What is Chemical engineering

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What is chemical engineering?
Picture a world where penicillin and other antibiotics are rarer and more expensive than the most
precious gems. Picture once-prosperous countries gripped by famine as dwindling supplies of
natural fertilizers become increasingly scarce, and pests devastate what little crops can be grown.
Imagine hospitals where kidney dialysis is so risky that patients opt not to do it; where open heart
surgery requires so much donor blood that only a select few can have it done; where organ
transplants are unheard of because of tissue rejection; and where diabetics rely on the harvesting
of insulin from animals. Imagine serving in the armed forces or in a police department without a
lightweight bulletproof vest. Picture a closet without easy-care, mothproof synthetics like rayon,
nylon, Gortex, and even polyester, or a home without durable, easy-to-clean carpets. Picture
American cities choked with smog and soot from millions of residential coal furnaces and millions
of automobiles without emission controls. Imagine our world wide web trying to function on
vacuum tubes and ferrite core storage for data processing, and a "personal" computer the size of
a bungalow. Imagine paying $40 for a gallon of gasoline—if you can even find it—and your
automobile weighing 3 tons because of the absence of today's lightweight alloys and highstrength polymers. Picture a home where perishable foods last no longer than a day, because
that's how long it takes the block of ice in your "refrigerator" to melt.
Chemical engineers have made so many important contributions to society, in such a short span
of history, that it is hard to visualize modern life without the large-scale production of antibiotics
and other drugs, fertilizers, agricultural chemicals, physiological-compatible polymers for
biomedical devices, high-strength polymer composites, synthetic fibers and fabrics, protective
coatings, and microelectronic devices. How would our industries function without environmental
control technologies; without processes to design and make semiconductors, magnetic and
optical storage media; and without modern petroleum processing? All these technologies require
the ability to produce specially-designed chemicals—and the materials based on them—
economically and with minimal adverse impact on the environment. Developing this ability and
implementing it on a practical scale is what chemical engineering is all about.
The products that depend on chemical engineering come from the diverse array of industries that
play a key role in our economy. These industries include the traditional chemical and petroleum
processing industries that dominated chemical engineering for over half of its existence, but they
also include food and beverages, textiles, paper, rubber and plastics, ceramics, microelectronics,
biomedical devices, and a wealth of others. These industries produce most of the materials from
which consumer products are made, as well as the basic commodities on which our way of life is
built. But, chemical engineering is more than a group of basic industries or a raft of products. As
an intellectual discipline it is deeply involved in both basic and applied research. Chemical
engineers bring a unique set of tools and methods to the study and solution of some of society's
most pressing problems.

How it started
Chemical engineering is the newest of the four major engineering disciplines. As recognized
professions, civil and mechanical engineering both predate it by over 100 years. Chemical
engineering arose as a separate, distinct profession somewhat slowly, almost reluctantly, between
the end of the 19th and the early 20th century. Once established, its rise was fast, however,
becoming a well-recognized engineering discipline by the late 1920's. This relatively late
beginning and long adolescence tends to conceal the fact that many procedures and techniques
now considered standard were practiced long before the profession came about. The origins of
chemical engineering go back even further, to the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th
century in Europe and the United States, and the changes following the 1848 revolution in France
and Germany. In the beginning of the 19th century the art and the science of chemistry flourished
in Germany. A number of pioneering chemists revolutionized the way in which new chemicals
were discovered, synthesized, and marketed. The most prominent of these was Justus von
Liebig, who established a small chemistry laboratory at the University of Giessen, a tiny town 30
miles north of Frankfurt. Prof. von Liebig's greatest contribution was not the discovery of
revolutionary new compounds; rather, it was his almost unique ability to educate students who
would themselves become famous scientists. And it was the intellectual descendants of these
brilliant chemists who would populate the universities and research laboratories in the United
States and throughout the western world.
Justus von Liebig was the first great educator in chemistry. He promoted chemistry
as the central science, trying to underscore(enfatizar) its direct benefit to man in the
form of pharmaceuticals.

