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What is Chemical Engineering?

What is Chemical Engineering?

Chemical Engineering is the branch of engineering that combines the knowledge of chemistry with math, physics and economics to solve practical technical problems in the processing industry. Chemical Engineering is concerned with the design, construction and operation of processes that convert raw materials into products with a higher economic value.

Through their training Chemical Engineers acquire a wide variety of skills and technical knowledge in the areas of chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, materials science and information technology. However, they also learn about economics, management, safety and the environment. They apply these skills in the manufacturing of petrochemicals, cement, explosives, plastics, paper, dyes, fertilisers and a variety of chemicals. They also work in the mining industry to recover valuable minerals from raw ore.

altWhat does a Chemical Engineer do?

A Chemical Engineer takes his knowledge of chemistry from the laboratory environment to design and construct new processes on a large scale in industry, as well as improve the efficiency of current processes and their environmental impact.

In South Africa, Chemical Engineers are largely involved in the fuel, mineral and chemical industries. As a Chemical Engineer you would be able to function and work in a variety of jobs:

  • Design and Construction: Chemical Engineers design, construct and commission new process plants and modify existing ones. Process design engineers work with the instrument, control and software engineers to decide on a control strategy for the plant, which will work safely and efficiently under all conditions.
  • Process operation: Chemical Engineers frequently manage the operation and facilities of process plants. The plant has to be operated as economically as possible ensuring that all the temperatures, pressures and flows are at set requirements. Troubleshooting and monitoring of processes plays a large role in daily operation and development of the plant.
  • Research and Development: In this field, Chemical Engineers work with other engineers and scientists to invent new processing methods and develop them into practical schemes. As an R&D engineer you would organise tests on small scale ‘pilot’ plants and use computer simulations to predict how the real plant should be built. Existing processes are also investigated for further modifications to achieve better efficiency or to make new products in response to customer demands.
  • Environment: Environmental engineers can play an important ‘global’ role in conservation and protection. More and more companies become aware of the increasing demand and responsibility to protect the environment from pollution. Many chemical engineers operate waste water treatment plants and design new recycling plants.

See links for further info:

Prospects Graduate Career Website (UK) Website