Over the years with the great expansion of scientific knowledge, the basis of applying science particularly chemistry to develop technology has increased tremendously. This has lead to the development of the profession of chemical Engineering.
Chemical Engineering involves the design and maintenance of chemical plants and the development of chemical processes for converting raw materials or chemicals into valuable forms including those to remove chemicals from waste materials, to enable large-scale manufacture. It combines knowledge of Chemistry and Engineering for the production of chemicals and related by-products. This branch of engineering is a varied field, covering areas from biotechnology and nanotechnology to mineral processing. It covers various fields of chemical technology in mineral based industries, petrochemical plants, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fibres, petroleum refining plants etc. Chemical engineers design and operate chemical plants and improve methods of production.
Chemical Engineering is the apt career for those who have an aptitude and interest to work with chemicals. However Chemical Engineering is different from chemical technology. The former is concerned with the designing, supervision, construction, installation and operation of plants and equipments for manufacturing chemical products and developing new methods of production while the latter deals with the actual production of substances with new properties which require new methods of production in the fields of petroleum refining, fertilizer technology, processing of food and agricultural products, paints and dyes; recycling metals, glass and plastics; cosmetics, mineral based industries and prevention and control of environmental hazards.
Nature of Work
The work of Chemical Engineers, the most versatile of all engineers, involve the invention, development, design, operation and management of processes in industries. So they combine the work of several fields such as those of chemists, industrial engineers, materials engineers as well as electrical engineers. Chemical engineers are responsible for the availability of modern high-quality materials that are essential for running an industrial economy. They design equipments and operate chemical plants as well as determine the problems and find the best methods of production.
The scope for chemical engineers is tend to grow in future due to industrial expansion and the related scarcity of resources needed. They may be demand as they work to create synthetic replacements for those natural materials and resources that are in short supply. Overall chemical engineers could make very important contributions for the improvement and maintenance of the quality of life.
Education & Eligibility
To become a chemical engineer one should have a graduate degree B.Sc / B.E or postgraduate degree M.Sc / M.E in Chemical Engineering.
The basic eligibility criteria for a B.Sc / BE is F.Sc(Pre-Engineering) or equivalent examination, with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
Duration : BE / B.Tech courses are of 4 years' duration.
Academic Programme : The focus of the B.Sc / BE programmes in Chemical Engineering is on Industrial Chemistry, Polymer Technology, Polymer Processing, Polymer Testing, Polymer Synthesis etc. The M.Sc / ME level course generally offers specialized training and research in the areas like computer aided plant design, petroleum refining, fertilizer technology, processing of food and agricultural products, synthetic food, petrochemicals, synthetic fibres, coal and mineral based industries etc.
Selection : Selection to the graduate courses B.Sc / BE is based on merit i.e the marks secured in the final exams of F.Sc and through entrance exams.
A successful chemical engineer must posses strong technical ability and high motivation. Excellent analytical, communication and teamwork skills is a necessity and the candidate should be hardworking, good at organizing and solving problems. It is also necessary to like working with tools, drawing sketches of complex things and operations, and conceptualising forms and structures. Good computer skill is also essential as they use computer technology to optimize all phases of research and production. As the knowledge and duties of chemical engineers overlap many fields, they must be aware of all aspects of chemicals manufacturing and how it affects the environment, the safety of workers and customers.
Since Chemical engineering is a vast field, the job prospectus and career options of a chemical engineer is varied and different. Chemical engineers play a key role in industries, mostly in the manufacturing field. Their work area varies from petroleum and petrochemicals to food, materials, specialty chemicals, plastics, power production, environmental control, waste management and biotechnology.
As it is a varied field Chemical engineers could specialise in a particular chemical processess such as oxidation or polymerisation or in a specific product such as plastic or rubber. Besides designing equipments and plants, testing manufacturing processes and supervising production; they also study the properties and effects of dangerous chemicals, device process of neutralising them and also on the development acceptable substitutes. As such their work can be dangerous.
Wide employment opportunities await chemical engineers both in the public sector as well as the private sector. They can seek jobs in areas such as processing, operations or manufacturing, research and development, design and construction, finance and teaching. They may also pursue a management degree after B.Tech / DAE and take on marketing jobs. Candidates with an additional management degree are sought by private industries. In process industries they could work in positions such as a supervisor or manager, technical specialist, project manager or project engineers.
Among the manufacturing industries, pharmaceuticals provide the best opportunities for chemical engineers. In the government sector, chemical engineers are employed to solve environmental problems such as waste and water treatment, environmental regulations and recycling; on energy sector such as energy conservation and research on alternate energy sources and health-related research projects, defense establishments and atomic power plants. They are also employed in service industries such as scientific research and development services, particularly in energy and the developing fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology.
Other work areas of chemical engineers include food processing, coal preparation and mineral processing, explosives manufacturing, chemical process industries such as fertiliser industry, including pesticides and herbicides, caustic soda, glass and specialty chemicals, dyes and dyestuff, paint, lubricants, steel and aluminum production. They are also employed in a variety of manufacturing industries other than chemical manufacturing, such as those producing electronics, photographic equipment, clothing, pulp and paper and even in the development of aircrafts.