What made von Liebig and his students different from other
chemists of that age was their effort to apply their fundamental
discoveries to the development of specific chemical processes and
products. This scientific approach, striving for the rational and
methodical rather than the empirical and observational, seems like
a logical way to explore new areas of technology. However, "rational
and methodical" are often synonymous with "slow and expensive,"
and the human tendency to proceed quickly once something is discovered is ofttimes irresistible.
The scientific method espoused in the 1830's and '40's by the chemist von Liebig had a significant
impact on the birth of chemical engineering 50 years later.
An event that also had an direct impact on the birth of chemical engineering was the political
revolution of 1848 that began in France and swept across the Rhine into Germany. The
revolution, which gave central Europe a taste of liberal reform, resulted in the immediate
improvement of work conditions in the industrialized European countries. Industrial workers
demanded shorter work weeks, higher pay, and safe(r) working conditions. These demands led to
a need to revise acceptable industrial processes with an emphasis, albeit primitive, on safer and
more efficient production methods. An important component of workplace safety, taken for
granted today, is that workers will be safer if they actually understand what they're working on.

Back in the mid-1800's, however, technical education, as opposed to scientific education, was not
formalized. At best, students obtained some superficial knowledge of the relevant processes in
chemistry courses. The operation of chemical processing equipment—distillation columns,
filtration units, heat exchangers, boilers, etc.—was taught in technical schools, not universities.
The students at these technical schools were taught how to operate the units, but they learned
very little of the theory behind the working of the units.
During the second and third quarters of the 19th century the chemical processing industry
followed an unvarying formula: a university-trained chemist discovered wonder compound X, or a
new route for the synthesis of already-discovered compound X; a team of mechanical engineers
designed and built the plant to produce large quantities (maybe hundreds of pounds per day or
week) of compound X; factory workers with rudimentary training ran the equipment in the plant.
When compound X was easy to synthesize this formula worked well, but in the latter half of the
19th century chemists were discovering, synthesizing, and otherwise stumbling upon new
compounds that were difficult enough to make in milligram quantities, let alone tens or hundreds
of pounds at a time. Requiring mechanical engineers, who at the time received no chemistry
education, to design equipment for the large-scale production of increasingly complex chemicals
and compounds became more than impractical; by the 1880's it was apparent that, if the societal
contributions of organic and inorganic chemistry were to keep pace with other areas of science,
something had to change in the transition from the laboratory to the mass market.

Emergence as a discipline
Although many of the amazing advances in chemical manufacture were taking place in central
Europe, France and Germany in particular, it was in the United Kingdom that the first steps were
taken for formalize an education in "chemical engineering." In 1887, an unknown industrial
inspector from Manchester, England, George E. Davis decided to transfer his vast knowledge
from his years of inspecting chemical plants in the industrial region of England to the classroom.
In the fall of 1887 he gave a series of 12 lectures, later published in the Chemical Trade Journal.

George E. Davis taught the first chemical engineering course. It was given in
Manchester, England in 1887.

The material in the course was very empirical, that is, based on
observation rather than theory, but it had a definite advantage in
that, at last, an individual had put onto paper a series of articles
on the operation of some of the most important (and
complicated) chemical processes of those days. The teaching of
chemical plant operation later became known as unit operations,
a phrase coined in 1915 that survives to this day, because Davis'
lectures covered the operation of the units, or individual pieces of
equipment, that made up a chemical plant.

