Chemical engineering: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Process engineers design, construct and operate plants

Chemical engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with the application of physical science (e.g. chemistry and physics), and life sciences (e.g. biology, microbiology and biochemistry) with mathematics, to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms. In addition to producing useful materials, modern chemical engineering is also concerned with pioneering valuable new materials and techniques - such as nanotechnology, fuel cells and biomedical engineering.[1] Chemical engineering largely involves the design, improvement and maintenance of processes involving chemical or biological transformations for large-scale manufacture. Chemical engineers ensure the processes are operated safely, sustainably and economically. Chemical engineers in this branch are usually employed under the title of process engineer. A related term with a wider definition is chemical technology. A person employed in this field is called a chemical engineer.


Chemical engineering timeline

In 1824, French physicist Sadi Carnot, in his "On the Motive Power of Fire", was the first to study the thermodynamics of combustion reactions in steam engines. In the 1850s, German physicist Rudolf Clausius began to apply the principles developed by Carnot to chemical systems at the atomic to molecular scale.[2] During the years 1873 to 1876 at Yale University, American mathematical physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, the first to be awarded a Ph.D. in engineering in the U.S., in a series of three papers, developed a mathematical-based, graphical methodology, for the study of chemical systems using the thermodynamics of Clausius. In 1882, German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, published a founding thermodynamics paper, similar to Gibbs, but with more of an electro-chemical basis, in which he showed that measure of chemical affinity, i.e. the "force" of chemical reactions, is determined by the measure of the free energy of the reaction process. The following timeline shows some of the key steps in the development of the science of chemical engineering:[3]



Chemical engineering is applied in the manufacture of a wide variety of products. The chemical industry proper manufactures inorganic and organic industrial chemicals, ceramics, fuels and petrochemicals, agrochemicals (fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides), plastics and elastomers, oleochemicals, explosives, detergents and detergent products (soap, shampoo, cleaning fluids), fragrances and flavors, additives, dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals. Closely allied or overlapping disciplines include wood processing, food processing, environmental technology, and the engineering of petroleum, glass, paints and other coatings, inks, sealants and adhesives.


Chemical engineers design processes to ensure the most economical operation. This means that the entire production chain must be planned and controlled for costs. A chemical engineer can both simplify and complicate "showcase" reactions for an economic advantage. Using a higher pressure or temperature makes several reactions easier; ammonia, for example, is simply produced from its component elements in a high-pressure reactor. On the other hand, reactions with a low yield can be recycled continuously, which would be complex, arduous work if done by hand in the laboratory. It is not unusual to build 6-step, or even 12-step evaporators to reuse the vaporization energy for an economic advantage. In contrast, laboratory chemists evaporate samples in a single step.

The individual processes used by chemical engineers (e.g. distillation or filtration) are called unit operations and consist of chemical reactions, mass-, heat- and momentum- transfer operations. Unit operations are grouped together in various configurations for the purpose of chemical synthesis and/or chemical separation. Some processes are a combination of intertwined transport and separation unit operations, (e.g. reactive distillation).

Three primary physical laws underlying chemical engineering design are conservation of mass, conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. The movement of mass and energy around a chemical process are evaluated using mass balances and energy balances, laws that apply to discrete parts of equipment, unit operations, or an entire plant. In doing so, chemical engineers must also use principles of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, fluid mechanics and transport phenomena. The task of performing these balances is now aided by process simulators, which are complex software models (see List of Chemical Process Simulators) that can solve mass and energy balances and usually have built-in modules to simulate a variety of common unit operations.

