Laboratory experiments

ExperimentsStudents are normally grouped into pairs or triplets and undertake a selection of hands-on experiments in our laboratories from more than 45 experiments currently in our MEng teaching portfolio.

Our Summer School offers a set of short (3 hour) and long (6 hour) experiments which can be tailored according to the guest university's choice.

These can include experiments on thermodynamics, reaction engineering, heat and mass transfer/transport, analytical chemistry, process instrumentation and chemical synthesis. Teams will be rotated to give the students the opportunity to work with different partners during their course. Students will not be assessed by Imperial College tutors but their performance can be instead measured by their own tutors who come along with them to the summer school.

A detailed curriculum for our Summer School courses with session by session details is also available; please contact us if you would like these details.

Safety is paramount in all of our teaching and learning exercises. We pride ourselves in delivering a safety culture which reflects best possible industrial practice, and in doing so prepare our students for work in a real industrial environment.

Short experiments

Flow lines

Flow lines Flow visualisation is an important technique in its own right and an integral part of fluid mechanics and industrial design. Fluid transport in pipes is essential in the vast majority of engineering applications in the manufacturing and oil-and-gas industry; use of flow visualisation is central to developing a fundamental understanding of these systems.

Flow visualisation also enables the streamlining of e.g. cars, planes and ships through the reduction of drag.


Mixing of Miscible and Immiscible Liquids Mixing is an important process in the chemical, petrochemical, food, pharmaceutical, and many more industries. Billions of US Dollars could be saved each year by better designed mixing processes. An efficient mixing process achieves its objective at the lowest cost of power input and capital investment. In many cases, the overall process objective of e.g. facilitating a certain reaction or separation is related to a well mixed system, e.g. of two immiscible liquids.

The dispersion of one liquid in another generates interfacial area and promotes mass transfer from one phase into the other. It is an important process step in many manufacturing operations, such as extractions, making emulsions, or producing polymers. The configuration of the mixing equipment has a direct impact on process cost and, therefore, on cost of the final product. Choosing the right equipment for the process and operating it at optimum conditions is an effective method to control these.


Refrigeration Refrigeration cycles are used in the food process and chemicals industries to provide cooling for storage or freezing of products.

Vapour-compression refrigeration cycles are the most commonly used systems for practical applications; as they represent a major consumer of electricity, their associated design optimisation is of utmost importance.


Rankin Heat engines represent the most common way of producing power for the generation of electricity. The purpose of industrial-scale power plants historically has been to provide electricity for the community at the lowest possible economic cost; clearly understanding the factors determining the efficiency of the plant is crucial in achieving this aim.

In the early 20th century, efficiency of such plants was less than 20%, and through the century efficiency was substantially improved. In modern society, the purely financial considerations are complicated by environmental constraints, however this in no way lessens the importance of understanding the basic components of the plant and the thermodynamics associated with these.

This experiment is not available during the 2018 academic year.

Pipe flow

Pipe Flow Fluid transport in pipes is essential in the vast majority of engineering applications in the manufacturing and oil-and-gas industry.

Determination of the fluid viscosity is important in an abundance of processes wherein specified flow rates and, in turn, the flow regime need to be controlled.

Long experiments

Heat exchange

Heat Exchange Heat exchangers are widely used in the industry to efficiently transfer heat between fluids over a solid surface in, for example, boilers, oil coolers and condensers/evaporators in refrigeration systems.

The mode of operation (co- or counter-current flow) plays an important role in the overall efficiency of the heat exchange between the two fluids where through an efficient heat exchange network design, considerable energy (and therefore process cost) savings may be achieved.

Continuous distillation

Continuous Distillation Distillation is a thermal separation method that is based on the principle of vapour-liquid equilibrium and relies upon different volatilities of the components. Through (repeated) evaporation and condensation of a mixture, liquid phases which are rich in some or poor in other components can be generated.