However, despite all of the activity in France and Germany, and despite all of George Davis'
attempts to formalize the teaching of unit operations in the U.K., even with his publication of one
of the first textbooks on chemical engineering in 1901 (A Handbook of Chemical Engineering), it
was in none of these three countries that chemical engineering emerged as a discipline. There
are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is simply that, although George Davis
aggressively promoted his book and the concept of chemical engineering as a separate
profession, his impact was minuscule. Basically, no one listened to him. This was truly unfortunate
—not just for George Davis of course—because he was the first to recognize that the subject of
unit operations should be developed and analyzed as a whole rather than as a set of individual
operations. The time was ripe for this unit operations philosophy to emerge, and appropriately
enough, it happened in the United States, which was well on its way to becoming the world's
technological leader.
At the end of the 19th century the competition between the U.K., France, Germany, and the
United States for industrial chemicals had become fierce. Only
one year after Davis' 1887 lectures in Manchester, Professor
Lewis M. Norton of the Chemistry Department at MIT started
teaching a course in chemical engineering (although it wasn't yet
called chemical engineering in the United States). The material in
this course was taken predominantly from Norton's notes on
industrial chemical practice in Germany, which at that time had
what was arguably the most advanced chemical process industry
in the world.

Prof. Lewis M. Norton of MIT's Chemistry Department introduced chemical
engineering to the United States.

When Norton died in 1893 at the age of 39, Professor Frank H. Thorpe, who received his
doctorate in chemistry that same year from the University of Heidelberg, took responsibility for
Norton's course. In 1898 Prof. Thorpe published what may be considered the first textbook in
chemical engineering, Outlines of Industrial Chemistry. The term "industrial chemistry" appearing
for the first time in Thorpe's book was an attempt to broadly describe the industrial processes
applied in the production of chemicals; this phrase would become strongly associated with
chemical engineering over the next 50 years. It was not until radical (i.e., fundamental)
approaches to the analysis of chemical engineering problems were introduced in the mid-1950s
at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin that "industrial chemistry" would be
made distinct from the main goals of "chemical engineering."
Although Norton and Thorpe were the pioneers of chemical engineering enthusiasm at MIT, it was
Arthur A. Noyes and later William H. Walker who brought to this discipline the respect it merited
within the engineering curriculum. After a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Leipzig in
1890, Noyes established a research laboratory in physical chemistry in 1903. William Walker, who
received a doctorate in chemistry in 1892 at the University of Göttingen, recognized the

importance of such a laboratory in chemical research, and in 1908 established a research
laboratory for applied chemistry.
MIT is considered to be the first university in the world to offer a four-year curriculum in chemical
engineering; the first students began this course of study in 1888. However, as a separate
department at MIT, Chemical Engineering did not become independent until 1920. Up to that time
it was in the Division of Applied Chemistry within the Department of Chemistry. In those early
days Walker was the main driving force in the Division, assisted by Warren K. "Doc" Lewis, who
received his doctorate in chemistry in 1908 at the University of Breslau. (By this time you may
have noticed a theme: the people of this era who were to become the best and brightest
chemistry faculty in the United States went over to central Europe, usually Germany, to get their
graduate education. This trend continued through the first quarter of the 20th century.) In 1913
Noyes left MIT for Southern California, transforming what was then Throop College to the
California Institute of Technology (Caltech). His strong belief in chemical engineering as a
discipline led to early emphasis of that program at Caltech. Other universities also followed the
example set by MIT. The University of Pennsylvania (1894), Tulane University (1894), The
University of Michigan (1898), and Tufts University (1898) all created four-year degree programs
in chemical engineering, but always as part of their respective Chemistry Departments.

Evolution of a profession
The training of chemical engineers was a subject of much debate in the first years of the 20th
century. Milton C. Whitaker, a professor of chemical engineering at Columbia strongly believed
that fundamental training in physics, chemistry, and mathematics had to be combined with a
natural inclination towards engineering, together with an acquired knowledge of engineering
methods and practices. In other words, Whitaker felt that hands-on experience was necessary in
the education and training of chemical engineers, and this training had to be based on a thorough
background in the natural sciences. This idea, common in chemical engineering curricula today,
was very controversial back in the early days of the discipline, primarily because most of the
educators were chemists, i.e., scientists, not engineers. Although Whitaker himself was a chemist
by training (Ph.D., 1902), he was one of the earliest "true" chemical engineers, who believed in
the rapid separation of industrial chemistry from chemical engineering. He passed on his views to
his own graduate students, but these few were very much voices in the wilderness with regard to
chemical engineering education.
The establishment of a chemical engineering professional society, the American Institute of
Chemical Engineers (AIChE), in 1908 was intended to legitimize the professions of the converted
chemists who were calling themselves chemical engineers. At this time, however, students
interested in chemical engineering were receiving their education within chemistry departments,
and it was by no means unanimous among chemistry faculty that anything other than pure and
applied chemistry should be taught. A number of well-known chemistry professors used the forum
of their own professional society, the American Chemical Society (ACS) to denounce the inclusion
of chemical engineering in the education of chemists. It was felt by these individuals that

