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A History of Chemical Engineering

CHEE 2404

What is a Chemical Engineer?

a) An Engineer who manufactures chemicals b) A Chemist who works in a factory c) A glorified Plumber?

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None of the above

No universally accepted definition of ChE. However, aimed towards design of processes that change materials from one form to another more useful (and so more valuable) form, economically, safely and in an environmentally acceptable way. Application of basic sciences (math, chemistry, physics & biology) and engineering principles to the development, design, operation & maintenance of processes to convert raw materials to useful products and improve the human environment.
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Chemical Engineering
ChE involves specifying equipment, operating conditions, instrumentation and process control for all these changes.
Air Natural Gas Coal
Chemistry Mathematics



Physics Biology
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What are the fields of Ch E?

The traditional fields of ChE are: petrochemicals, petroleum and natural gas processing plastics and polymers pulp and paper instrumentation and process control energy conversion and utilisation environmental control
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What are the fields of Ch E?

Biotechnology Biomedical and Biochemical food processing composite materials, corrosion and protective coatings manufacture of microelectronic components Pharmaceuticals

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What do Chemical Engineers do?

Regarding Engineers: it is not what we do, but how we think about the world, that makes us different. We use all that we know to produce the best solution to a problem (problems that engineers face usually have more than one solution).
Engineers use techniques of Quantitative Engineering Analysis to design/synthesize products (materials, devices), services, and processes even though they have an imperfect understanding of chemical, physical, biological, or human factors affecting them. Engineers operate under the constraint of producing a product or service that is timely, competitive, reliable, within the financial means of their company, and is consistent with its philosophy.

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What do Chemical Engineers do?

Thus, they are involved in a wide range of activities such as: design, development and operation of process plants research and development of novel products and processes management of technical operations and sales

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Chemical engineer is either currently, or has previously, occupied the CEO position for:
3M Du Pont General Electric Union Carbide Texaco

Dow Chemical Exxon BASF Gulf Oil B.F. Goodrich


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Where do Chemical Engineers work?

The majority of Chemical Engineers work in businesses known collectively as the Chemical Process Industries (CPI) Chemicals, Oil and Gas (upstream and downstream) Pulp and Paper, Rubber and Plastics, Food and Beverage, Textile, Electronics/IT Metals, mineral processing Electronics and microelectronics Agricultural Chemicals Industries Cosmetics/ Pharmaceutical Biotechnology/Biomedical Environmental, technical, and business consulting
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Where do Chemical Engineers work?

Many Chemical Engineers also work in supplier, consulting and governmental agencies related to the CPI by engaging in equipment manufacture, plant design, consulting, analytical services and standards development. Chemical Engineers hold lead positions in industrial firms and governmental agencies concerned with environmental protection since environmental problems are usually complex and require a thorough knowledge of the Social Sciences, Physics, Biology, Mathematics and Chemistry for their resolution. Chemical engineers have been referred to as universal engineers.

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Where do Chemical Engineers work? Initial placement of 2001/1999 graduates (USA)

Chemical Fuels 23.3 15.7 26.7 12.6

Food/Consumer Prods. Materials Biotech & Related Inds. Pulp & paper Engineering Services (Design & Construction) Engineering Services (Research & Testing)

10.6 3.1 9.3 2.1 5.6 1.8

11.4 3.3 6.9 2.4 4.8 2.4

Engineering Services (Environmental Engng.)

Business Services Other Industries
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5.8 3.9

6.4 4.8

How much money do Chemical Engineers make? Starting salaries (USA)

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that, between Sept 1999 - Jan 2000, the average starting salary offer made to graduating chemical engineering students in the USA was: $49,418 with a Bachelor's degree $56,100 with a Master's degree $68,491 with a Ph.D.

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What is an Industrial Chemist?

