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What is Engineering?

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Chemical Engineers

Adapt chemical discoveries to create products as a chemical engineer

Chemical engineers design equipment and processes for large-scale chemical manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing products and treating byproducts, and supervise production. Chemical engineers also work in a variety of manufacturing industries other than chemical manufacturing, such as those producing energy, electronics, food, pet food, clothing, and paper. The also work in health care, biotechnology, and business services.

Chemical engineers:

  • Apply chemical reactions discovered by laboratory chemists to large-scale production
  • May use the processes of distillation and chlorination among others to produce large batches of chemical products
  • Apply the principles of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics and transport phenomena to their daily work

Changes in the field

  • The work of chemical engineers goes beyond large-batch process engineering. Chemical engineers today: Develop and produce high-performance composite materials needed for aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronic, environmental and military applications. Examples include:
    • Ultra-strong fibers, fabrics, adhesives and composites for fighter jets and vehicles
    • Bio-compatible materials for implants and prosthetics
    • Gels for medical applications
    • Pharmaceuticals
  • Work on projects related to biology and biomedical engineering. Many chemical engineers are studying biopolymers, or proteins, and mapping the human genome
  • Also work on product development teams in the pet food (food for animals) and food (food for humans) industries. In these cases, the chemical engineer is the link between what consumers want and what is technically feasible to create. They work with process and packaging engineers, marketing and finance executives, and scientists to develop and market new products to pet stores and grocery stores.

A foundation for chemical engineering

Three primary physical laws form the basis for all chemical engineering designs:

  • Conservation of mass
  • Conservation of momentum
  • Conservation of energy

If you take chemistry and physics in high school, you will be introduced to these three laws.