May 25, 7pm
What is chemical engineering, and how is it different from chemistry?
Chemical engineers develop processes that transform raw materials into useful chemicals that enhance our quality of life. In addition to chemicals found in products used by consumers every day, chemical engineers create novel materials such as nanoscale composites, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fibers, metals, and ceramics. Chemical engineers are trained to design and control chemically reactive processes to achieve desired chemical purity. However, they also use their intricate knowledge of chemistry, engineering principles, and applied mathematics to work in a variety of other applications. These include applied energy systems, biomedical materials and therapies, and strategies to minimize the environmental impact of technological advancements.
A common question that many ask is, “How is chemical engineering different from chemistry?” Typically, chemists create new molecules via chemical reactions, examine the underlying mechanisms involved, and make precise chemical measurements on a bench scale in small volumes. Chemical engineers utilize the initial work of the chemists, but often need to modify the reactions themselves, as they can be too slow to be useful. Additionally, chemical engineers examine how the size of a system affects the chemistry, as both heat transfer and mixing processes get more difficult with increased system size—and the scale need to be larger to meet demand for chemicals. The interaction between size and chemistry is non-trivial and requires bench top and larger scale experimentation in which key parameters are measured. Such parameters are, in turn, inserted into mathematical models to predict larger scales. This is an iterative process and requires intensive chemistry, engineering, and mathematical training to master.
In this Science Café presentation, we will discuss the items above in a casual discussion!