A rigorous focus on chemistry, physics and applied mathematics is crucial to obtaining employment in chemical engineering. Along with education, internships prepare a chemical engineer for two prominent job tasks: product synthesis and plant design. Chemical Engineers have a healthy job outlook and are considered well paid on average compared to similar jobs.
Product synthesis begins with chemical research. A hypothesis, formulation and experiment may lead to a product that has the potential to be more profitable. Meticulous testing is required to understand how this synthesized product behaves. Physical and chemical properties need to be understood so that the product can be properly used without unnecessary risk to people, property or the environment. A chemical engineer also needs to examine and test product synthesis reliability. Working with chemists to develop a more efficient, simpler or safer synthesis method is important in reducing production costs.
Chemical synthesis often entails competing reactions that give undesirable products. These products can interfere with the primary substance of interest. Contamination and possible safety hazards from unanticipated side-reactions need to be carefully researched on a small scale. Even trace reactions usually need to be considered. Equipment wear-and-tear will accelerate due to unanticipated corrosive trace products.
Day to Day Tasks
Aside from reactant costs, chemical engineers need to consider costs of process recycling systems, temperature control, safety, disposal and likely maintenance. These variables, combined with likely profits from a given product, are used to determine overall process efficiency. Note that cost-effectiveness must take into account regulatory requirements, safety, backup systems and ease of maintenance. A process with excellent reaction efficiency may still fail due to high risk to personnel, environmental contamination and/or maintenance difficulty.
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