The driving force of the separation is the different distribution of the mixture components between the vapour and the liquid phase. Instead of introducing a new substance into the mixture in order to provide the second phase necessary for the separation, as is done in liquid-liquid extraction, the new phase is created from the original mixture by vaporisation or condensation.

ontinuous distillation is the most widely used distillation approach in industry sectors which need to separate large quantities of liquid mixtures, e.g. the petrochemical industry.

Filter drier

Filter Drier Filtration is one of the oldest and most common unit operations in chemical manufacturing. In basic terms it involves separation of solid particles from a fluid by means of a filter medium which allows the fluid to pass through, but restricts the motion of solid material.

Filtration is an indispensable unit operation in the manufacturing of minerals, agrochemicals, food and pharmaceuticals as well as in water treatment. The process aim can either be to obtain a clean filtrate or to separate a high value solid cake.

Filtration can be designed for either batch or continuous operation depending on the requirement. Drying is often the last unit operation in the production of bulk solid materials. It is an essential unit operation after filtration to obtain solvent free solids thus preventing unwanted physical and chemical changes to the product.

Drying is a relative term which refers to the reduction of moisture or solvent fluid content in a solid material from a higher to a lower value. Drying conditions and duration are determined by the required specification and properties of the final dried material.

When filtration and drying are conducted as two separate unit operations using different pieces of equipment, it causes issues related to solid handling. In an industrial setup, that translates into additional cleaning and maintenance of equipment, time penalties and product loss.

Membrane separation

Membrane Separation Membrane processes are often used to concentrate and purify liquid solutions.

Membranes are able to separate molecules with no phase change, and so they are usually require a great deal less energy than evaporation, distillation or other thermal processes based on phase changes.

Mini batch

Mini Batch There are many industry sectors where continuous production is unsuitable or not economic, e.g. for processes involving many processing steps or complex chemical reactions.

Products which are required in relatively small quantities but have a high intrinsic value are typically made in batches. Batch processing is, therefore, the preferred production method of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals.

Rig building

The Rig Building Challenge changes the pace of the studies and is a lively and hands on exercise where, in mixed teams, students design and build a closed rig to independently control the depth of water flow rate to a tank.

The main objectives of the exercise are: to become familiar with basic process equipment (i.e. pipes, pumps and valves), to develop practical problem solving skills, increase manual dexterity and to produce standard documentation (i.e. standard operating procedures and piping and instrumentation diagrams).

Students and their rig

Students building a rig

A work in progress

Teamwork is important to the rig experiment

Another work in progress

Rig design in progress

Pilot Plant

The aim of the carbon capture pilot plant project is for students to acquire a practical, 'hands-on', experience of many of the key aspects of design and operation of a large scale process plant controlled using a full industrial control system.

Students (maximum group of 16) receive hands-on instruction on safety, carbon capture theory, reading piping and installation diagrams (PIDs), how to start up, shut down, run efficiently and safely a typical chemical engineering plant using our state-of-the-art carbon capture pilot plant. This will give the students a real world industrial training experience which is uniquely available here at Imperial.

Top down view of the pilot plant

Students in full pilot plant safety gear

Process Schematic

Students reading measurements in the pilot plant


Students are grouped in pairs for short experiments, in triples for long experiments, in 3-4 for the rig building and in groups of 10 people for the Pilot plant section. Groups are formed with students from the same university, whenever it is possible, to facilitate the assessment of their experiment reports. Students are grouped randomly in the rig building experiment as they are evaluated by Imperial College staff.

Typical session information

Sessions are Monday to Friday 0900-1730 hrs with up to 6 hours per day contact time. There are two sessions per day, morning and afternoon. There is usually one day per week un-timetabled for independent study and lesiure time activities.

All course materials are included within the tuition fee. Students will also be provided with free IT access on campus. A designated room is available for students during their period on campus for study and lectures. Students will also have access to a wide range of other College facilities. There are on-site restaurant facilities with reduced prices for students on our compact central London campus.

Teaching staff

All teaching is delivered by our own highly rated professional teaching staff.