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Do ChemE's use linear algebra extensively?

  1. Nov 2, 2005 #1
    Would you say that linear algebra is as important as differential equations to Chemical Engineers?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2005 #2
    I am asking because I am trying to decide whether I should take Differential Equations or a class that is Diff E and Linear Algebra combined. Linear algebra is not required for my degree, but I have read that linear algebra is very important to Chem E's.
  4. Nov 2, 2005 #3
    Linear algebra is important for pretty much any kind of physicist, chemist or engineer. It might not be neccessary to take a course in it but you'll have to learn it as you need it at some point in your academic/professional career.
  5. Nov 2, 2005 #4
    Would you say it is as important as differential equations?
  6. Nov 3, 2005 #5
    I have no idea but I think it's probably easier to learn LA on your own than DEs.
  7. Nov 3, 2005 #6
    Do you know both?
  8. Nov 3, 2005 #7
    LA to the extent I've needed it and DEs more in depth. I've had more formal training in solving differential equations and picked up most of the linear algebra while studying quantum mechanics.
  9. Nov 4, 2005 #8


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    Short answer is : ABSOLUTELY!!!

    Both Linear algebra and differential equations are absolutely, positively, UNBELIVABLY, important to a chemical engineer. Dont even think about getting your bachelors without taking both courses, as well as partial differential equations and perhaps a course in Biochemistry- you will be WORTHLESS in my opinion without those courses in addition to standard chemE curriculum.
  10. Nov 5, 2005 #9
    Are you a chemical engineer Cronxeh? LA sounds extremely important. I wonder why it is not required for my major. So do you think that taking the combination class of LA and Diff E would suffice? And you say that I should alsa take Bio-chemisty? I do not think this is required for my major either. That sounds like a class that would be fun to take. I am sure I will take it now that you mention it. What do you think about Physical Chemistry? Is P Chem very important to my major? Sorry I am asking so many questions; its just that the councilors here seem like they just want to help the student figure out how we can take the minimum classes possible. I guess that is what the average student is concerned about. My primary concern is my employability after graduation. I have a feeling that my major is going to turn into a five year degree; which I do not mind. I just hope I keep getting scholarships and help from my family.
  11. Nov 5, 2005 #10


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    Minimum classes possible? Are you sure you want to be an engineer?

    Engineering, especially chemical engineering, is not about minimalism or cutting back - you will never stop learning. As far as biology is concerned - there are new emerging fields which you should get yourself into if you want to stay competitive as a chemical engineer. Linear/DiffEQ is ONE - you have to know it as one single unit, especially numerical methods. I'm pretty sure that for chemE you have an entire class dedicated to the mathematics of it - solving nonlinear diff eqs using numerical methods and various other important concepts. And PChem is a prereq for ChemE thermodynamics as far as I know.
  12. Nov 5, 2005 #11
    I think you should read what I wrote again. I did not say I want to take the minimum amount of classes possible. I said that is what the average student wants.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2005
  13. Nov 6, 2005 #12
    Could someone please give me an example of a situation when linear algebra would be used in the field of chemical engineering. I just can't picture a situation where it would be used. But I am only in calculus 1 currently, so I don't even really know much about linear algebra.
  14. Jan 11, 2007 #13
    mcabe & thiele
  15. Jan 11, 2007 #14


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    One example is in an absorption tower. You have some sort of solution flowing down the tower and you are trying to get the solute to dissolve into the packing. One way of handling this problem is to divide the collumn into a large number of sections. In each section, a certain amount of solute will be dissolved into the packing and a certain amount will continue on to the next section. By choosing a large number of sections to divide the collumn into, you can assume that each section is small and write an equation for how much solute will be in that section when the solution in the section right above it moves into this section. It turns out to be a linear combination of the solute concentrations in the other sections, so that each incriment of the solution's motion amounts to multiplication by a certain matrix. Thus, solving the problem amounts to doing repeated multiplication of a large matrix.

    Another example arises when you have two tank reactors in series (or more). What you end up having to do is an overall mass balance and a balance on one component, so that you have two differential equations. The usual way of solving a system of linear ordinary differential equations involves writing the system of equations as a single matrix equation and then computing what are called the "eigenvalues" and "eigenvectors" of this matrix. This example also points out how differential equations and linear algebra are linked to one another. This is most likely what you would be studying in a class that combines Linear algebra and Diff EQ's.
  16. Feb 20, 2007 #15
    This topic is exactly what I am dealing with. Just 8 months ago, I started to continue my study (after quite a long time) and I realized that both DEs and LA are very important for Chemical Engineering. So I have to re-study both of them and after some time, things were getting very much easier. I can apply DEs more often now, but LA, well, not really.. Could anyone please give me a simple example using LA application.
  17. Feb 21, 2007 #16
    When solving heat and material balances, you often have a set of equations and unknowns to deal with (such as, input and out streams across a unit). It can become annoying to say the least when attemping to solve 50 equations/50 unknowns by hand using elimination and substitution.

    Linear Algebra, in just one of it's possible applications, allows you to set up a matrix (often you will use a computer to do the calculations itself, but the theory is essential to understand to do it right).
    LA and DE are definitely important to take, as they show strong relationships together.

    Don't limit your education! Take as much as you can and you will be better for it.
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