Chemical engineers are experts at developing processes for transforming raw materials into the vast array of high-value chemicals required by modern society. They work in multidisciplinary teams to create novel materials that are at the heart of virtually every product and service that enhance our quality of life. Examples include nanoscale 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.
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. Chemical engineers are critical to our future, our economy, and our quality of life.
The chemical engineering degree program at RIT, which includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, provides students with a firm and practical grasp of engineering principles and the underlying science associated with traditional applications. The experience that students gain during nearly a year of cooperative education enables them to understand how their classroom learning and laboratory experiences relate to real world industrial challenges.
How is chemical engineering different from chemistry?
It’s a common question. The lines between the roles and responsibilities of chemists and chemical engineers can be blurred, but a general distinction can be made between the functions of the two disciplines. Perhaps the clearest distinction can be made when it comes to a 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.
The BS degree in chemical engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, www.abet.org. For Enrollment and Graduations Data, Program Educational Objectives, and Student Outcomes, please visit the college’s Accreditation page.
Undergraduate and Graduate Students
Faculty Research Labs
The chemical engineering department offers a BS degree in chemical engineering plus two accelerated dual degree options that enable students to earn a BS and an MS in approximately five years.
In the chemical engineering BS degree, students develop a firm and practical grasp of engineering principles and the underlying science associated with traditional and emerging chemical engineering applications. They also learn to tie together phenomena at small scales (micro- and nano-scale) with the behavior of systems at the macro-scale.
A chemical engineering degree prepares you to advance nano-scale composites, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fibers, metals, and ceramics and to develop alternative energy systems, biomedical materials and therapies, and strategies that minimize the environmental impact of technological advancements.
The minor in chemical engineering systems analysis provides students with a sophisticated understanding of the application of scientific knowledge to the solution of a vast array of practical problems in which chemistry plays a critical role. Students are taught the systems methodologies that chemical engineers employ to analyze and solve real world problems involving distinct chemical components, chemical reaction, multiple phases, and mass transfer.
Application of Mathematical Modeling to Dynamic Systems – Current work is focused on the dynamics of forced convectively and absolutely unstable fluid systems, relevant to the invariant production of materials from industrial processes. Work also focuses dynamic surface tension measurement characterization with applications, advanced die manifold design, and the modeling of adsorption on complex materials. Ongoing efforts involve the coating of thin liquid films on substrates and the modeling of key elements of coating processes necessary to assure their efficacy. For more details on some of our mathematical modeling efforts in these and other areas, visit the Barlow/Weinstein Asymptotics and Wave Instability Group
Mitigating Environmental Impact Through Multi-Scale Modeling and Experiment – Research lies in the area of colloids and surface science, specifically within the challenges encountered in water resources management and conservation, the water-energy nexus and the water and carbon cycles. Current research studies the physicochemical processes governing the behavior of charged species in aquatic environments, the design and development of novel water treatment and purification methods, gas hydrates for water treatment, and gas production and carbon sequestration. Research efforts involve combining analytical tools and modeling approaches at different scales, from the molecular to the macro scale, with the ultimate goal of designing pollution mitigation strategies and intensified treatment processes, and understanding environmental impacts of human activity.
Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion, Transmission, and Storage Devices – Research activities focus on enhancing the performance of energy conversion, transmission, and storage devices through the use of nano materials. Specific areas of work include the development of high capacity anode and cathode active materials for lithium ion batteries as well as engineering novel device architectures using carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Other efforts focus on improving the electrical conductivity of bulk CNT wires and cables for power and data transmission. The applied projects are complemented by fundamental studies on CNT electronic type separations, thermal and chemical stability, and material tolerance to harsh radiation environments.
Nanotechnology for Environmental Applications – Research focuses on the use of carbon nanotubes for environmental applications and chemical/biological sensors. Current research projects investigate the use of carbon nanotubes to tailor adsorption systems for isolation and/or removal of organic and inorganic compounds from aqueous regimes (e.g. groundwater). Research efforts involve analysis of batch and packed column systems using mathematical models to develop a fundamental understanding of experimental results.
Soft nanomaterials for biomedicine and the environment – Current work is focused on the self-assembly of amphiphiles (lipids, surfactants, peptides, polymers) in ionic and nonionic solutions with applications to vaccine design and drug delivery. Additional related work is to examine the effects of dispersant molecules to mitigate effects of oil spills via emulsion formation, and to develop related technology to examine the property-nanostructure relationship to obtain desired properties for specific applications.
Natural gas-hydrates—crystalline compounds of gas molecules—are found in permafrost and marine sediments. While these gas hydrates can be used as alternative energy resources, they also pose a danger in terms of global warming. RIT researchers Patricia Taboada-Serrano and Yali Zhang developed a comprehensive model to better validate location of gas-hydrate deposits in marine sediments.
Darci Lane-Williams, assistant director of Title IX and Clery Compliance, has received the 2020 Edwina Award for her significant contributions to enhance gender diversity and inclusiveness at RIT. In addition, 10 graduating students were also named as “Legacy Leaders.”
AIChE RIT Chapter – The student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers promotes the chemical engineering program at RIT to current students, prospective students, professionals, and the community. To accomplish this mission, we have made it our goal to give students insight into the expansive field of chemical engineering by hosting guest speakers and organizing tours of both plants and research facilities in the area.
The chemical engineering department offers a variety of resources for our students that vary from academic support to handbooks and more. Visit our Student Resources page for more information.