Chemical engineering is a field of engineering in which one has knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry and occasionally biology, to convert raw materials into desired products in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.
Chemical engineering is often confused with a chemistry major. A chemistry major works at a lab-scale and usually discovers new things and studies the existing ones. Whereas a chemical engineer scales up a process devised at a lab-scale for mass production of a product to be available to masses in a city, state, maybe country or even globally.
Courses Chemical Engineers take
A chemical engineer takes two to three chemistry courses which include, Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, & Organic Chemistry. Other courses a chemical engineer takes are Heat Transfer, Mass Transfer, Momentum transfer, Thermodynamics, Kinetics, Plant Design, etc. Recent engineers also take courses related to control systems.
Chemical engineering is divided into two main parts i.e. Unit operations & Unit Processes. Unit operations include all the physical phenomena such as drying, crystallization, evaporation, absorption, adsorption, etc. Unit processes include sulfonation, chlorination, oxidation and many more. Unit operations and unit processes combine to make it possible to convert raw material into a product. The process industry is vast and it is very difficult for a chemical engineer to study it all. Each process industry involves one or more unit operations and processes. By studying unit operations and unit processes a chemical engineer easily grasps the concepts of any industrial process present.
As an example, let’s study the process of sulfuric acid production. Sulfuric acid production starts with the unit operation of melting the solid sulfur into liquid sulfur to a temperature where it has the least viscosity. It is followed by a unit process of combustion where sulfur is combusted in a furnace in the presence of oxygen. It is then converted to sulfur dioxide, it is then followed by another unit process, “oxidation”, where sulfur dioxide is converted to sulfur trioxide, this is then followed by a unit operation known as absorption and oleum is produced.
Job Opportunities For Chemical Engineers
Different industries hire chemical engineers. They are hired by pharmaceutical industry where they produce drugs that keeps us healthy in an economical and safe way. Examples are GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, etc. Chemical engineers contribute a lot to the environment by introducing processes that minimize the release of pollutants into the environment. For instance, a chemical engineer reducing pollutants in the design of catalytic converter which reduces the amount of harmful emissions as a result of the combustion of fuel in the engine.
One can go to the industrial chemical sector where shampoos, soaps, and detergents are produced, companies include proctor and gamble, Unilever, etc. A chemical engineer can work in the food and beverage industry such as PepsiCo, nestle, etc. They can work in the petroleum sector, at upstream as well as at downstream, working in the processing plants such as dehydration, sweetening of the crude or gas and in the refinery as well where crude is converted into finer usable products, examples include, ExxonMobil, Shell, Byco, etc.
They can also work in the energy sector proposing green solutions to the existing energy crisis. For example, designing solar cells and storage batteries or carbon-neutral fuels such as biofuels. The semiconductor and electronics industry hires a lot of chemical engineers. Many people do not realize this but companies like IBM and Intel hire great numbers of engineers. Chemical engineers design silicon wafers onto which transistors are imprinted.