizing PVT surfaces and process thermodynamic paths. "Equations of State" is in use at 50 institutions worldwide and was cited in a national software competition.

Interpreting Thermodynamic Stability and Phase Equilibrium through High-Performance Computer Graphics
The fundamental-equation models of J. W. Gibbs are partitioned on the basis of thermodynamic stability. Criticality and phase-change are associated with this partitioning, and for fluid phases they are predictable from continuous equations of state. Stability limits in various systems are hierarchical with respect to the number of species present. Each added component imposes a new and more restrictive stability limit, and this ranking reveals itself in the topography of appropriately chosen property models.

Work has been done to produce three-dimensional images of these structures and to show this hierarchical behavior visually. Pure-fluid models based on properties from the Peng-Robinson equation have been drawn using standard solid-modeling software, and Gibbs' tangent methods for predicting coexistence have been demonstrated.

Creating such models for mixtures requires that one or more variables be fixed in order to yield plottable, three-dimensional figures. Isothermal A-V-x and isobaric H-S-x surfaces (for binaries) and isothermal-isobaric surfaces for ternaries are among the structures being studied. Future work will involve more complex mixtures that show liquid-liquid separation also.

A collection of Gibbs models may be found at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~jolls 

Simulation Graphics
Software has been developed to produce graphical displays from the results of computer-modeled separations. Data from FLOWTRAN-simulated processes of absorption, distillation, and extraction are displayed in traditional stagewise formats and in other configurations that show equilibrium conditions and material and energy balances. Visualizing these operations through computer graphics provides rapid access to the results of a design and can speed both the learning and redesign processes. Current research is aimed at improving the user interface and extending the technique to other process simulators and to other display systems.

Visualizing Thermophysical Properties from a Process Simulator
Modern process simulators contain routines for calculating the wide variety of thermodynamic and physical properties needed for chemical process design. The ASPEN PLUS simulator offers many models for these determinations and is a rich source of data for the construction of thermodynamic diagrams.

We are using ASPEN PLUS to generate fluid-phase equilibrium data for multicomponent systems in VLE and LLE ranges, including binary, ternary, and quaternary mixtures, with and without azeotropes. The data are used with OPEN INVENTOR rendering software on a Silicon Graphics IRIS workstation to produce fixed and movable phase diagrams. Single data sets are the basis for the original "Phase" program (reviewed by Sciencemagazine, see above) and for a more recent version for PCs developed by Professor Walter Chapman at Rice University. Multiple data sets are the basis for a new program, "Animate," that uses B-splines to permit continuous scanning of VLE functions throughout the fourth and fifth dimensions.

Computer Visualization of Heat and Mass Transfer
Images of simulated flowfields involving heat and mass transfer are being assembled into presentations suitable for classroom use. Finite-element software is being used to provide pictorial representations of common transport situations usually treated through theory alone.

Brief Biography

Honors and Awards
"Thermodynamics through the Eyes of a Musician," Profile article, Chemical Engineering Progress, Sept. 2005, p. 100.
Eyestone Distinguished Lecturer, College of Engineering, Kansas State University, 2005
Consultant to the United States Postal Service for the design of a 2005 postage stamp honoring J. Willard Gibbs
   College of Engineering Feature
Faculty Citation, Iowa State University Alumni Association, October 2000
Original software "Phase" reviewed by Science magazine; "An Eye for the Abstract," October 15, 1999, page 430 
Responsible Care National Catalyst Award, Chemical Manufacturers Association, 1996
CACHE Award for the use of computers for teaching, American Society for Engineering Education, 1996
Mentioned in a Letter to the Editor by Richard Cummings, Smithsonian, p. 10, January 1995
Featured Educator, biographical article in Chemical Engineering Education, 28:1 (Winter 1994)
Featured in "People You Should Know," segment on the 6:00 News, KCCI Channel 8, Des Moines, Iowa (June 3, 1991)
Award for Outstanding Engineering Software, Zenith Masters of Innovation II Competition, 1990
Excellence in Teaching Award, Iowa State University, 1989
Cited for accomplishment in computer graphics, MOVIE.BYU Image Contest, 1989
Superior Engineering Teacher Award, Iowa State University, September 1978 

Selected Publications

"Thermodynamics through the Eyes of a Musician," Chemical Engineering Progress, p.100, September 2005.

"Engineering, Entropy, and Art: A Tour Through the Thermodynamics of J. Willard Gibbs, "Invited paper at a Symposium, "Rethinking Theories and Practices of Imaging: Technology, Representation and Disciplines," Rochester Institute of Technology, April 16, 2004.

with E. W. Cochran and P. Miller, IV, "Visualizing Hyperdimensional Functions Using NURBS: 'Animate' Software -- Thermodynamic Phase Diagrams for Mixtures," Symposium on Modern Computing, Ames, IA, November 1, 2003.

"Righting What's Left," ASEE PRISM Online, WEB EXTRA, September 2001.

"Visualization in the Classroom: A Revolution in the Teaching of Thermodynamics," Guest Column, SGI Education News (education newsletter of Silicon Graphics, Inc.), Volume 7, in press since March 2000 (co-written with Martha Vivoli, SGI).

"Scientific Visualization for Teaching Chemical Thermodynamics," Proceedings, Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association, Ames, Iowa, October 2000.

with J. S. Berger, "A View from the Right Hemisphere," Proceedings, Annual AIChE Meeting, Dallas, Texas, November 1999.

with K. S. Tian, "Fluid-phase Equilibria from a Chemical Process Simulator," ASEE Annual Conference, Milwaukee, WI, June 15-18, 1997, session 2513.

"Visualization in Classical Thermodynamics," Proceedings, Annual Meeting of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, San Diego, October 1996.

Review of Envisioning Information , by E. R. Tufte, AIChE Journal 39 (2):367 (1993).

with D. C. Coy, "Gibbs's Models Visualized," Letter to the Editor, Physics Today , March 1992, p. 96.

with M. C. Schmitz, and D. C. Coy, "Seeing is Believing: A New Look at an Old Subject," The Chemical Engineer , Institution of Chemical Engineers (UK), No. 497, May 30, 1991, p. 42.

"Gibbs and the art of thermodynamics," Proceedings of the Gibbs Symposium (Yale University), G. D. Mostow and D. G. Caldi (eds.), Amer. Math. Soc., 293 (1990).