Ph.D., Chemical Engineering
University of Kentucky

M.S., Chemical Engineering
University of Kentucky

B.S., Chemical Engineering
University of Dayton

Contact Information

307 Olin Hall
VU Mailbox: PMB 351604, Nashville, TN 37235-1604 USA

Kenneth Debelak

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Emeritus
Senior Lecturer in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Research Focus

  • Automotive catalyst coating. This work is a fundamental study of the deposition of a catalyst washcoat onto the ceramic monolith used for automotive and environmental catalysis. We have expanded our initial parametric work to address specific needs for the next generation of automotive catalyst coating process. We collected specific data aimed at addressing certain design issues for the new catalyst coaters. In addition, we have begun fundamental studies on flow visualization of the coating process.
  • Plant-wide modeling, simulation, and control. The first commercial version of the Intelligent Process Control System (IPCS) software that we have been developing was purchased by Dupont. We have since rewritten this software to include features such as vectored input and output variables, a better graphical editor, and new operator display interface. There is considerable interest in chemical engineering in plant-wide control. We are near the forefront in this technology. Our "commercialized" applications, a coherent material balance, and an operator interface, which displays key process variables, have been updated for the new software.
  • Polymer processing. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is widely used in the form of fibers, films, and containers. The commercial applications of PET polymer depend on the molecular weight. The solid state polymerization process is used to produce higher molecular weight PET materials. We are studying the structural heterogeneity, which exists in commercial PET products, and can classified into an amorphous phase, a crystallized phase, void regions, and structural defects. The structural heterogeneity and defects deteriorate the mechanical and chemical properties of PET. We have been using surface techniques such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), low voltage Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to investigate the crystallization in several commercial PET products. The crystallization gradient and microstructural features on cross-sections of PET are examined at the nanometer scale. A model of the crystallization process in the PET solid polymerization is suggested consisting of a shell of a highly crystallized phase of PET encasing a core of an amorphous phase.

Selected Publications:

Wiki Technology as a Design Tool for a Capstone Design Course, Chemical Engineering Education, with Kevin R. Hadley, Chemical Engineering Education, Volume 43, Number 3, 2009, 194-200

Extraction of Magnesium and Copper using a Surfactant and Water in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide,The Journal of Supercritical FluidsVolume 47, Issue 1, November 2008, Pages 25-30 with J.Roth and T.Wong

Dehydration of Ferrous Sulfate, Thermochimica Acta, Volume 462, Issue 1-2, October, 2007, pg89-93. with J.Roth and T.Wong

Emission Reduction of NOX and CO by Optimization of the Automatic Control System in a Coal-Fired Stoker Boiler, Environmental Progress, 25, 2, p129-140, July, 2006 with Karl. B. Schnelle and Atip Laungphairojana

Introducing Security in a Chemical Engineering Design Course Using Adaptive Online Learning, International Conference on Engineering Education, July 23-28, 2006, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Session T1A1, 1-4244-0257-3/06/ 2006 IEEE, Ken Debelak, Larry Howard, Yuan Xue, Christina Lee, Janos Sztipanovits

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