The Chemical Engineering Major is the branch of engineering that deals with the application of physical science (e.g. chemistry and physics), and life sciences (e.g. biology, microbiology and biochemistry) with mathematics, to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms. Choosing the right Chemical Engineering Schools takes time and research. In addition to producing useful materials, modern chemical engineering is also concerned with pioneering valuable new materials and techniques - such as nanotechnology, fuel cells and biomedical engineering.
Chemical engineers design processes to ensure the most economical operation. This means that the entire production chain must be planned and controlled for costs. A chemical engineer can both simplify and complicate "showcase" reactions for an economic advantage. Using a higher pressure or temperature makes several reactions easier; ammonia, for example, is simply produced from its component elements in a high-pressure reactor. On the other hand, reactions with a low yield can be recycled continuously, which would be complex, arduous work if done by hand in the laboratory. It is not unusual to build 6-step, or even 12-step evaporators to reuse the vaporization energy for an economic advantage. In contrast, laboratory chemists evaporate samples in a single step.
The individual processes used by chemical engineers (e.g. distillation or filtration) are called unit operations and consist of chemical reactions, mass-, heat- and momentum- transfer operations. Unit operations are grouped together in various configurations for the purpose of chemical synthesis and/or chemical separation. Some processes are a combination of intertwined transport and separation unit operations, (e.g. reactive distillation).
Three primary physical laws underlying chemical engineering design are conservation of mass, conservation of momentum and conservation of energy. The movement of mass and energy around a chemical process are evaluated using mass balances and energy balances, laws that apply to discrete parts of equipment, unit operations, or an entire plant. In doing so, chemical engineers must also use principles of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, fluid mechanics and transport phenomena. The task of performing these balances is now aided by process simulators, which are complex software models (see List of Chemical Process Simulators) that can solve mass and energy balances and usually have built-in modules to simulate a variety of common unit operations.
The modern discipline of chemical engineering 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, space and military applications. Examples include ultra-strong fibers, fabrics, dye-sensitized solar cells, 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.