important technical breakthroughs were already being achieved in laboratories by researchers
without engineering training, so there was no reason to dilute a student's chemistry education.
Today we look back on this view as very myopic, because advances in the laboratory don't
automatically translate to the production or manufacturing facilities, and understanding the
process of making a material is different from understanding the properties of the material itself;
the missing link between the lab and the plant is engineering. Whitaker tried many times to point
this out, but his arguments fell on disbelieving ears. As a result, by the time AIChE was formed in
1908, 500 chemical engineers had graduated in the United States, but only 40 were willing to join
a professional society that seemed to fly in the face of the real chemistry society, ACS. (All 500 of
these chemical engineers held bachelor of science or bachelor of engineering degrees. It wasn't
until 1924 that the first Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering were awarded, at MIT.)
Thus, from its inception in 1888, to the introduction of several innovations in 1923, chemical
engineering education primarily consisted of the study of industrial chemistry, which amounted to
learning the sequences of steps in chemical manufacture. This approach did not allow much time
for any in-depth discussion of the scientific principles involved, nor did it allow students to
recognize the commonality of the underlying physics among the different types of chemical
processes. It was the "introduction" of formal unit operations education during the 1920's (more
than 30 years after George E. Davis first proposed the idea over in the U.K.) by Walker, Lewis,
and McAdams at MIT that marked the beginning of America's distinctive system of chemical
engineering education.
Professor William Walker of MIT changed the way chemical engineering was taught.

Not coincidentally, this "new era" of chemical engineering occurred
after the establishment of independent chemical engineering
departments in American universities. During the following three
decades—up through the mid 1950s—the development of the
science of chemical engineering came about through the
application of physical chemistry to material and energy balances
(which are based on straightforward, fundamental concepts of
mass and energy conservation), to thermodynamics, and to rates of
chemical reactions in industrial processes. This unit operations approach to chemical engineering
education was refined and strengthened over the years, but its central theme didn't vary.
It wasn't until 1955 that a second important change came to chemical engineering, although its
impact was felt within all engineering disciplines. In 1952 the American Society for Engineering
Education (ASEE) appointed a Committee on Evaluation of Engineering Education, with the goal
to evaluate the current state of engineering education and suggest new approaches to the
teaching of engineering. When the Committee's report was released in 1955 a long chapter in the
history of engineering education had closed. The report was only 36 pages long. It was
deferential to the old tradition but firm in its recommendations to the new generation of engineers:

The objective in engineering curricula will not be achieved by repair of patchwork curricula. It requires
complete reconstruction of curricula
Some attention to engineering art and practice is necessary, but its high purpose is to illuminate the
engineering science, analysis or design, rather than to teach the art as engineering methodology.
It is the responsibility of the engineer to recognize those new developments in science and technology that
have significant potentialities in engineering. Moreover, the rate at which new scientific knowledge will be
translated into engineering practice depends, in large measure, upon the engineer's capacity to understand
the new science as it develops.
Fortunately, some things do not change. Reactions, stresses, and deflections will still occur, and they will
have to be calculated. Electrical currents and fields will following unchanging laws. Energy transformation,
thermodynamics, and heat flow will be as important to the next generation of engineers as to the present
one. Solids, fluids, and gases will continue to be handled, and their dynamics and chemical behavior will
have to be understood. The special properties of materials as dependent upon their internal structure will be
even more important to engineers a generation hence than they are today. These studies encompass the
solid, unshifting foundation of engineering science upon which the engineering curriculum can be built with
assurance and conviction.