Industrial Chemists are Applied Scientists.
Typically, they undertake optimization of complex processes, but unlike engineers, they examine and change the chemistry of the process itself. Industrial Chemists are capable of fulfilling a multiplicity of roles - as research scientists, development chemists, technical representatives and as plant/company managers.
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Early Industrial Chemistry

As the Industrial Revolution (18th Century to the present) steamed along certain basic chemicals quickly became necessary to sustain growth. Sulfuric acid was first among these "industrial chemicals". It was said that a nation's industrial might could be gauged solely by the vigor of its sulfuric acid industry With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that English industrialists spent a lot of time, money, and effort in attempts to improve their processes for making sulfuric acid. A slight savings in production led to large profits because of the vast quantities of sulfuric acid consumed by industry.
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The German chemical industry experienced a period of rapid growth during the 19th Century. It was focused on the production of fine chemicals or complicated dyestuffs based on coal tar. These were usually made in batch reactors (something all chemists are familiar with). Hence, their approach to running a chemical plant was based on teaming research chemists and mechanical engineers. However, the English and American chemical industries produced only a few simple but widely used chemicals such as sulfuric acid and alkali (both made in continuous reactors, something chemists have little experience with). These bulk chemicals were produced using straightforward chemistry, but required complex engineering on a large scale. The chemical reactors were no longer just big pots, instead they involved complex plumbing systems where chemistry and engineering were inseparably tied together. Because of this, the chemical and engineering aspects of production could not be easily divided; as they were in Germany.
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Economics drives industry and technological developments. Sulfuric Acid (Oil of Vitriol) & "Fuming" Sulfuric Acid (Oleum) (H2SO4) Required for the production of alkali salts (used in fertilizers) and dyestuffs

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Lead Chamber Process

1749 John Roebuck developed the process to make relatively concentrated (30-70%) sulfuric acid in lead lined chambers rather than the more expensive glass vessels. air, water, sulfur dioxide, a nitrate (potassium, sodium, or calcium nitrate, and a large lead container.

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The nitrate was the most expensive ingredient because during the final stage of the process, it was lost to the atmosphere (in the form of nitric oxide). Additional nitrate (sodium nitrate) was imported from Chile - costly! In 1859, John Glover helped solve this problem with a mass transfer tower to recover some of this lost nitrate. Acid trickled down against upward flowing burner gases which absorbed some of the previously lost nitric oxide. When the gases were recycled back into the lead chamber the nitric oxide could be re-used.
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Notice how sulfuric acid production closely mirrors historical events effecting the American economy. Sulfuric acid production dropped after the American involvement in World War I (1917-1919) and open world trade resumed. The stock market crash of 1929 further stagnated growth which was restored at the outbreak of World War II (1938). As the U.S. entered the war (1941) economy was rapidly brought up to full production capacity. The post war period (1940-1965) saw the greatest economic growth in America's history, and this was reflected in ever increasing sulfuric acid production. Massive inflation during the late sixties and the energy crisis and economic recession of the early seventies also reveal themselves in the sulfuric acid curve

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Figure 1-1, Source: "US Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics from Colonial Times to 1970."

Making soap a luxury

It has been suggested that some form of soap, made by boiling fat with ashes, was being made in Babylon as early as 2800BC, but probably used only for washing garments.

Pliny the Elder (7BC53AD) mentions that soap was being produced from tallow and beech ashes by the Phoenicians in 600BC. Oils or fats are boiled with alkali in a reaction which produces soap and glycerin Saponification is hydrolysis of an ester under basic conditions, forming an alcohol and salt Soap acts to reduce surface tension (surfactant) of water to make it wetter and emulsifiying dirt (holding it in suspension)
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Historically, Na2CO3 was used

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1700s the demand for soap increased due to washing of clothes, requiring Na2CO3 The Alkali compounds, Soda ash (Na 2CO3) and potash (K2CO3), were used in making glass, soap, and textiles and were therefore in great demand. This alkali was imported to France from Spanish and Irish peasants who burned seaweed and New England settlers who burned brush, both to recover the ash At the end of the 1700's, English trees became scarce and the only native source of soda ash in the British Isles was kelp (seaweed). Alkali imported from America in the form of wood ashes (potash), Spain in the form of barilla (a plant containing 25% alkali), or from soda mined in Egypt, were all very expensive due to high shipping costs.
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King Louis XVI of France offered an award (equivalent to half a million dollars) to anyone who could turn NaCl (common table salt) into Na2CO3 because French access to these raw materials was threatened.

