chemical engineering

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chemical engineering:

see engineeringengineering,
profession devoted to designing, constructing, and operating the structures, machines, and other devices of industry and everyday life. Types of Engineering

The primary types of engineering are chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Chemical Engineering


the science dealing with the processes, methods, and means for the large-scale chemical processing of raw materials and intermediates.

Chemical engineering arose in the late 18th century, and until nearly the 1930’s it consisted in describing individual chemical production processes and the basic equipment, materials, and energy balances of such processes. As the chemical industry developed and the number of chemical production processes grew, it became necessary to study and establish general relationships for the design of optimum chemical engineering processes and the introduction and efficient use of such processes in industry.

The primary task of chemical engineering is to combine in a single production system various types of chemical transformations with physicochemical and mechanical processes: the breaking up and sorting of solid materials (for example, crushing), the formation and separation of heterogeneous systems (for example, filtration, centrifugation, settling, and dispersion), mass transfer (rectification, absorption, adsorption, crystallization, extraction) and heat transfer, phase changes, compression of gases, and the creation of high and low temperatures and electric, magnetic, and ultrasonic fields. Chemical engineering also involves the transport, storage, and preservation of raw materials, intermediates, and finished products; the control and automation of production processes; and the choice of structural materials for industrial equipment and the types and unit capacities of equipment.

Chemical engineering methods are used not only in chemistry but also in many other branches of industry, including the petrochemical, metallurgical, building materials, glass, textile, pulp and paper, pharmaceutical, and food-processing industries.

The theoretical foundations of chemical engineering are the studies of processes, equipment, and chemical cybernetics, including mathematical modeling, the optimization of chemical engineering processes, and automated control systems.

Chemical engineering problems are solved by using the latest advances in all branches of chemistry (especially physical chemistry), physics, mechanics, biology, mathematics, engineering cybernetics (including automated control systems), and industrial economics.

Chemical engineering may be subdivided according to various criteria: (1) by raw materials (for example, processing engineering for mineral, vegetable, or animal raw materials and coal and oil engineering); (2) by the nature of consumption, or by commodities (for example, the production engineering of fertilizers, dyes, and pharmaceutical products); (3) by the grouping of elements in the periodic system (for example, the technology of alkali metals and heavy metals); and (4) by the type of chemical reactions and processes used (such as chlorination, sulfurization, and electrolysis engineering).

Chemical engineering is currently developing in the following areas: the integrated use of raw materials and energy within a given industry or in cooperation with other industries; the construction of high-capacity equipment from materials resistant to the action of chemicals; the development of continuous and closed-cycle processes to eliminate the contamination of air and water basins with industrial wastes; the widening of ranges of working temperatures and pressures; the use of catalytic reactions and fluidized-bed processes; and the development of automation systems and control and measurement technology.


Vol’fkovich, S. I., A. P. Egorov, and D. A. Epshtein. Obshchaia khimicheskaia tekhnologiia, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1952.
Obshchaia khimicheskaia tekhnologiia, vol. 2. Edited by S. I. Vol’fkovich. Moscow, 1959.
Kafarov, V. V. Metody kibernetiki v khimii i khimicheskoi tekhnologii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

chemical engineering

[′kem·i·kəl ‚en·jə′nir·iŋ]
That branch of engineering serving those industries that chemically convert basic raw materials into a variety of products, and dealing with the design and operation of plants and equipment to perform such work; all products are formed in chemical processes involving chemical reactions carried out under a wide range of conditions and frequently accompanied by changes in physical state or form.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Chemical engineering

The application of engineering principles to conceive, design, develop, operate, or use processes and products based on chemical and physical phenomena. The chemical engineer is considered an engineering generalist because of a unique ability (among engineers) to understand and exploit chemical change. Drawing on the principles of mathematics, physics, and chemistry and familiar with all forms of matter and energy and their manipulation, the chemical engineer is well suited for working in a wide range of technologies.

Although chemical engineering was conceived primarily in England, it underwent its main development in America, propelled at first by the petroleum and heavy-chemical industries, and later by the petrochemical industry with its production of plastics, synthetic rubber, and synthetic fibers from petroleum and natural-gas starting materials. In the early twentieth century, chemical engineering developed the physical separations such as distillation, absorption, and extraction, in which the principles of mass transfer, fluid dynamics, and heat transfer were combined in equipment design. The chemical and physical aspects of chemical engineering are known as unit processes and unit operations, respectively.

Chemical engineering now is applied in biotechnology, energy, environmental, food processing, microelectronics, and pharmaceutical industries, to name a few. In such industries, chemical engineers work in production, research, design, process and product development, marketing, data processing, sales, and, almost invariably, throughout top management. See Biochemical engineering, Biomedical chemical engineering, Biotechnology, Chemical conversion, Chemical process industry, Unit operations, Unit processes

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

chemical engineering

the branch of engineering concerned with the design, operation, maintenance, and manufacture of the plant and machinery used in industrial chemical processes
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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