It is interesting that, although the words above were written to include the four principal
engineering disciplines—chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical—much of what is said applies
directly to the studies and practice of chemical engineers.
The central theme of the ASEE Committee's report had been taken to heart by five professors—
two at the University of Minnesota and three at the University of Wisconsin—several years before
the ASEE Committee had published its report. In 1951, Neal Amundson, then an associate
professor of chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota, became head of the
Department. Educated as both a chemical engineer and a mathematician, Amundson realized
that further insight into chemical engineering problems lay in the analysis of chemical processes
and phenomena based on a fundamental understanding of these problems.
He used his expertise in applied mathematics, and later, computers, to solve increasingly difficult
chemical engineering problems. In 1955, Amundson met a brilliant applied mathematician,
Rutherford "Gus" Aris, at Cambridge University in England, and convinced him to turn his
attention to the complex problems in chemical engineering that were beginning to interest
Amundson himself. To someone of Aris' intellect, the lack of a chemical engineering education
was a minor hindrance, and within a year of meeting Amundson, Rutherford Aris was a professor
of chemical engineering at Minnesota, and the author of the first book on a fundamental treatment
of chemical engineering fluid dynamics (the study of how gases and liquids flow). Together,
Amundson and Aris forged a department of chemical engineering at Minnesota that is dominant
to this day.

Rutherford Aris helped revolutionize the science and analysis of chemical

Meanwhile, a second major revolution was taking place at the
University of Wisconsin. Professors Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot

prepared a set of notes in 1957, based on their individual research efforts of the previous decade,
offering a new approach to the analysis of chemical engineering unit problems. The main lesson
imparted by these three professors is that there is a strong unifying backbone to seemingly
different unit operations, through the framework of a relatively simple set of equations describing
how fluids flow, heat is transported, and chemical constituents move within a fluid. The necessity
for analyzing each unit or piece of processing equipment separately was removed, allowing
students to learn the common features of this new transport phenomena. The collective teaching
of this subject by Profs. Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot culminated in a book of the same name,
Transport Phenomena, published in 1960. It is a tribute to their foresight and collective wisdom
that this text has been a staple of most chemical engineering programs for over 40 years; and it
was not until 2002 that the authors found it necessary to bring out a revised version as a second
Many textbooks have been written on the basic areas of chemical engineering—chemical reaction
kinetics and reactor design, thermodynamics, transport phenomena, unit operations, and control
theory—in the 45 years following ASEE's report, and these all follow the philosophy espoused in
the report and put into action by the pioneering chemical engineering educators of the 1950s.

Diverse career paths
We've seen how chemical engineering emerged as a separate profession and the philosophies
behind chemical engineering education throughout the 20th century. Now we need to look at the
central issue: what do chemical engineers do with their degrees? What jobs are open to chemical
engineers? This has already been alluded to in the discussion at the beginning of this section, but
now we'll take a somewhat closer look.
For more than 80 years of the profession's existence, up to approximately 1980, this question was
easy to answer. Overwhelmingly, a person with a chemical engineering degree would go to work
in the petroleum, chemical, or food processing industries. To be sure, there were important
exceptions to this sweeping statement. For example, Andy Grove earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D.
degrees in chemical engineering before heading off to found Intel. But by and large, before 1980 if
you graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering you worked to turn crude oil, oil
shale, and coal into useful fuels, lubricants, and paving materials; or you took petroleum-derived
compounds and turned them into useful herbicides, pesticides, plastics, and synthetic fabrics; or
you helped put mass quantities of foodstuffs on America's shelves. These all have been, and
continue to be extremely important segments of the overall manufacturing industry, and the need
for chemical engineers in these fields will never disappear.
Over the past 20 years, however, more professional doors have been opened to chemical
engineers. During the 1970's, gifted educators and laboratory researchers recognized that
chemical engineers had much to contribute to disciples outside of traditional chemical
engineering practice, i.e., petroleum, chemicals, and food. Areas such as biochemical and
biomedical sciences, polymer science, microelectronics fabrication, environmental engineering,
meteorology, and microbiology all became fertile ground for interdisciplinary collaboration. The

