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Chemical engineer

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Title: Chemical engineer  
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Subject: Chemical engineering, Frank Lees, Lodewijk van den Berg, History of chemical engineering, John J. Mooney
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Chemical engineer

Chemical engineers design, construct and operate plants

In the field of engineering, a chemical engineer is a professional, who is equipped with the knowledge of chemical engineering, works principally in the chemical industry to convert basic raw materials into a variety of products, and deals with the design and operation of plants and equipment.[1] In general, a chemical engineer is one who applies and uses principles of chemical engineering in any of its various practical applications; these often include 1) design, manufacture, and operation of plants and machinery in industrial chemical and related processes ("chemical process engineers"); 2) development of new or adapted substances for products ranging from foods and beverages to cosmetics to cleaners to pharmaceutical ingredients, among many other products ("chemical product engineers"); and 3) development of new technologies such as fuel cells, hydrogen power and nanotechnology, as well as working in fields wholly or partially derived from chemical engineering such as materials science, polymer engineering, and biomedical engineering.


  • History 1
  • Overview 2
  • Employment and salaries 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Portrait of Johann Rudolf Glauber.

The president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers said in his presidential address "I believe most of us would be willing to regard Edward Charles Howard (1774–1816) as the first chemical engineer of any eminence".[2] Others have suggested Johann Rudolf Glauber (1604–1670) for his development of processes for the manufacture of the major industrial acids.[3]

The term appeared in print in 1839, though from the context it suggests a person with Society of Chemical Industry. At the first General Meeting of the Society in 1882, some 15 of the 300 members described themselves as chemical engineers, but the Society's formation of a Chemical Engineering Group in 1918 attracted about 400 members.[5]

In 1905 a publication called The Chemical Engineer was founded in the US, and in 1908 the American Institute of Chemical Engineers was established.[6]

In 1924 the Institution of Chemical Engineers adopted the following definition: "A chemical engineer is a professional man experienced in the design, construction and operation of plant and works in which matter undergoes a change of state and composition."[7]

As can be seen from the later definition, the occupation is not limited to the chemical industry, but more generally the process industries, or other situations in which complex physical and/or chemical processes are to be managed.


Chemical engineers use computers to manage automated systems in production plants

Historically, the chemical engineer has been primarily concerned with process engineering, which can generally be divided into two complementary areas: chemical reaction engineering and separation processes. The modern discipline of chemical engineering, however, encompasses much more than just process engineering. Chemical engineers are now engaged in the development and production of a diverse range of products, as well as in commodity and specialty chemicals. These products include 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.

Employment and salaries

In the US, the Department of Labor estimated in 2008 the number of chemical engineers to be 31,000. According to a 2011 salary survey by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the median annual salary for a chemical engineer was approximately $110,000.[8] In one salary survey, chemical engineering was found to be highest-paying degree for first employment of college graduates.[9]Chemical engineering has been successively ranked in the Top 2 places in the Most Lucrative Degrees Survey by CNN Money in the United States of America.[10][11][12] In the UK, the Institution of Chemical Engineers 2006 Salary Survey reported an average salary of approximately £53,000, with a starting salary for a graduate averaging £24,000.[13] Chemical engineering is a male-dominated field: as of 2009, only 17.1% of professional chemical engineers are women.[14] However, that trend is expected to shift as the number of female students in the field continues to increase.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Licker, Mark, D. (2003). Dictionary of Engineering", McGraw-Hill, 2nd Ed.
  2. ^ Transactions of the IChemE (1951) Volume 29 page 163
  3. ^ Herman Skolnik in W. F. Furter (ed) (1982) A Century of Chemical Engineering ISBN 0-306-40895-3 page 230
  4. ^ Ure, Andrew (1839) A Dictionary of Arts Manufactures and Mines, London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman, page 1220
  5. ^ Colin Duvall and Sean F, Johnston (2000) Scaling Up: The Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Rise of a New Profession Kluwer Academic Publishers
  6. ^ Chemical Engineering As A Profession: Origin and Early Growth of the American Institute of Chemical EngineersJohn C. Olsen (December 1932),
  7. ^ Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers volume 2 page 23 (1924)
  8. ^ U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chemical Engineers
  9. ^ Chemical Engineering Ranked Highest Paying Degree, Department of Chemical Engineering, Princeton University, February 15, 2006
  10. ^ [1], 2009
  11. ^ [2], 2006
  12. ^ [3], 2007
  13. ^ Institution of Chemical Engineers Annual Review 2006
  14. ^
  15. ^

External links

  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers (USA)
  • Institution of Chemical Engineers (UK)
  • Canadian Society for Chemical Engineers
  • Engineers Australia (AUS)
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