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Chemical Engineer and Chemical Engineering


◙ American Institute of Chemical Engineers states that chemical engineers are responsible for the production of microchips to potato chips. Chemical engineers are concerned with transforming raw materials into valuable products by chemical, biochemical or physical processes. These engineers work in industries like traditional chemical manufacturing, oil and fuel, aerospace, environmental, food, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, design and construction, energy industries, biotechnology, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, food processing, specialty chemicals, microelectronics(chips), electronic and advanced materials, biotechnology, plastic, rubber and coating, environmental health(prevention and cleanup of pollution, water purification, waste management) and safety industries. Other area of work are research, teaching, sales, marketing and engineering management.


Chemical engineers are the people who design, build and operate the processes that produce the materials of modern society. As with all engineers we do this by using the tools of engineering analysis to design processes even though there are limits to our understanding of possibly key issues, while providing a solution that meets the required constraints. Its incorporation of chemistry, and for may people biology, gives chemical engineering the broadest academic base of all fields of engineering and allows for contributions in many different fields.


Chemical engineer take chemistry out of the lab and into the world Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, math, and physics to the design and operation of large-scale chemical manufacturing processes. They translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the production of products such as plastics, medicines, detergents, and fuels; design plants to maximize productivity and minimize costs; and evaluate plant operations for performance and product quality.


◙ Chemical Engineering originated with the need to transform raw materials into useful products through chemical reactions. The reactions where discovered by chemists starting in the 1600’s but by the end of the 1800’s, there was a need to produce large quantities of an ever increasing number of materials. The “scale-up” of a laboratory reaction (few grams) to a profitable commercial process (106 grams) is usually not a matter of just making bigger laboratory equipments (flasks, beaker and Bunsen burners). Chemical engineers use the principles of engineering analysis and knowledge of chemistry to design, build and operate processes that provide society with items such as: petroleum products, fuels, toothpaste, low fat chips, paint, plastic for athletic shoes or carpeting, insecticides, pharmaceuticals, computer chips, etc.


The special role of chemical engineers is their ability to analyze, design and operate processes where

    • Chemical (i.e. reactions)

    • Physical (phase change)

    • Biological (reactions inside cells) transformations of matter occur.


Chemical engineers must be able to deal with matter from atomic up to process scales. This requires a strong understanding of chemistry and the ability to apply physical laws over very broad range of length scales.


Responsibilities range from research and design to development of process-products, production, technical, sales, management, environmental studies. Chemical engineers are employed by almost all companies in the chemical process industry. Their work also extends to processes in nuclear energy, material science, food production, the development of new sources of energy, and even medicine. Chemical engineers work in a variety of settings, such as research, design, process control, sales, economic analysis, and management. Petroleum refineries and the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and service industries also employ them.


Chemical engineering is a problem-solving profession and expected to answer the question “how” more than any other. Chemical engineers translate the discoveries chemists make into real-world products. If a chemist invents a better fertilizer, for example, a chemical engineer might design the method to make mass production of that fertilizer possible. Chemical engineers work with chemists to create efficient, safe and cost-effective methods of reproducing valuable items. Good chemical engineers are always trying to refine their process and product, improve them, and make them safer and more efficient.


The most difficult thing about becoming a chemical engineer is adapting theoretical knowledge to a practical discipline. Many engineers find it helpful to attend professional seminars and subscribe to publications. Others enjoy the support of professional organizations. Employers view chemical engineering as a practical discipline and look for experience in production, manufacturing, or management.


Of the Big four engineering fields, chemical engineers compose the smallest group Chemical engineers have played integral parts in producing the atom bomb, inventing plastic and creating artificial organs. They spend much of their time identifying substances' chemical and physical properties, researching new products and ensuring equipment operates correctly. Chemical engineers must have a thorough understanding of chemistry, including chemistry techniques, chemical synthesis and laboratory testing.


Chemical engineering is broader in scope than the other branches of engineering because it draws on the three main engineering foundations: math, physics, and chemistry-whereas the other branches are based on only the first two. Chemist synthesize a small amount of a material-and chemical scale it up to making several hundred tons per day. This process includes determining how to separate the desired product from its impurities. Chemical engineer focus on kinetics more, and is concerned with things such as fluid flow and heat transfer on a large scale-things that you don’t necessarily have to worry about with smaller reactions in beakers. Chemical engineer design equipments that will accommodate these concerns.


