Although the field of chemical engineering was conceived by Democritus, a Greek philosopher who proposed the concept of the atom around 440 BC, this event is technically related to chemistry. The concept of an atom sparked further advances in chemistry throughout the ages, culminating in the advent of industrial chemistry. Industrial chemistry is where the story of chemical engineering truly begins. The Industrial Revolution risen demand for industrial chemicals, putting a strain on batch production’s limited resources. The solution came soon, as society shifted away from batch production and toward continuous production, such as that possible with an assembly line. This enabled the production of more products at a lower cost. As a result, enough industrial chemicals could be produced to meet the needs of a newly industrialized world. The conception of large-scale manufacturing Industrial chemistry was defined as the process of creating valuable products from raw materials using chemical and physical processes. Developing and controlling these processes, on the other hand, were seen as separate tasks. This distinct field eventually became known as “chemical engineering.”
The Father of Chemical Engineering: George E. Davis
When George E. Davis, an Englishman, visited various chemical plants in his job as a chemical inspector in 1878, the chemical engineering industry was born. His visits enabled him to recognize the concept of unit operations, a fundamental concept in chemical engineering that allows a chemical process to be split down into operations like distillation or crystallization. He is generally regarded as the father of chemical engineering as a result of this discovery. He was also the one who coined the term “chemical engineering,” which he used to define a branch of engineering that dealt with challenges in the chemical industry. Davis has made numerous contributions to the field of chemical engineering. He got well-versed in chemical engineering concepts through his consulting business. As a result, he launched the Chemical Trade Journal in 1887, where he published his chemical engineering concepts on a regular basis. Davis’ consulting work and lecture series content built the basis for his most famous publication, The Handbook of Chemical Engineering, which was released in 1901. This textbook, among other things, introduced the concept of unit operations and was the first time he used the term “chemical engineering.” Davis also tried to modify the name of the Society of Chemical Industry, a London-based chemists’ society, to the Society of Chemical Engineers. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Institution of Chemical Engineers are the two most well-known today.
Recognizing Chemical Engineering as a Profession
There were courses in industrial chemistry and other areas of chemistry, but none that addressed chemical engineering topics directly. Lewis M. Norton, a chemistry professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, designed the world’s first four-year chemical engineering curriculum in 1888. Both the development of the German chemical process industry and Davis’ lecture series inspired him. Outlines of Industrial Chemistry, his first chemical engineering textbook, was published in 1898. While Davis is recognized as the father of chemical engineering as a discipline, Norton and Thorpe are the fathers of chemical engineering education. The Chemical Engineer, the first publication dedicated to chemical engineering, was published in 1903. Articles on industrial chemistry and chemical engineering were featured in this issue. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the first organization dedicated to chemical engineering, was founded in 1908 after members of the American Chemical Society realized the need for a separate organization for chemical engineers. The Institute had less than 1,000 members when it was founded; currently, it has more than 60,000 members.
Multidisciplinary Nature of Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineering is the only engineering discipline that focuses on molecules and their changes, commonly referred as chemistry. Chemistry and physics, along with mathematics, were the core sciences of chemical engineering Chemical engineering is the natural home for the engineering of biological systems at all scales because of its essential interaction with chemistry. Chemical engineering and biology have a long history of interaction, which developed significantly with the emergence of genetic engineering tools and the growth of molecular biology in the late twentieth century. Several fields (for example, biochemical engineering, metabolic engineering, tissue engineering, and synthetic biology) have sprung up as a result of chemical engineering or with significant contributions from chemical engineers. The growing influence of biology on the field has also contributed in many academic departments changing their names to include some form of “bio” in addition to “chemical” engineering.
Chemical engineering is the design and production of systems at different scales, from the molecular to the macroscopic, that integrate chemical, physical, and biological elements to develop processes and materials for societal benefit. Chemical transformations are at the heart of the technologies that enable modern society, and the work of chemical engineers has had a global impact on societies and individual lives. The silicon chips, glass materials, and plastics that make up today’s ubiquitous electronic devices would not have been developed without the contributions of many chemical engineers. Chemical engineers have recently contributed to the tools of directed evolution, enabling for the engineering of improved function in proteins, metabolic pathways, and genomes.
Indian Chemical Industry:
Chemical Process Industry (CPI) is an important constituent of the Indian economy. Indian Chemical Industry is growing at 8% per annum, 12th largest in the world, and 3rd largest in Asia. It contributes 9% of exported goods from India. CPI projected to touch $ 400 billion by 2025. Approx. US $ 28 billion turnover which is approx. 7% of India’s GDP. CPI Constitutes 15% of manufacturing capacity and 20% of Excise revenue. CPI produces 70,000 Products with 10 million direct employees, 50 Million Indirect Employees. It uses wide range of products/processes / feed-stocks, enabling better quality of life.
