Department
What Is Chemical Engineering?

Virtually every aspect of a modern industrial economy is critically dependent upon chemical engineering for manufacturing bulk and specialty chemicals and high-tech materials needed to create a limitless array of value-added products. Chemical engineering applies the core scientific disciplines of chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics to transform raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms, invariably in processes that involve chemical change. They work in multidisciplinary teams to create novel materials that are at the heart of virtually every product and service that enhances our quality of life. Examples include nano scale composites, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fibers, metals, and ceramics. Key applications include the development of alternative energy systems, biomedical materials and therapies, and strategies to minimize the environmental impact of technological advancements.

How is Chemical Engineering different from Chemistry (or how is a BS in Chemical Engineering different from a BS in Chemistry)?

The lines between the function of chemists and chemical engineers can be blurred, but a general distinction can be made between the function of the two disciplines. Perhaps the clearest distinction can be made in the area of chemical transformation. Typically, chemists develop new molecules via chemical reaction, examine the underlying mechanisms involved, and make precise measurements of both physical and organic chemistry parameters on a bench scale in small volumes. Chemical engineers utilize the work of the chemists to build processes to manufacture and purify chemicals and new materials on a larger scale. Using their knowledge of scientific principles (physical and organic chemistry integrated with physics, mathematics, and biology) and design constraints (such as economics, environmental requirements) chemical engineers develop processes to manufacture raw materials with desired purity on a scale that meets the demands of virtually every industry in our modern society.