Nicolas Leblanc was a poor young man working in a chemistry research lab established by the wealthiest man in France, the Duke of Orleans. It took Leblanc 5 years to stumble upon the idea of reacting NaCl with sulfuric acid to form sodium sulfate, and then converting to sodium carbonate with limestone. In 1789 he went to collect his prizeunfortunately this was during the time of the French Revolution. A factory was built, but the Duke was executed and the factory seized.
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Alkali and the Le Blanc Process

Dependence on imported soda ended with the Le Blanc Process which converted common salt into soda ash using sulfuric acid, limestone and coal as feedstock (raw materials) and produced hydrochloric acid as a by-product.
2 NaCl (salt) + H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) => Na2SO4 (saltcake, intermediate) + 2 HCl (hydrochloric acid gas, a horrible waste product) Na2SO4 (saltcake) + Ca2CO3 (calcium carbonate, limestone) + 4 C(s) (coal) => Na2CO3 (soda ash extracted from black ash) + CaS (dirty calcium sulfide waste) + 4 CO (carbon monoxide)

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Alkali and the Le Blanc Process

In many ways, this process began the modern chemical industry.
From its adoption in 1810 it was continually improved over the next 80 years through elaborate engineering efforts mainly directed at recovering or reducing the terrible by-products of the process, namely: hydrochloric acid, nitrogen oxides, sulfur, manganese, and chlorine gas. Indeed because of these polluting chemicals many manufacturing sites were surrounded by a ring of dead and dying grass and trees.

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Alkali and the Le Blanc Process

A petition against the Le Blanc Process in 1839 complained that:
"the gas from these manufactories is of such a deleterious nature as to blight everything within its influence, and is alike baneful to health and property. The herbage of the fields in their vicinity is scorched, the gardens neither yield fruit nor vegetables; many flourishing trees have lately become rotten naked sticks. Cattle and poultry droop and pine away. It tarnishes the furniture in our houses, and when we are exposed to it, which is of frequent occurrence, we are afflicted with coughs and pains in the head...all of which we attribute to the Alkali works."

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Soda Ash and the Solvay Process

In 1873 a new process - the Solvay Process - replaced Le Blanc's method for producing Alkali.
The process was perfected in 1863 by a Belgian chemist, Ernest Solvay. The chemistry was based upon an old discovery by A. J. Fresnel who in 1811 had shown that Sodium Bicarbonate could be precipitated from a salt solution containing ammonium bicarbonate. This chemistry was far simpler than that devised by Le Blanc, however to be used on an industrial scale many engineering obstacles had to be overcome. Sixty years of attempted scale-up had failed until Solvay finally succeeded. Solvay's contribution was therefore one of chemical engineering.

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Soda Ash and the Solvay Process

The heart of his design was an 80 foot tall high-efficiency carbonating tower in which ammoniated brine trickled down and carbon dioxide flowed up. Plates and bubble caps created a large surface area (contacting area) over which the two chemicals could react forming sodium bicarbonate. Solvay's engineering resulted in a continuously operating process free of hazardous by-products and with an easily purified final product. By 1880 it was evident that it would rapidly replace the traditional Le Blanc Process.

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The dawn of Chemical Engineering

English industrialists spent a lot of time, money, and effort in attempts to improve their processes for making bulk chemicals because a slight savings in production led to large profits because of the vast quantities of sulfuric acid consumed by industry.
The term "chemical engineer" had been floating around technical circles throughout the 1880's, but there was no formal education for such a person. The "chemical engineer" of these years was either a mechanical engineer who had gained some knowledge of chemical process equipment, a chemical plant foreman with a lifetime of experience but little education, or an applied chemist with knowledge of large scale industrial chemical reactions.
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The dawn of Chemical Engineering

In 1887 George Davis, an Alkali Inspector from the "Midland" region of England molded his knowledge into a series of 12 lectures on chemical engineering, which he presented at the Manchester Technical School. This chemical engineering course was organized around individual chemical operations, later to be called unit operations. Davis explored these operations empirically and presented operating practices employed by the British chemical industry.

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A new profession Chemical Engineering

For all intents and purposes the chemical engineering profession began in 1888 when Professor Lewis Norton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) initiated the first four year bachelor program in chemical engineering entitled "Course X" (ten). Soon other colleges, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane University followed MIT's lead in 1892 and 1894 respectively.

