What is chemical engineering?
Chemical engineering involves the production and manufacturing of products through chemical processes. This includes designing equipment, systems, and processes for refining raw materials and for mixing, compounding, and processing chemicals.
Chemical engineers translate processes developed in the lab into practical applications for the commercial production of products, and then work to maintain and improve those processes. They rely on the main foundations of engineering: math, physics, and chemistry. Biology also plays an increasingly important role.
What do chemical engineers do?
Broadly, chemical engineers conceive and design processes involved in chemical manufacturing. The main role of chemical engineers is to design and troubleshoot processes for the production of chemicals, fuels, foods, pharmaceuticals, and biologicals, to name just a few. They are most often employed by large-scale manufacturing plants to maximize productivity and product quality while minimizing costs.
Chemical engineers affect the production of almost every article manufactured on an industrial scale. Some typical tasks include:
- Ensuring compliance with health, safety, and environmental regulations
- Conducting research into improved manufacturing processes
- Designing and planning equipment layout
- Incorporating safety procedures for working with dangerous chemicals
- Monitoring and optimizing the performance of production processes
- Estimating production costs
Chemical engineers who work in business and management offices often visit research and production facilities. Interaction with other people and team collaboration are critical to the success of projects involving chemical engineering.
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. Accordingly, they are often required to wear personal protective equipment (e.g., hard hats, goggles, and steel-toe shoes).
Where is chemical engineering used?
Chemical engineering is most often found in large-scale manufacturing plants, where the goal is to maximize productivity and product quality while minimizing costs. The aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronic, environmental, medical, and military industries use chemical engineering to develop and improve their technical products, such as:
- Ultrastrong fibers, fabrics, and adhesives for vehicles
- Biocompatible materials for implants and prosthetics
- Films for optoelectronic devices