The key segments for Chemical Process Industry are:
(a) Basic Chemicals (constitutes 48 %):
Organic Chemicals: Polymers, Soda Ash, Caustic Soda, Petrochemicals, Fertilizers, Inorganic chemicals, Alkalies, Chloralkalies, Aromatics, Thermoplastics, Thermosets and Other Industrial chemicals etc.
Inorganic Chemicals: Soda Ash, Caustic Soda, Fertilizers etc.
(b) Specialty Chemicals (constitutes 21 %): Paints, Coatings, varnishes, Cosmetics, Home care surfactants, Printing inks, Speciality Polymers, Flavors and fragrance, Rubber Chemicals, Textile Chemicals, Adhesive, Sealant, Catalysts, Industrial gases, Pharma additives, Lubricants, Water treatment chemicals, Plastic additives etc.
(c) Knowledge Chemicals:(constitutes 31 %): Pharma (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, APIs and formulations), Biotech, (Bio-Pharma, Bio -agricultural, Bio-services and Bio- industrial products), Agrochemicals (Insecticides, pesticides, fungicides and other crop protection chemicals) Chemical engineers will have more opportunities to land their dream job in this rapidly growing Chemical industry. According to the report (Source: Chem Systems/ BAG (2020) and Ministry of Commerce and Industry (2021)), the chemical industry in the country is worth approx. USD 155 billion now and would be worth USD 400 billion by 2025. India’s share in the worldwide chemical market is currently about 3.5 percent, and is expected to reach approximately 5% by the end of the year. More than 80,000 chemicals are used in various sectors across the country, according to a survey by Tata Strategic Management Group. According to government statistics, India is the world’s seventh largest chemical manufacturer and Asia’s third largest. This is likely to improve in the next years. Students interested in a career in chemical engineering and technology will find a plethora of job and business opportunities and has a promising future. Chemical Engineering and Technology is a great option for those who want to pursue higher education in India and abroad. An extensive engineering education in this field opens up ample opportunities both in the country and around the world.
Role of Chemical Engineer:
Chemical engineers have been involved in reactor design and separations for at least a century, and more recently in cell engineering, formulations, and other aspects of drug manufacturing, and that they have the potential to make many more contributions to health and medicine at scales ranging from molecular to manufacturing facilities. The development of biologically derived products has increased since the first attempts to isolate small molecules from biological organisms and control and reengineer cell behavioral patterns, with major advances resulting from recombinant. DNA technology, genome sequencing, the development of polymerase chain reaction, the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells, and the discovery and implementation of gene editing are all examples of breakthroughs in Chemical Engineering.
Chemical engineers translate laboratory processes into practical applications for commercial product production, and then work to maintain and improve those processes. They rely on engineering’s three basic pillars: math, physics, and chemistry, Biology is becoming increasingly essential. Chemical engineers who work in business and management offices frequently visit R&D and manufacturing facilities. Interaction with others and teamwork are essential for the success of chemical engineering projects.
As a result, the chemical engineer must be familiar with mechanical, civil, electrical, and control engineering in order to collaborate with these other professionals (as well as enough chemistry to deal with the chemist, and increasingly certain aspects of biology). This is taught as part of the degree programme, whereas other engineers rarely (if ever) learn about chemical engineering. When they work together, however, they all improve their understanding of each other’s work in order to be more effective. Of course, many chemical engineers go on to specialize, which is why a basic graduate chemical engineer could be referred to as a “universal engineer.”
The Earth’s population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, resulting in a 60% increase in food demand, an 80% increase in energy demand, and a 55% increase in water demand. Food, energy, and water are all strongly intertwined, with the production or consumption of one directly linked to the production or consumption of the other. Agricultural crops produce biofuels while also providing food for animals and humans. Energy is used to purify, transport, heat, or cool water; to manufacture fertilizers; and to power farm machinery, food processing, and cooking. Diverted land and water for energy production are no longer available for food production, and vice versa. Water is used in the production of fuels and electricity, as well as in agriculture, food processing, livestock, and cooking. While other disciplines have traditionally focused on water, food, and air, chemical engineers bring both molecular and systems-level thinking to pioneering efforts in this highly interconnected space. The positive impact of chemical engineers will be amplified as they adapt to thinking beyond the traditional unit operation scale to focus on the water-energy-food nexus on a global scale.