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First US Chemical Engineering education

1888, Lewis M. Norton at MIT, as part of Chemistry Department. In response to rapid rise of the industrial chemical industries. Based on descriptive industrial chemistry, of salt, potash, sulfuric acid, soap, coal. Graduates lacked concepts and tools to solve new problems in the emerging petroleum and organic chemical industries.
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First Canadian Chemical Engineering education

1878 Toronto (Analytical and Applied Chemistry) 1902 Queens (Department of Chemical Engineering) 1904 Toronto (Department of ChE and Applied Chemistry) 1912 Ecole Polytechnique (from Diploma dingenieur-chimiste granted through Laval) 1942 Ecole Polytechnique (Industrial Chemistry) 1958 Ecole Polytechnique (Department of chemical Engineering)
1914 McGill 1915 UBC 1926 Alberta 1934 Saskatchewan 1940 Laval (Nova Scotia Technical College 1947)

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A new profession Chemical Engineering

From its beginning chemical engineering was tailored to fulfill the needs of the chemical industry which, in the USA, was mostly based on petroleum derived feedstocks. Competition between manufacturers was brutal, and all strove to be the "low cost producer." However, to stay ahead of the pack chemical plants had to be optimized. This necessitated things such as; continuously operating reactors (as opposed to batch operation), recycling and recovery of unreacted reactants, and cost effective purification of products. These advances in-turn required plumbing systems (for which traditional chemists where unprepared) and detailed physical chemistry knowledge (unbeknownst to mechanical engineers). The new chemical engineers were capable of designing and operating the increasingly complex chemical operations which were rapidly emerging.
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Unit operations
In transforming matter from inexpensive raw materials to highly desired products, chemical engineers became very familiar with the physical and chemical operations necessary in this metamorphosis. Examples of this include: filtration drying distillation crystallization grinding sedimentation Physical combustion Chemical operations catalysis heat exchange coating, and so on.

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Unit Operations
These "unit operations" repeatedly found their way into industrial practice, and became a convenient manner of organizing chemical engineering knowledge. Additionally, the knowledge gained concerning a "unit operation" governing one set of materials can easily be applied to others driving a car is driving a car no matter what the make . So, whether one is distilling alcohol for hard liquor or petroleum for gasoline, the underlying principles are the same!
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Unit operations
The "unit operations" concept had been latent in the chemical engineering profession ever since George Davis had organized his original 12 lectures around the topic. But, it was Arthur Little who first recognized the potential of using Unit Operations" to separate chemical engineering from other professions While mechanical engineers focused on machinery, and industrial chemists concerned themselves with products, and applied chemists studied individual reactions, no one, before chemical engineers, had concentrated upon the underlying processes common to all chemical products, reactions, and machinery. The chemical engineer, utilizing the conceptual tool that was unit operations, could now make claim to industrial territory by showing his or her uniqueness and worth to the American chemical manufacturer.
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Paradigm: a pattern or model

Paradigm is a constellation that defines a profession and an intellectual discipline
Firm theoretical foundations, triumphant applications to solve important problems Universities agree on core subjects taught to all students, standard textbooks and handbooks, accreditation of degrees Professional societies and journals Organize research directions - what is a good research problem, and what are legitimate methods of solution?
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Chemical engineering paradigms

Pre-paradigm - engineers with no formal education
1. The first paradigm - Unit Operations, 1923 2. The second paradigm - Transport Phenomena, 1960 3. The third paradigm - ?

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Fire (300,000 BC) as the first chemical technology
Led to pyro-technologies: cooking, pottery, metallurgy, glass, reaction engineering

Chemical technology as empirical art, with no reliable scientific foundation or formally educated engineers. Ecole des Ponts et Chausee, 1736, first modern engineering school.
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The first paradigm

Arthur D. Little, industrialist and chair of visiting committee of chemical engineering at MIT, wrote report in 1908
Unit Operations should be the foundation of chemical engineering

First textbook Walker-Lewis-McAdams Principles of Chemical Engineering 1923

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The first paradigm: early success

core of chemical engineering curriculum, unit operations, stoichiometry, thermodynamics principle to organize useful knowledge inspiration for research to fill in the gaps in knowledge

