Course Title: Biochemical and Materials Engineering

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Biochemical and Materials Engineering

Credit Points: 12.00

Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


120H Civil, Environmental & Chemical Engineering


Sem 1 2006,
Sem 1 2007

Course Coordinator: Professor Felicity Roddick

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 2080

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 7.2.12

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

Biochemical and Materials Engineering is designed to introduce the Chemical Engineering student to key aspects associated with biochemical processes and selection / design of relevant engineering materials. The course runs for 13 weeks and is structured in such a way that the two major themes (specifically biochemical engineering and materials engineering), will run in parallel for the duration of the course.

Engineers working in the process industries are making increased use of biological systems for production and environmental management. To optimise these processes, the chemical engineer needs to understand the fundamentals of biological processes and their applications. Students will discover what constitutes biochemical engineering including its scope, applications and advantages over conventional processes. To help them understand biological processes they will learn about the basic structure and function of cells, including enzyme structure and function and basic molecular biology. To enable harnessing biologically-mediated processes to their capacity students will learn about the practicalities of these processes in terms of microbial growth and influence of environmental parameters, metabolism: the relationship of cellular function to the formation of products and the performance of processes useful to man, and the kinetics of cellular processes. To enable implementation of these processes, they will cover the principles and practice of cell culture including sterilisation techniques, bioreactor design, and some of the common unit processes of the downstream processing of biological products. As a means of illustrating these principles, students will research some case studies such as the production of penicillin and Biopol.

For the materials engineering component, the main focus is selection of appropriate materials for the construction of relevant engineering components, for example chemical engineers require knowledge of materials to be used in refinery operations, heat exchangers, pressure vessels, etc. Many failures in engineering and indeed catastrophic failures can be related to inappropriate materials selection. Therefore, an important area to all engineers is “choosing the right material to do the right job”. The properties and behaviour of materials used in the areas of Chemical Engineering are studied to include steels, copper and aluminium based alloys, cast irons, polymers ceramics and composites. Here, a strong emphasis is on degradation of materials, particularly due to wear and corrosion, and mechanisms of controlling wear and degradation.

In particular, the structure / properties relationship of materials is emphasised wherever possible, through the use of case studies on materials selection and failure analysis. It is expected that this section of the course will provide a basic framework for materials properties, which the student can utilise and build upon during the course of study and future related professions.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development


This course provides certain skills in the areas of biochemical processes and selection / design of engineering materials systems, essential to an engineer that will be utilised in many other courses within the Chemical Engineering Program. By way of examples, at first year level, biochemical reactions and processes provided in this course are important to the project component of the course Sustainable Engineering, which runs in the same semester. Biochemical engineering is intended to provide the fundamental background of biological systems which will be further developed in later courses such as Thermodynamics, Reaction Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Advanced Environmental Engineering and Advanced Bioprocess Engineering. It also lays the theoretical foundation for other courses and projects on biologically mediated processes and waste treatment. Skills developed in the materials selection will be utilised within the project oriented courses (such as Sustainable Engineering, Chemical Engineering Design, Engineering Experimental Investigations, Process Design Project and Experimental Research Project) throughout the duration of the program.

Level Generic Capability Descriptor

1. Personal Development

• Ability to reflect on experience, and to apply the knowledge to new situations
• Develop the habits for engaging in lifelong learning, through the assignment which involves researching and writing a report on selecting appropriate materials for specific engineering applications
• Integration of knowledge from different courses (eg., chemistry) and parts of this course
• Actively contribute to class discussions on solving given problems 

2. Problem solving and decision making

• Use data and information to support decision making
• Analyse and evaluate data from various sources, such as data generated in the laboratory, found in the literature, and draw valid conclusions
• Access information from a wide range of sources 

3 Technical competence

• Conceptualise, plan, and conceptually design biologically mediated processes
• Perform basic microbiological procedures
• Perform basic analyses involving eg., gas chromatography, spectrophotometry
• Analyse the structure and properties of a range of engineering materials for appropriate materials selection procedures
• Understand degradation mechanisms of materials (corrosion and wear) and how to counteract these problems 

4 Teamwork and leadership

• Work in a team during laboratory classes and in class discussions
• Manage the tasks being done as a team
• Understand the behaviour of teams and the different roles of members
• Provide constructive feedback to team members
• Resolve conflict in a team 

5 Communication

• Develop the ability to listen, observe, question and make own notes
• Communicate ideas and results verbally, graphically and textually
• Communicate ideas verbally to a group
• Communicate processes of thinking and reflection giving feedback to the learning facilitator 

6 Sustainability

• Awareness of concepts of sustainability, particularly the balance of environmental, economic and social demands

At the conclusion of this course you should have the ability to:

1. Describe the basic structure and function of cells
2. Be able to relate cell function to products and processes useful to man, and be able to explain the kinetics of these processes
3. Be able to perform basic microbiological and analytical techniques
4. Recognise and explain the basic features of bioreactors
5. Explain the principles of the various separation procedures involved in the downstream processing of products, especially those of biological origin
6. Explain the principles and application of bioremediation processes, wastewater treatment in particular
7. Integrate the foregoing and draw a block diagram of a biologically mediated process
8. Explain the structure / properties / processing relationship of engineering materials and the materials selection process
9. Describe the role of ferrous and non ferrous alloys in Chemical Engineering applications
10. Describe the role of polymers, ceramics and composites in Chemical Engineering applications
11. Discuss common examples of inappropriate materials selection (failure analysis)
12. Recognise the various forms of processing techniques and limitations of the various processes
13. Describe the degradation processes of metals and alloys in Chemical Engineering applications, due to corrosion and wear, and methods of corrosion control

Overview of Learning Activities

The course has a total equivalent of 5.5 contact hours per week. Two hours class time per week have been allocated to each of the Biochemical Engineering and the Materials Engineering components of the course. For the Biochemical Engineering component, in addition to the two hours class time, a laboratory class is to be conducted for students throughout the semester. The lab exercises include structure of cells (microscopy), basic microbial techniques (smears, stains, plating, aseptic technique), spectrophotometry and gas chromatography for analysis of fermentations, and analysis of kinetics of yeast fermentation. For the Materials Engineering component, there will be some laboratory exercises and demonstrations.The laboratory program runs in parallel with the class program and so provides demonstration and reinforcement of the theory.

Learning activities are designed to provide students with the generic skills and knowledge required by engineers and fundamental concepts important to the chemical and biochemical engineering industry. In addition to the contact hours, the Distributive Learning System (DLS) has been set up for this course to provide further information and details relating to the course and allow for students to engage in “on line” interactive discussions using the discussion board / virtual classroom facilities.

For the Materials Engineering component, lecture notes on the syllabus are available on the DLS, while the two hour sessions have been designed as interactive type sessions designed to complement the information presented in the lecture notes, to include case studies on materials selection, processing and failure analysis. A research based group assignment, looking specifically at materials selection has been designed to utilise all information presented in this section of the course.

Overview of Learning Resources

Information and notes will be provided on the Distributed Learning System, other references and materials will be provided/advised in class. The Learning Resource 2006 and Laboratory Manual 2006 for the Biochemical Engineering section of this course will be required.

Overview of Assessment

There are five items of assessment required for this course, they include laboratory reports, an assignment, two unit tests and a final examination.

It should be noted that a minimum of 40% must be obtained in each item of assessment as well as an overall mark of at least 50% to be eligible for a pass in this course.