Once processes and equipment are designed, chemical engineers remain on hand at a production facility to solve problems that occur as the processes continue. When changes occur that upset a running system, chemical engineers analyze samples from the system, looking at parameters such as temperatures, pressures, and flow rates to determine where the problem exists. They also work on expanding projects, evaluating new equipment, and improving existing equipment and processes. Meeting safety, health, and environmental regulations is also a large part of a chemical engineers work life.


Chemical engineers typically work in manufacturing plants, research laboratories, or pilot plant facilities. They work around large-scale production equipment that is housed both indoors and outdoors. Often they are required to wear safety protective equipment, such as hard hats, goggles, and steel-toe shoes. Workdays may involve of moving from place to place within a facility.


A strong interest in chemistry, math, and physics is vital to success in this field because chemical engineering draws on all three disciplines. Chemical engineers are trained to apply lab processes to large-scale production, monitor processes, and understand highly technical material. As a result, thinking analytically, solving problems, and being creative are essential. Because projects often involve complex processes and problems that require teamwork and the preparation of reports, good interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills are highly desirable. Chemical engineers say that although they learn a lot of theory in the classroom, most of their knowledge of real-world applications is derived from on-the-job training.


The work of a chemical engineer is typically on a much larger scale than that of a chemist. For instance, chemical engineers tend to deal with problems in huge facilities such as industrial plants, while chemists tend to work at the bench or laboratory scale. Chemical engineers are involved at all stages of manufacturing from the design and construction of processes and equipment to the daily production of products, the maintenance of facilities, research on new products and perfecting or enhancement of processes.


The first one and half year of four-year program are dedicated to building a strong foundation  in chemistry, physics and mathematics. Also the courses in chemical processes as well as computer programming, economics and production management are offered. In final two and half years mainly chemical engineering courses like fluid flow, heat transfer, mass transfer, chemical engineering thermodynamics, chemical reaction engineering, process control, transport phenomena and computer-aided design and optimization are covered. Students can choose a number of elective courses in advanced specialty topics. For Examples: (1) Environmental Engineering Option: Specializing in environmental engineering through structured optional courses helps not only design better pollution reduction facilities, but also create chemical processes that have less impact on the environment. New environmental friendly industrial processes are the way of the future and students become well prepared to face the challenges. (2) Combined Chemical Engineering/Biochemistry program in Biotechnology : Biotechnology includes the industrial application of genetic engineering; the production of industrially or medically valuable substances by cell culture or microbial fermentation, and food processing by biochemical techniques. Other options include polymer and petrochemical processing.


The demand for chemical engineers tends to be quite stable. Given the key role chemical engineers play in the energy industry, the food industry and in environmental fields, for instance, they can expect the need for their expertise to continue for many years to come.


"The American Institute of Chemical Engineers(AIChE) has identified the ten most outstanding achievements of chemical engineering as being:

1. Production of fissionable isotopes,

2. Production of synthetic ammonia,

3. Production of petrochemicals,

4. Production of chemical fertilizers,

5. Commercial-scale production of antibiotics,

6. Establishment of the plastics industry,

7. Establishment of the synthetic fibers industry

8. Establishment of the synthetic rubber industry,

9. Development of high-octane gasoline,

10. Electrolytic production of aluminum.


◙  Summary : Chemical engineers are the people who design, build and operate the processes that produce the materials of modern society. As with all engineers we do this by using the tools of engineering analysis to design processes even though there are limits to our understanding of possibly key issues, while providing a solution that meets the required constraints. Incorporation of chemistry, and for may people biology, gives chemical engineering the broadest academic base of all fields of engineering and allows for contributions in many different fields. Chemical engineers typically are people who have a strong interest and ability in chemistry and mathematics and curiosity into the chemical workings of nature.


" To define it rudely but not inappropriately, engineering is the art of doing that well with one dollar which any bungler can do with two dollars."

- Arthur M. Wellington

Sufficiently complex technology is indistinguishable from magic

          (Engineers from Shell Development Co.)