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Engineering Branches (Chemical Engineering)
Chemical engineering is the application of science, mathematics and economics to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms.
Chemical Engineering largely involves the design and maintenance of chemical processes for large-scale manufacture. Chemical engineers in this branch are usually employed under the title of 'process engineer'.
The individual processes used by chemical engineers (eg. distillation or chlorination) are called unit operations and consist of chemical reaction, mass-, heat- and momentum- transfer operations. Unit operations are grouped together in various configurations for the purpose of chemical synthesis and/or chemical separation.
Three primary physical laws underlying chemical engineering design are Conservation of mass, Conservation of momentum and Conservation of energy. The movement of mass and energy around a chemical process are evaluated using mass and energy balances which apply these laws to whole plants, unit operations or discrete parts of equipment. In doing so, Chemical Engineers use principles of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics and transport phenomena. The task of performing these balances is now aided by process simulators, which are complex software models that can solve mass and energy balances and usually have built-in modules to simulate a variety of common unit operations.
The modern discipline of chemical engineering enables much more than just process engineering. This often involves using chemical knowledge to create better materials and products that are useful in today's world. Chemical engineers are now engaged in development and production of diverse, high-value products, as well as in basic chemicals production. These products include specialty chemicals and high performance materials needed for aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronic, environmental and military applications. Examples include ultra-strong fibers, fabrics, adhesives and composites for vehicles, bio-compatible materials for implants and prosthetics, gels for medical applications, pharmaceuticals, and films with special dielectric, optical or spectroscopic properties for opto-electronic devices. Additionally, chemical engineering is often intertwined with biology and biomedical engineering. Many chemical engineers work on biological projects such as understanding biopolymers (proteins) and mapping the human genome.
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