Well, what do ya do?
We hear that question a lot. Chemical Engineering is not well known. The US Department of Labor statistics for 2010 indicated that 31,000 individuals were practicing Chemical Engineering. Worldwide, the population was somewhat higher. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers 1995 membership, with members from 90 countries, was about 58,000. In 2010 the AIChE membership was over 40,000. Only a fraction of these engineers were licensed to offer professional services to the general public and businesses, and only a fraction of those holding a license were actually in public practice.
We will try and tell you what Chemical Engineers have for a skill set, what some Chemical Engineers do, and at the end, what services we can offer. We apologize for the length of this page. If you are in a hurry, click here to go straight to the summary. Either way, we will try our best to explain what we do.
Let us use an analogy. We all go to school and take courses in English, Mathematics, Health, Physical Education, Driver Education, and the like. When we perform a task such as shopping, we draw resources from our skills such as Driver Ed to get to the store, Math to get the best buy, and Health to make our nutrition choices.
Chemical Engineers are typically educated with:
- The foundation courses - Mathematics, Inorganic Chemistry, and Physics.
- Advanced mathematics - Differential equations, Computer Programming, and Numerical Methods.
- Chemistry - Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and the associated labs.
- Core engineering - Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer, Fluid Flow, Strength of Materials, Statics and Dynamics of Structures, Electrical Circuitry and Motors, Basic Machine Design, and Control Theory.
- The humanities (whether we like them or not) - English, Art Appreciation, or maybe History of Western Civilization.
- Chemical Engineering - Material Balance, Property Estimation, Transport Phenomena, and Unit Operations.
The Chemical Engineering "skills" require more elaboration:
- Material Balance - Because of economic, environmental, occupational safety, and liability concerns, it is necessary to know, or at least responsibly estimate the disposition of every chemical that enters or leaves a facility, be it consumed by reaction, used a fuel, generated as a product or byproduct, or lost as a solid, liquid, or gas. Material balances are performed around facility boundaries, process steps, and items of equipment.
- Property Estimation - Unfortunately not every property of every chemical has been investigated or published. Property Estimation deals with systematic methods of estimating physical, chemical, and thermodynamic properties of chemicals that generate data with enough accuracy to allow engineering design to be performed with minimal risk.
- Transport Phenomena - This topic deals with the dynamic (as a function of time) movement of mass, momentum, and energy through various mediums. To provide a concrete example, if you need to remove alcohol vapor from air and you chose to absorb the alcohol in water, you have to move the alcohol through the air, contact it with the water, absorb the alcohol into the water, and minimize the revolatization of the alcohol. The Transport Phenomena under study in this case is the diffusion of alcohol through air and the absorption of alcohol into water, plus the considered effect of temperature and concentrations so the ideal amount of water, water surface area, and contact time can be estimated.
- Unit Operations - These are the so called building blocks that Chemical Engineers "string together" to design a chemical processing facility.
We can elaborate on the Unit Operations. These are:
- Fluid mechanics and application. The storage, transfer, and mixing of liquids.
- Heat exchange and application. This topic covers heat exchange equipment, direct fired equipment, evaporation, and drying.
- Mass transfer and application. If Chemical Engineering has a unique area of expertise, its here.
And to elaborate on mass transfer operations, these include:
- Leaching, usually a solid-liquid process.
- Extraction (gas-gas, gas-liquid, liquid-liquid, and liquid-solid), absorption, humidification, plus adsorption and ion exchange.
- Solids handling which covers size reduction, size enlargement, crystallization, and paste mixing.
- Separations covering gas-gas, gas-liquid, gas-solid, liquid-liquid, and liquid-solid systems.
- Reaction and reactor design for both chemical and biological processes.
- Materials of construction and corrosion control.
So what do chemical engineers do? If they choose to work in a highly specialized environment they may design bio-reactor equipment for the production of pharmaceutical proteins. They may be a little less specialized and use their skill set to optimize the products and yields in a petroleum plant. A chemical engineer may put his/her talent to work in supervision of production in a commodity chemical manufacturing facility. They may choose to teach.
What do we do? We put the unit operations together into an economically working manufacturing process. We have major project management experience so we know to listen and do work as the owner wants. Given our head, we would work projects in stages focused on success of the business objective, not obsessively focused on the engineering aspects. If an entrepreneur or owner is considering a venture, we can help get the overall costs and risks identified so sound decisions can be made. If you have a plan for a new product or process, we can help identify and pilot a sound, economic process to speed your product to market. If you decide to go to design/construction, we can detail the process and rough the facility, setting the definition for the chosen engineering company to detail the project. We can help train operating personnel and supervisors. And we can help start the new facility.
We hope you will use the navigation links and read through this site. We would like you to feel familiar with us, understand our strengths and limits, and feel confident in our services.