Modern chemical engineering

The modern discipline of chemical engineering encompasses much more than just process engineering. Chemical engineers are now engaged in the development and production of a diverse range of products, as well as in commodity and specialty chemicals. These products include high performance materials needed for aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronic, environmental, space and military applications. Examples include ultra-strong fibers, fabrics, dye-sensitized solar cells, adhesives and composites for vehicles, bio-compatible materials for implants and prosthetics, gels for medical applications, pharmaceuticals, and films with special dielectric, optical or spectroscopic properties for opto-electronic devices. Additionally, chemical engineering is often intertwined with biology and biomedical engineering. Many chemical engineers work on biological projects such as understanding biopolymers (proteins) and mapping the human genome. The line between chemists and chemical engineers is growing ever more thin as more and more chemical engineers begin to start their own innovation using their knowledge of chemistry, physics and mathematics to create, implement and mass produce their ideas.

Related fields and topics

Today, the field of chemical engineering is a diverse one, covering areas from biotechnology and nanotechnology to mineral processing.

Additional topics under the title AIChE's Technical Divisions and Forums in American Institute of Chemical Engineers

See also


  1. ^ From Petroleum to Penicillin. The First Hundred Years of Modern Chemical Engineering: 1859-1959. - Burnett, J. N.
  2. ^ Mechanical Theory of Heat – Nine Memoirs on the development of concept of "Entropy" by Rudolf Clausius [1850-1865]
  3. ^ History of Chemical Engineering – at North Carolina State University (and in general).
  4. ^ Glasgow Herald July 18, 1888 and September 5, 1888
  5. ^ N. A. Peppas (1989) One Hundred Years of Chemical Engineering Kluwer ISBN 0792301455
  6. ^ However, this was an industrial chemistry course, not really dealing with engineering. N Rosenberg(1998), p 175 in E. Helpman General Purpose Technologies and Economic Growth MIT Press ISBN 0262082632
  7. ^ 2007 Indiana Economic Development Corporation Life Sciences Report
  8. ^ Colin Duvall and Sean F, Johnston Scaling Up: The Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Rise of a New Profession Kluwer Academic Publishers (2000)

Further reading

  • Kister, Henry Z. (1992). Distillation Design (1st ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-034909-6. 
  • Green, Don W. and Perry, Robert H. (deceased) (1997). Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-049841-5. 
  • Bird, R.B., Stewart, W.E. and Lightfoot, E.N. (August 2001). Transport Phenomena (Second ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-41077-2. 
  • McCabe, W., Smith, J. and Harriott, P. (2004). Unit Operations of Chemical Engineering (7th ed.). McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-07-284823-5. 
  • Seader, J. D., and Henley, Ernest J. (1998). Separation Process Principles. New York: Wiley. ISBN 0-471-58626-9. 
  • Chopey, Nicholas P. (2004). Handbook of Chemical Engineering Calculations (3rd ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0071362622. 
  • Himmelbau, David M. (1996). Basic Principles and Calculations in Chemical Engineering (6th ed.). Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0133057984. 
  • Editors: Jacqueline I. Kroschwitz and Arza Seidel (2004). Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 0-471-48810-0. 
  • King, C.J. (1980). Separation Processes (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-07-034612-7. 
  • Coulson J. M. ; Richardson J. F. ; Backhurst J. R. ; Harker J. H. (1991). Chemical engineering. Volume 2 : Particle technology and separation processes (2nd ed.). Pergamon Press - New York. 
  • Levenspiel, O.: The Chemical Reactor Omnibook, Osu, Oregon, 1993
  • Frank Lees (2005). Loss Prevention in the Process Industries (3rd ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7506-7555-0. 
  • Trevor Kletz (1999). HAZOP and HAZAN (4th ed.). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-85295-421-2. 

Simple English

Chemical Engineering is a type of engineering that was started in the early 20th century. Before this time, chemical plants were designed by chemists, who were only trained to work on a small scale. Chemical engineering combines the jobs of a chemist and an industrial engineer. This makes factories more efficient and chemicals much cheaper. Chemical engineering uses physics (the science of moving objects and forces), chemistry (the science of substances), and mathematics. There are many different types of jobs for people with degrees in chemical engineering.

Some new topics in chemical engineering include environmental sanitation at factories (making certain nature is not hurt by the factories), types of energy other than those from gas or oil) and biological engineering.


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