Sensitivity Analysis in ChE Education: Part 1. Introduction and Application to Explicit Models


  • William R. Smith University of Guelph
  • Ronald W. Missen University of Toronto


Sensitivity analysis (SA) determines the effect of changing input quantities on the output quantities (solution) of an engineering model, but appears to be little emphasized pedagogically as a theme. It is an important tool for studying a variety of engineering analysis and design problems. In this paper (Part 1 of a 2-part series), we describe the fundamental concepts of SA and show its application to explicit engineering models in determining the relative importance of each input and of combinations of inputs, and in uncertainty analysis. We give a numerical example for pressure drop in a fixed-bed reactor.

Author Biographies

William R. Smith, University of Guelph

William R. Smith is Professor of Engineering and of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Guelph. He received his BASc and MA Sc in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto and his MSc and PhD degrees in applied mathematics from the University of Waterloo. His research is in classical and statistical thermodynamics. He is coauthor of Chemical Reaction Equilibrium Analysis (1982, 1991).

Ronald W. Missen, University of Toronto

Ronald W Missen is Professor Emeritus (chemical engineering) at the University of Toronto. He received his BSc and MSc degrees in chemical engineering from Queen's University and his PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Cambridge. He is coauthor of Chemical Reaction Equilibrium Analysis (1982, 1991) and Introduction to Chemical Reaction Engineering and Kinetics (1999).