Contributions of Chemical Engineers in COVID-19 Pandemic:
The rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most significant examples in recent history of the integration of engineering and biology to address medical needs. Vaccines were developed, tested in preclinical animal and clinical human trials, and mass-produced in less than a year. RNA is a modular and specific information molecule. Each protein drug in a typical biologic is a unique molecule that necessitates significant formulation adaptation. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a coded molecule, which means that when the drug is changed, only the RNA sequence changes, while the physical and chemical properties of the drug molecule remain unchanged. This is because the immune target is also a code and the goal is to replicate the antigenic molecular sequence, making it a perfect fit for vaccines.
Now, in the COVID-19 era, chemical engineers, especially those collaborating with other scientists and engineers in environmental sciences and technology, have opportunities to contribute to societal health and well-being, as well as to close that gap between the developed and the developing countries. Hand sanitizers and related consumer/cleanser products are another aspect of hygiene that has gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which chemical engineering plays a significant role, particularly in balancing antimicrobial/antiviral efficacy, product safety, and environmental impact.
Biological drugs, biofuels, industrial biocatalysts, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are just a few of the many product breakthroughs driving biotechnology’s rapid growth. Today’s biotechnology industry is divided into ten subspecialties, each of which is represented by a different color. The primary biotech subspecialties are associated with the colors red, white, green, and yellow, but there are additional subsets and colors. The term “red biotech” refers to medical and pharmaceutical products and processes; “white biotech” refers to biocatalysis for industrial processes; “green biotech” refers to agriculture, including GMOs; and “yellow biotech” refers to food production. Chemical engineers can work in a variety of fields, including process development and scale-up, manufacturing, and process optimization. Biological engineers use engineering, biology, and biomechanics principles to design, develop, and evaluate biological health systems such as artificial organs, prostheses, instrumentation, medical information systems, health management, and care delivery systems.
Challenges and Opportunities
Modern bimolecular engineering is strongly connected to chemical engineering, molecular biology, biochemistry, materials science, and medicine. Current challenges for health and medicine applications include advancing personalized medicine and the engineering of biological molecules such as proteins, nucleic acids, and other entities such as viruses and cells; bridging the interface between materials and devices and health; improving the use of tools from systems and synthetic biology to understand biological networks and the intersections with data science and machine learning; and developing the next steps in interdisciplinary research. All of these challenges provide opportunities for chemical engineers to apply systems-level approaches and to collaborate across disciplines. Cancer immunotherapies, vaccine design, and therapeutic treatments for infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders are all areas where quantitative chemical engineering skills can be put to use in immunology. The development of completely noninvasive drug delivery methods represents an exciting frontier in device- and materials-based strategies. Chemical engineers are also well-positioned to advance research into sustained-release depots and targeted therapeutic delivery.
Flexible Manufacturing and the Circular Economy:
The discipline of chemical engineering is broadly concerned with enabling realistic, cost-effective, efficient, and safe physical and chemical transformations of matter into more useful molecules or materials. Chemical engineering enabled transformations of the entire landscape of modern society and the planet over the last century. Chemical engineers transformed manufacturing in all sectors of the economy over last century. Agrochemicals and fertilizers, cement, consumer goods, flavors and fragrances, food and feed, fuels, paints and coatings, paper and pulp, pharmaceuticals and biologics, polymers, semiconductors, and many other industries are among these. Given the significance of chemical engineering in manufacturing, there are ample opportunities for chemical engineers to enhance environmental sustainability. Food and biological materials (for e.g., wood) are recycled back into the system via recycling processes such as composting and anaerobic digestion, which regenerate living systems such as the soil. Strategies such as recycling, reuse, repair, and remanufacturing facilitate the recovery and restoration of products, components, and materials in the technical cycle.
Novel and Improved Materials for the 21st Century:
Chemical engineers are deeply involved in the design, synthesis, processing, manufacturing, and, ultimately, disposal of materials of all kinds, and the connections between materials science and chemical engineering are diverse and complex. Chemical engineers have made significant advances in the design and development of materials. The reverse osmosis membrane for water desalination, made of cellulose acetate and developed by chemical engineers in the 1950s, is one example. Many of the polymeric materials used in regenerative engineering and drug delivery have emerged from the laboratories of chemical engineers over the course of many years. Chemical engineers can contribute to the development of materials across a broad range of material types and applications. Chemical engineers play an essential role in advancing the development of biomaterials for regenerative engineering and organ-on-a-chip technology. Electronic waste is a similar economic and environmental burden and is even more complicated than plastics. Consumer products such as mobile phones and personal computers contain over one thousand different chemical products. The fastest growing segment of the global solid waste stream is electronics and electrical waste.