impetus for these collaborations was provided in large part by the National Science Foundation,
which recognized the importance of interdisciplinary education and research. Faculty brought
more and more of their interdisciplinary research into the chemical engineering curriculum, and
non-mainstream companies recognized the need for chemical engineering graduates in their
Today, chemical engineers work in a wide array of different fields, from anthropogenic emission
controls to zeolyte catalyst design. A fascinating feature of chemical engineering at the beginning
of the new millennium is not just the diversity of disciplines, but also the diversity of scale.
Chemical engineers design, build, and analyze processes that range in size from Angstroms (10 -9
inch) to kilometers (104 inch), and in time from picoseconds (10-12 seconds) to years (104
seconds). These studies include atomic scale computers, immobilized cell reactors, full-scale
chemical plants, and the ocean and atmosphere. All of the different professions occupied by
chemical engineers can be loosely grouped into several broad categories.

Biotechnology and biomedicine: Advances in molecular biology and medicine have
spawned new technologies and opportunities for chemical engineers. Chemical
engineers have made contributions to human health through the design and manufacture
of artificial organs, diagnostic tests, and therapeutic drugs. In agriculture, the manufacture
of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, and the scale-up of plant cell-culture
techniques have been the result of breakthroughs by chemical engineers. Other
contributions include the use of genetically engineered systems for the synthesis of
chemicals and the biological treatment of waste. Chemical engineers have constructed
mathematical models of fundamental biological interactions, investigated interfacial
phenomena important to engineering design in living systems, expanded the scope of
process engineering into biological systems, and conducted engineering analyses of
whole-organ or whole-body systems.
Electronic, photonic, and recording materials and devices: The information
technologies on which modern society depends would not be possible without integrated
circuits, optical fibers, magnetic media, devices for electrical interconnection, and
photovoltaics. Chemical processes are the means by which the physical properties and
structural features of these materials and devices are established and tailored. Chemical
engineers now play an important role in process design, optimization, and control within
the electronics industry. Their contributions to this field include process integration,
reactor design and engineering, ultrapurification, materials synthesis and processing, thin
film deposition, mathematical modeling, chemical dynamics, and process design and
control for safety and environmental protection.
Polymers, ceramics, and composites: Chemical engineers have long been involved in
materials science and engineering. This involvement has steadily increased as new
materials have been developed whose properties depend strong on their microstructure
and processing history. Chemical engineers continue to probe the nature of
microstructure, that is, what the material looks like at the microscopic level, to learn how it
forms in materials and what factors are involved in controlling it. This study has provided
a new fusion between the traditionally separate areas of materials synthesis and

