ChBE Seminar Series: John Collier

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Room 2110 Chemical & Nuclear Engineering Bldg.
Professor Nam Sun Wang
(301) 405-1910

Making Scotch: Chemistry, Engineering, and Education

Presented by John Collier
Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
FSU/FAMU College of Engineering
Florida State University

During five successive summers we have led students, faculty, and alumni through a hands-on whisky making class at the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay in Scotland. The class starts with technical lectures on the engineering and chemistry of whisky making and safety considerations. In the course the students run full scale equipment with the operators standing by. The operations include crushing malted barley, extraction of sugars from the barley, fermentation of the sugars to alcohol, two stages of batch distillation, maturation in casks, reduction to proper strength, bottling and tasting. The students and instructor stay in a modern B&B on the distillery grounds. For the summer of 2008 the Bruichladdich class will be coupled with an applied spectroscopy course at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland offered by world renowned experts in the Pure and Applied Chemistry Department. Each student will analyze individual samples that he/she chose and collected at the distillery with IR, UV, GC/MS, and flame assisted spectroscopy. Field trips to industrial sites and explanations of industrial spectroscopy will be included. This combined class at Bruichladdich and Strathclyde will be for three credits and students from other than FSU are welcome and can be accommodated. Information on the Bruichladdich and Strathclyde course are at:

and the London Study center courses at

The undergraduate and graduate students who participated in each class earned academic credit and the class has included students from three universities and five disciplines, although the majority has been from Chemical Engineering. A doctoral dissertation, and a master’s thesis, various undergraduate projects, classroom examples, and two grants have resulted from this involvement. For the master’s thesis samples were taken periodically during the two stages of distillation. These samples, which were analyzed by GC/MS and HPLC, identified ethyl acetate and acetal as two minor constituents that decreased in the transformation of the distillate from the first cut (foreshots) to the second cut (spirits, i.e. product). HYSYS® software was adapted to the batch distillation processes using the samples for parameterization and validation. The pot stills were modeled as having equivalent trays and internal reflux from condensation of the less volatile components on the copper walls of the stills. The PhD dissertation project relates to the physical and chemical interactions between the toasted, charred, and previously used casks and the maturing whisky. A team of four senior Chemical Engineering students won first place in green engineering for a project in the required design class on potential usage of the CO2 generated during fermentation. The effect of transforming the boiling phenomena in the wash still (1st stage) from nucleate to film boiling to break the head is a good example of mechanisms for system responses. The enhancement of flavor by phase separation of these compounds and others formed during maturation caused by addition of water to whisky is also discussed in classes.

Audience: Graduate  Undergraduate  Faculty  Post-Docs 


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