Tools to Enable the Future of Chemical Engineering:
Chemical engineers of the future will have to navigate the interface between the natural world and the data that describes it, as well as employ the instruments that transform data into useful information, knowledge, and understanding. Some tools and capabilities will be highly dynamic in nature, with steady and predictable growth and uses, while others will be revolutionary in nature, changing chemical engineering practice and research in ways that are difficult to forecast or anticipate today.
Data Science and Computational Tools
Since its inception, chemical engineering has been a data-intensive field. The chemical industry was established on the systematic measurement and cataloguing of experimental measurements like thermodynamic properties, phase diagrams, rate constants, flow rates, and heat- and mass-transfer coefficients. Many labor-intensive measurements that were earlier done by humans are now routinely automated. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a modern data science tool that is rapidly transforming all fields of science and engineering, including chemical engineering. AI is expected to transform all industry sectors over the next few decades. The way in which businesses use AI will be a differentiator in gaining a competitive edge. While earlier chemical engineering revolutions were driven by reductionist models, the next revolution will undoubtedly be data-driven and powered by AI.
Mathematical Modeling and Simulation in Chemical Engineering
Mathematical modelling, or the formation and mathematical and computational equations as a convenient surrogate for studying, capable of understanding, and even designing a physical entity, became an indispensable tool for the modern chemical engineer. Simulation also refers to systems in which particle interaction potentials are developed to describe many interacting species and emergent collective behavior is revealed. The evolution of artificial intelligence over the next decade will have implications for the types of problems that chemical engineers will be able to solve. Chemical engineers are expected to make important contributions to the field of modelling and simulation tools that will have an impact on education, research, and industry. They will continue to create and share methods, algorithms, techniques, and open source code. The evolution of artificial intelligence over next decade will have implications for the types of problems that chemical engineers will be able to solve.
Current and Future Threats: Cybersecurity
The threat of cyberattacks that can cripple a network, cause physical and/or life-threatening damage, or enable the collection of a large ransom has increased dramatically as chemical and biological process plants and other infrastructure have increasingly become connected to and part of the internet. Across all business sectors, most companies take cybersecurity very seriously. Many have large cybersecurity units dedicated to manufacturing facilities, research and development (R&D), and contractor monitoring. The most of of these teams are composed of computer scientists, but they collaborate closely with chemical engineers who are developing new processes or control systems. Chemical engineers will not need to develop new cybersecurity tools in this context, but they will need to be able to communicate effectively with computer scientists and other cybersecurity professionals.
The Future of Chemical Engineering
The field of Chemical Engineering is undergoing a significant transformation. A new “borderless chemical engineering science” paradigm is emerging. A need for ‘cleaner’ technologies rather than ‘clean-up’ technologies, and the emergence of ‘performance chemicals and materials,’ are driving the profession toward a symbiotic relationship with other disciplines. Chemical engineering is the only engineering discipline that concentrates on molecules and their interactions, generally known as chemistry. Several fields have sprouted up as a result of chemical engineering or with substantial contributions from chemical engineers (for example, biochemical engineering, metabolic engineering, tissue engineering, and synthetic biology). Many academic departments have changed their names to incorporate some form of “bio” in addition to “chemical” as a result of the expanding influence of biology on the area.
As the world’s population and technology advancements continue to grow, chemical engineer’s knowledge will be required to help solve challenging problems such energy consumption and food production. Chemical engineers have no dearth of invention, creativity, or imagination, which will be needed to solve these problems. Chemical engineers’ skills are widely applicable in a number of fields; thus they will be warmly welcomed even in emerging areas. Chemical engineers will always have exciting careers ahead of them, with new technologies constantly on the horizon! In both industry and research, chemical engineering has a promising future.
In today’s developing countries, growing economic power and the rise of the middle class will drive demand for more materials, energy, products, and access to technology; new, more efficient methods of material production; process intensification, energy intensity improvements, and zero-emission technologies. Consumers, society, and regulatory bodies will all require higher carbon efficiencies and reduced environmental emissions. The application of enhanced farming and food-generation methods using nontraditional farming techniques, new bio-based active agents, and data sciences will satisfy the ever-increasing demand for food. Limited access to water will continue to drive technology advancements for purification, desalination, and recycle capabilities. Biotechnology, as bioprocessing, goes back to the early days of chemical engineering and has since broadened. Biology has transformed into a molecular science; chemical engineers utilize molecular sciences; it is therefore natural that chemical engineers are deeply involved in the expanding range of modern biotechnologies. There were many more areas where chemical engineers were leading the way, including energy storage, zero water strategies, alternative food design, disposal textiles design, landfill reclaim, and genetically modified foods.
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