Effective in problem solving

graduates have a toolbox to solve processing problems in oil distillation, petrochemical, new polymers
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The first paradigm: later stagnation

World War II creation of new technologies by scientists without engineering education: atomic bomb, radar. Engineering students needed to master new concepts and tools in chemistry and physics. Unit Operations no longer created streams of exciting new research problems that were challenging to professors and students, and useful in industry.
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The second paradigm

First textbook Transport Phenomena by BirdStewart-Lightfoot, 1960, based on kinetic theory of gases

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The second paradigm

Textbook by Amundson Mathematical Methods in Chemical Engineering, (1966). A new burst of creative research activities. American chemical industry dominated world, DuPont and Exxon content to recruit academically educated graduates, willing to teach them technology.
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The second paradigm: early success

The Engineering Science movement became dominant in the US, and was taught at all the leading universities. AIChE accreditation requires differential equations, transport phenomena. Research funding agencies and journals turn their backs on empirical and qualitative research as old fashioned.
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Chemical Engineering accomplishments

Production of Synthetic Ammonia and Fertilizers, Production of petrochemicals, Commercial-scale production of antibiotics (biotechnology/ pharmaceuticals), Establishment of the plastics industry, Establishment of the synthetic fiber industry, Establishment of the synthetic rubber industry, Electrolytic production of Aluminum, Energy production and the development of new sources of energy, Production of fissionable isotopes, Production of IT products (storage devices, microelectronics, ultraclean environment), Artificial organs and biomedical devices, Food processing, Process Simulation tools.

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Undergraduate curriculum
Designed to provide students with a broad background in the underlying sciences of Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics
Detailed knowledge of engineering principles and practices, along with a good appreciation of social and economic factors Laboratory involvement is an important component Develop team work skills, Development of problem-identification and problem-solving skills. Stress the preparation of students for independent work and development of interpersonal skills necessary for professional engineers.

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Undergraduate curriculum
Elective courses provide an opportunity to obtain additional training in areas of emphasis: Environment Computers and Process Control Energy Biotechnology Petroleum Research & Development

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Basic Sciences Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry Engineering Sciences Thermodynamics (Heat, work, phase equilibrium, chemical equilibrium) Transport Phenomena (heat transfer, fluid mechanics, mass transfer) Numerical Analysis Engineering Design Computer-Aided Design Chemical Reaction Engineering Separation Processes Process Control Process Design
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Co-operative education
Co-operative education integrates on-campus studies with practical work experience
Results in a degree solidly grounded in both theory and practice Acquiring skills that are complementary to academic training Facilitates getting a desirable job upon graduation (50% of jobs are not advertised)

Co-op is a challenging and rewarding way to earn your degree and the necessary work experience to gain an edge on the career market at graduation
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 FALL AT1 AT3 WT1 AT6 AT7 WINTER AT2 AT4 AT5 WT3 AT8 SUMMER FREE FREE WT2 WT4

Students also have the ability to do a 12 or 16 month internship in which all work terms are done at once
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Skills required
Technical skills are vital.
But all employees will have a high level of technical competence (otherwise they arent employed for long).

Soft Skills advance careers

Leadership (self motivated), Ability to work in groups, Communication
With such a broad education, Chemical Engineers are well prepared to address problems involving all types of changes to the physical and/or chemical state of materials.

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Chemical Engineering: New Directions?

Phasing out of formerly successful products: tetra-ethyl lead, DDT, cellophane, freon or CFC. End of the parade of new polymers: celluloid, bakelite, nylon, kevlar. To attract the best students, the lure of new products to enhance lives - laptop computers, cellular phone and internet. Cost-cutting and environmental protection is no match for glamorous new products. We need to give chemical engineers the intellectual toolbox, to innovate exciting new products that people will learn to love.
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Product Engineering: a third paradigm?

Product engineering is innovation and design of useful products that people want 1. Define a product, study the customers & needs 2. Understand property-structure 3. Design and innovate the product

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How do I find out more information?

AIChE CSChE IChemE Join the student chapter of CSChE Talk to Chemical Engineers Read Chemical Engineering magazines
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