Chemical Engineering is a multi disciplinary field of engineering that uses principles of physical and natural sciences, mathematics and economics to convert materials. Chemical engineers have the ability to design, optimize and control operations involved in material conversion.
It is based upon various operation structures called unit operations whose main purpose is to achieve physical, biological or chemical conversion of materials into useful products. Examples of unit operations include distillation which is applicable in the separation of materials of varying volatility through the application of heat, heat exchange which is carried out with the intention of increasing or reducing the heat capacity of a given stream, and evaporation which aims at converting liquid into vapor phase. Other unit operations include drying, crystallization and humidification.
Post Chemical engineering degree acquisition, one has a chance of pursuing several career options in engineering. It is possible to become a design engineer from the principles learnt during a study for a chemical engineering degree. Other options available include: Environmental engineering, safety engineering, Process engineering, field personnel or technical sales engineers, and medical related options such as biochemists or pharmaceutical engineers.
Chemical engineers can gain opportunities in environmental engineering due to the principles learnt in pollution control as well as water and air treatment procedures. In safety engineering; chemical engineers possess the requisite skills for industrial safety management such as those involved in dealing with LPG. This is achievable since chemical engineers have a strong background in process design, production planning and management, marketing, research development, safety and environmental or waste management.
From the varied careers, chemical Engineering also interacts with various professional fields hence it is easy to incorporate the knowledge acquired in various fields. For instance, biomedical/ life sciences give chemical engineers an opportunity to advance in research and to use gained knowledge for the improvement of medical technologies such as production of new tissue cells. In the field of alternative energy, Chemical engineers can work together with energy engineers in the design and production of sustainable energy sources. This is applicable since chemical engineers have traditionally worked with petroleum energy and therefore have the required fundamental knowledge in sustainable energy development. Chemical engineers can work in a variety of fields, ensuring effective quality control through material testing and controlling qualities at various stages of the production process.
Chemical engineers differ from chemists in that chemists are mandated to discover reactions through which to carry out operations based on already developed scientific principles. On the other hand, chemical engineers discover processes and develop equipments which may be used to produce products economically as well as safely.
Some of the operations that may be carried out by a chemical engineer in process design include: the design of heat exchanges based on mathematical as well as physical science principles, and tank blanketing. Heat exchange is one of the most essential operations in any process involving the conversion of material and no process relevant to chemical engineering takes place completely without the application of heat exchange principles at any stage of the process.
The purpose of tank blanketing on the other hand is to contain a material in the liquid phase in a tank and prevent it from harming either personnel or users by applying a film of gas around the tank. The design of specific features of both the heat exchanger and the blanketed tank is imperative in achieving equipment for operations at the least possible costs while achieving the desired product specifications.