materials processing. Chemical engineers also bring new approaches to the problems of
fabricating and repairing complex materials systems.
Energy conversion: Energy, minerals, and metals are three basic building blocks of our
technological society. Chemical engineering has long been a part of the technologies
used to convert natural resources into energy and useful products. The expertise of
chemical engineers is needed more than ever to make progress on problems such as
enhanced oil recovery, shale oil production, coal conversion, electrochemical energy
storage, solar power, pollution controls, fuel cells, and turning waste into a useful source
of energy and metals. Significant challenges exist in in situ processing, solids processing,
developing better separations, finding better materials for use in energy and mineral
applications, minimizing pollutant formation in combustion processes, and advancing the
knowledge base for process design and scale up.
Environmental protection, process safety, and hazardous waste management:
Chemical engineers are helping society to face important challenges associated with the
imperative to protect and improve the environment. These challenges include designing
inherently safer and less polluting plants and processes, improving air quality through
research on combustion and factors leading to air pollution, managing hazardous wastes
responsibly, developing new approaches to the study of and control of pollutants in the
environment, and assessing and managing chemical risks to human health or to the
Process and control engineering: Computers and computational methods have
advanced to the point where they are having a significant impact on the way in which
chemical engineers can approach problems in design, control, and operations. The
computer's ability to handle more complex mathematics and to permit the exhaustive
solution of detailed models allow chemical engineers to model process physics and
chemistry from the molecular scale to the planet scale, to construct models that
incorporate all relevant phenomena of a process, and to design, control, and optimize
more on the basis of computed theoretical predictions and less on empiricism. A major
chemical engineering contribution to the area of process control has been the design of
control systems that "learn" the process over time. This intelligent process control
approach offers tremendous flexibility for application to new systems and processes.
Surfaces, interfaces, and microstructures: Surfaces, interfaces, and microstructures
are key to an improved understanding of fluid-solid chemical reactions, electrochemistry
and corrosion, processes for the manufacture of microcircuits, colloids and surfactants,
advanced ceramics and cements, and membranes. Chemical engineers use their
knowledge of thermodynamics, transport phenomena, kinetics, and process modeling to
explore a variety of these research frontiers. These include the development of molecularlevel structure-property relations for guiding the production of materials with specified
physical and chemical surface properties; the development of an improved understanding
of elementary chemical and physical transformations occurring at phase boundaries; and
the integration of fundamental knowledge to achieve realistic models of process operation
that can be used for process design and evaluation.

What comes next

Chemical engineers work in too many different fields to possibly cover all of them in the time we
have. In the remaining six topics we will break the discipline into three areas: (1) the environment,
(2) technology, and (3) biological systems. For each of these three areas we'll use two topics to
look in more depth at some important problems, their impact on society, the role of the chemical
engineer, and notable successes and notable failures. Along the way we'll find that, although
these fields appear extremely different from one another, there is a relatively small set of
underlying principles that governing the way things behave. We'll see, for example, that the
process that gives us hazy days in Rocky Mountain National Park also lets us produce an
important paint pigment; and that the basic process for filtering stream water while camping is the
same as that used to help kidney patients undergo dialysis; and that the process for detecting the
presence of a skunk is the same as that which allows a campfire to burn; and that the same
process that allows us to put a very thin coating of gold on a cheap ring allows us to produce state
of the art semiconductor processors. In short, by recognizing that physical processes have to
obey relatively simple laws, we can turn our attention to systems of ever-increasing complexity,
and in doing so, address issues of foremost importance to society.

For anyone interested in reading more about the history of chemical engineering's birth, evolution,
and rise, there are several authoritative books on the subject.
1. J.-C. Guedon, in History of Chemical Engineering, edited by W.F. Furter, Advances in
Chemistry Series 190, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC (1980).
2. D.C. Freshwater, in History of Chemical Engineering, edited by W.F. Furter, Advances in
Chemistry Series 190, p. 97, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC (1980).
3. G. Astarita, in History of Chemical Engineering, edited by W.F. Furter, Advances in
Chemistry Series 190, p. 205, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC (1980).
4. J.T. Davies, in History of Chemical Engineering, edited by W.F. Furter, Advances in
Chemistry Series 190, p. 15, American Chemical Society, Washington, DC (1980).
5. H.C. Weber, The Improbable Achievement: Chemical Engineering at MIT, MIT,
Cambridge, MA (1980).
6. T.S. Reynolds, Seventy-five Years of Progress, American Institute of Chemical Engineers,
New York (1983).
7. O.A. Hougen, Fifty years of Chemical Engineering Education in the United States, printed
by the Tokyo Institute of Technology (1957).
8. A.D. Little, Twenty-five Years of Chemical Engineering Progress, American Institute of
Chemical Engineers, New York (1933).

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