Chemical Engineers: Front and Center

Here is some background on why I wanted to start this blog. I wanted to become a chemical engineer when, in high school, I learned that chemical engineers are trained to figure out how a new product developed in a test tube after millions of dollars of research could be produced in a plant producing 100 million pounds per year for 50 cents per pound. I thought this would be exciting and I was never disappointed to have chosen this career.  So now I want to blog about chemical engineering-related subjects, hoping that many other students will choose this profession.

Chemical engineers have always been key contributors to industrial development. The manufacture of steel, cement, synthetic rubber, man-made fibers and paper have long relied on chemical engineering skills, as has the development and commercialization of myriad polymers and plastics, as well as computer chips and integrated circuits. Most energy sources (oil and gas production, oil refineries, biofuels plants, clean coal-based power plants) rely on chemical engineering principles. I believe that more chemical engineers would choose a career path similar to mine if they had a better understanding of the excitement of working in the chemical or energy industries, of the challenges and opportunities open to them in these industries and, not least, of the potentially attractive income potential for successful engineers rising in the ranks of the companies competing in these fields.

We all know that America is facing many challenges, including competition from the rapid industrialization of the developing world, which is receiving the bulk of new plant investments. This country must refresh and rebuild its manufacturing infrastructure to remain competitive in this new world situation. I see many new opportunities opening up for chemical engineers to contribute to this effort. As an example, the discovery of vast quantities of gas and oil from shale in domestic deposits is already creating excitement and plans for new manufacturing. Research on biofuels from cellulosics and algae will eventually create large new industries making fuels that can compete with and supplement traditional hydrocarbon fuels as the price of these continues its long term rising trend. And the need to curb carbon dioxide and other pollution from traditional coal-fired power plants is also opening opportunities for large scale chemical engineering solutions.

Postings on my blog will generally identify and discuss current developments and will, at times, provide useful information sources.  I welcome comments and look forward to postings by guest contributors.

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