Posted: May 23, 2009 in Other Knowledgement


The chemical engineering profession began in 1888. Professor Lewis Norton of MIT introduced “Course X” (ten), thereby uniting chemical engineers through a formal degree. Other schools, such as the Univ. of Pennsylvania and Tulane University, added their own four year ChE programs in 1892 and 1894.

ChE in 1880’s
“chemical engineer” of these years was either:
a mechanical engineer who had gained some knowledge of  chemical process equipment, a chemical plant foreman with a lifetime of experience but little education, or an applied chemist with knowledge of large scale industrial chemical reactions
At the end of the 19th Century Competition between manufacturers was brutal, and all strove to be the “low cost producer.” To reach this end some individuals stooped so low as to bribe shipping clerks to contaminate competitor’s products. However, to stay ahead of the pack dishonest practices were not enough. Instead chemical plants had to be optimized. This necessitated things such as; continuously operating reactors (as opposed to batch operation), recycling and recovery of unreacted reactants, and cost effective purification of products. These advances in-turn required plumbing systems (for which raditional chemists where unprepared) and detailed physical chemistry knowledge (unbeknownst to mechanical engineers). The new chemical engineers were capable of designing and operating the increasingly complex chemical operations which were rapidly emerging.

Chemical Engineering is Combining math, physics, chemistry and engineering to solve a wide range of industrial problems in a safe and economical fashion.

Early Industry Chemistry
– Sulfuric Acid Production: Lead-Chamber Method (1749). A mixture of sulfur dioxide (SO2), air, water, and a nitrate potassium, sodium, or calcium nitrate).
John Glover introduced a mass transfer tower to recover some of lost nitrate
– Sodium Carbonate (Soda ash,Washing Soda) & Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda),  used to manufacture glass, soap, textiles and paper:  Le Blanc process: Solvey process

ChE Evolution
World War I:
The U.S. became isolated from Germany; In 1915, Arthur Little stressed the “unit operations” concept. Chemists and chemical engineers built the ammonia plants that produced the explosives (and fertilizers) that helped win the war
World War II:
Synthetic Rubber, High Octane Gasoline, TNT, The Atomic Bomb
Post-War Growth
BASF, Bayer, and Hoechst; Petroleum & petrochemical industries. Chemical technology was to make those discoveries for yourself. Chemical engineering was becoming more focused on science than on engineering tradition. Emphasizing the importance of mathematical modeling
Today their broad background (material and energy balances, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, transport phenomena, process
control with stress on mathematical competence and computer literacy) chemical engineering continues to opened doors to many interdisciplinary areas such as catalysis, colloid science, combustion, electrochemical engineering, polymer technology, food processing, biotechnology, electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, environmental clean-up, and biomedical implants.
Along the way, this changing educational emphasis has helped the chemical engineer keep up with the changing industrial needs and continue to make significant contributes to society (see TIMELINE).

ChE can work in everywhere and anywhere. They can work in
– Finding Advanced Material
– Biotechnology
– Energy Fuel
– Electronics.
– Environmental, Safety, and Health
– Food Beverages
– Chemical Process Industry
– Design and Construction

Nature’s Chemical Engineer
– Raw materials into useful products
– Work in teams
– Benefit the environment
– Production process

Source: ChE Lecturer – UI


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