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Chemical engineering


Chemical engineering is the application of science , mathematics and economics to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms. The term economics is important here.

Chemical Engineering involves the design and maintenance of chemical processes for large-scale manufacture. The actual name isa misnomer as the work of a chemical engineer involves more physics related knowledgethan chemistry . Because the title 'chemical engineer' creates thismisunderstanding, many chemical engineers are employed under the title of 'process engineer'.

The difference between chemical engineering and chemistry can be illustrated by considering the example of producingorange juice. A chemist working in the laboratory investigates and discovers a multitude of pathways to extract the juice of anorange. The simplest mechanism found is to cut the orange in half and squeeze the orange using a manual juicer. A morecomplicated approach found is to peel and then crush the orange and collect the juice. A company then commissions a chemicalengineer to design a plant to manufacture several thousand tons of orange juice per year. The chemical engineer investigates allthe available methods for making orange juice and evaluates them according to their economical viability. Even though the manualjuicing method is simple, it is not economical to employ thousands of people to manually juice oranges. Thus another, cheapermethod is used (possibly the 'peel and crush' technique). The easiest method of manufacture on a laboratory bench will notnecessarily be the most economical method for a manufacturing plant.

The individual processes used by chemical engineers (eg. distillation or chlorination ) are called unit operations and consist of chemical reaction , mass- , heat- and momentum- transfer operations. Unit operations are grouped together in various configurations for thepurpose of chemical synthesis and/or chemical separation .

Two primary physical laws underlying chemical engineering design are Conservation of mass and Conservation of energy . The movement of mass and energy around a chemical process are evaluatedusing mass and energy balances which apply these laws to whole plants, unit operations or discrete parts of equipment. In doingso, Chemical Engineers use principles of thermodynamics , reaction kinetics and transport phenomena . The task of performing these balances is now aided by process simulators, whichare complex software models that can solve mass and energy balances and usually have built-in modules to simulate a variety ofcommon unit operations.

Related fields and topics

Today chemical engineering field is a diverse field covering areas from biotechnology and nanotechnology to mineralprocessing.

See also

External links

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