An Experiment to Introduce Mass Transfer Concepts Using a Commercial Hollow Fiber Blood Oxygenator


  • Keith McIver Rowan University • Glassboro, NJ 09028-1701
  • Thomas Merrill Rowan University • Glassboro, NJ 09028-1701
  • Stephanie Farrell Rowan University • Glassboro, NJ 09028-1701


A commercial hollow fiber blood oxygenation laboratory experiment was used to introduce lower level engineering students to mass balances in a two-phase system. Using measured values of concentration and flow rate, students calculated the rate of mass transfer from the gas phase and into the liquid phase, and compared the two values to determine whether the mass balance closed. Students also investigated the effect of the liquid and gas flow rates on the mass transfer rate. Learning outcomes were assessed in a pre-post comparison study. The group that performed the experiment had significantly higher post-test scores and higher average normalized gain than the comparison group; the effect of the intervention (Cohen’s d) was 2.06. Further, the students who performed the experiment demonstrated a better ability to incorporate engineering principles into the design of a heart lung machine in a semester-long project, relative to the comparison group.

Author Biographies

Keith McIver, Rowan University • Glassboro, NJ 09028-1701

Keith McIver has an M.S. and a B.S. in chemical engineering from Rowan University. Keith is currently a junior engineer with the New York civil service. At Rowan, Keith’s research focused on the characterization of mass transfer in a commercial blood oxygenator. Keith has contributed significantly to the development of innovative pharmaceutical and biomedical engineering educational materials that are used throughout the chemical engineering curriculum.

Thomas Merrill, Rowan University • Glassboro, NJ 09028-1701

Tom Merrill is an associate professor in mechanical engineering at Rowan University. He received his degrees in mechanical engineering from Penn State (Ph.D.), the University of Michigan (M.S.), and Bucknell University (B.S.). Prior to Rowan University, he worked 13 years in industry. His research interests include energy systems, biotransport modeling, and medical devices. His primary research focus is developing therapeutic hypothermia technology to save brain and heart tissue. 

Stephanie Farrell, Rowan University • Glassboro, NJ 09028-1701

Stephanie Farrell is a professor and founding chair of Experiential Engineering Education (ExEEd) at Rowan University. Stephanie was the 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholar in Engineering Education at Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland). As a pioneer of inductive pedagogy in engineering courses, she studies the role of experiments in promoting conceptual understanding in engineering.  She has been recognized nationally and internationally for contributions to engineering education.