What are Chemical Engineers?

  1. Are Chemical engineers like applied chemists? Or are they more like mechanical or electrical engineers using their knowledge of chemistry to make things or processes? What tools do chemical engineers use, like tools to measure or tools to build, or both? What kind of things to chemical engineers create? Why are chemical engineers important if we already have chemists? I've looked up chemical engineers everywhere but it's simple and redundant, I want personalized and detailed answers to the questions that I have and I know this is the perfect place to go!

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. SteamKing

    SteamKing 9,115
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I think if you read the following article, you will get an idea of why chemical engineering is a useful field outside of practicing pure chemistry:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_engineering
     
  4. Chestermiller

    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, in your own words, "they more like mechanical or electrical engineers using their knowledge of chemistry to make things or processes." Chemists are wonderful at figuring out how to produce chemicals and materials on the laboratory scale (in glass beakers, flasks, condensers, etc.). But on a manufacturing scale, you need to produce much larger quantities, and you simply can't safely and economically use 10 million beakers, flasks, condensers, etc. to produce a product stream. You need to use large scale equipment like vats, chemical reactors, huge distillation columns, etc. These devices do not allow for adding and removing heat and for purifying materials on the large scale in any way as easily as in a small beaker of lab scale distillation, for example. Chemical engineers are often involved in applying the laws of physical chemistry, thermodynamics, and transport phenomena to designing and operating very large scale processing equipment for chemical processes to produce chemicals and other materials.
     
  5. Depending on your career desires the amount of chemistry used daily can approach zero. We work in oil&gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, breweries, manufacturing, R&D, power plants (energy), etc.

    Often, ChemE's are charged with maintaining the fixed (and expected) output of a facility despite any problems occurring with operation. I.e. a refinery has a fouled heat exchanger - how do you adjust other things to still get the same output required by customers.
     
  6. So what engineering skills do they have? Like knowledgebin circuits and mechanics? I mean what would they know how to build if I got say a bachelor's and going for a master's. What could I know how to build whether chemical engineering related or not
     
  7. Typically you take quite a bit of thermodynamics and chemistry, but also: fluid mechanics (pumps/fluid flow), mass transfer (distillation column design and operation), heat transfer (heat exchangers), reactor design, process controls and senior design.

    So to answer your question: it's a little bit of everything. No circuits or learning the complex portions of designing a diesel engine, but enough where you can understand the bigger picture of what's going on in a plant environment. You can design and understand (on a basic level) - pumps, compressors, heat exchangers, furnaces, distillation columns, reactors, absorber/strippers, flash tanks, vessels.

    However, a Masters degree in ChemE probably won't help too much unless you want to do R&D.
     
  8. Ok. And what would the work environment be and what tools/things would I be interacting with in R&D
     
  9. Beats me. I'm not going to grad school. Going into pharmaceuticals usually requires at least a masters. Otherwise R&D could be industry specific. Developing new techniques for a refinery, etc. New drills for oil companies. Theoretical simulations versus fixing actual problems
     
  10. I see. Thanks this helps a lot.
     
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