Many people don’t know that chemical engineers play a pivotal part in our lives. From the clothes we wear to the water we drink and the drugs we take, chemical engineers are actively involved in producing the items we use daily.
Chemical engineers are masters of converting raw materials into a wide range of products. They are also great at designing processes and equipment for large-scale manufacturing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products.”
That’s why it’s sad to think chemical engineering only deals with “chemistry” or “chemicals.” You’ll be surprised to learn that chemical engineers are behind some of the greatest inventions the world has ever seen.
And in today’s article, we share top 8 of the best inventions by chemical engineers. Don’t be surprised if you see the stuff you take for granted on the list – some of these inventions are so commonplace it’s easy to miss them.
How to Become a Chemical Engineer/What Does a Chemical Engineer Do?
A career in chemical engineering is a great choice for anyone with strong math and science skills. It’s also one of the better paying fields in engineering with an average base salary of $76k per annum, according to Payscale.
Typically, chemical engineers work full-time in labs, plants and offices. They perform all manner of duties such as:
- Conduct research to improve manufacturing processes
- Develop protocols for handling dangerous chemicals
- Design and layout equipment
- Troubleshoot problems during manufacturing
- Ensure manufacturing processes are compliant with safety and environmental regulations
- Estimate production costs
- Et cetera
Unlike the common misconception, chemical engineers don’t spend all day “playing with chemicals in a lab.” They fill many other roles across multiple sectors.
A chemical engineer is normally required to have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering and relevant work experienced before applying for a job. To land better-paying jobs, consider investing in a Master’s degree in chemical engineering.
That out of the way, here are the 8 best inventions that chemical engineers brought the world.
8 Inventions by Chemical Engineers
The following inventions have completely changed our way of living. Without these inventions, our lifestyles wouldn’t be as cozy today.
Without further ado, here we go.
Electricity Generation (from fossil fuels)
Did you know fossil fuels generated 64.5% of electricity worldwide as of 2017? Yeah, that’s right – fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas have been the dominant source of electrical energy for decades.
Fossil fuels are burned to create heat that is used to generate the steam that’s required to run turbines in power plants.
These power plants generate electricity reliably for long periods and are relatively cheaper to build. Were it not for chemical engineers, deriving power from fossils would remain a pipe dream.
Water is no doubt a basic human need, which makes having access to safe and clean water extremely important.
Many developed countries regulate water quality, but the same cannot be said for developing countries.
Chemical engineers use a variety of physical, biological and chemical techniques to ensure that populations have access to clean drinking water.
These methods include filtration, distillation, slow sand filters and chlorination, among others.
Gasoline and Diesel
Where would the world be without gasoline and diesel? Let me guess, we would be largely immobile because how could have we powered vehicles and machines for decades?
Well, nothing has changed our society more than the gas combustion engine. Without the engine and petrol/diesel, we wouldn’t have vehicles or the power to run large factories.
Also, we wouldn’t have products such as plastics, soaps, fertilizers, or as Azhar Ashfaq says:
“Petrol and other products derived from crude oil have a major impact on our lives every day.
“From water bottles and shopping bags to fertilizers, soap, water pipes, boats and perfumes, it is all due to the fractions and their derivatives. In fact, chemical engineering helps to produce 6,000 products from crude oil.”
Without chemical engineers, we would all succumb to nasty diseases caused by poor disposal of waste. I mean, chemical engineers play a pivotal role in disposing and treating human waste to prevent diseases.
With increased urbanization, there is a growing demand for new waste management technologies. Chemical engineers are the guys who develop these new technologies to ensure your waste is properly disposed.
Antibiotics like Penicillin
What would we do without antibiotics? Antibiotics (also known as antibacterial) are a special type of medicine used to treat bacterial infection.
Without antibiotics, many people would die miserably from diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis, among others.
On top of that, organ transplant surgeries would be a hit or miss (and life-threatening) without antibiotics.
Vaccines are special preparations that boost the body’s immune system to fight microorganism that cause specific disease.
Were it not for vaccines, we would have a hard time fighting diseases such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, polio, smallpox and so on.
Worse still, we would buckle under the weight of pandemics such as Coronavirus, swine flu, bird flu and some forms of cancers caused by the human papilloma virus.
Polythene is the fundamental material used in plastic. It is often derived from organic materials such as crude oil, natural gas, coal or cellulose.
Now, try to think of a world without plastic. Plastic has successfully replaced many traditional materials such as wood, metal and glass, among others, in all areas of life.
All because it’s durable, water resistant, highly versatile, cheap and incredibly easy to manufacture. We all have chemical engineers to thank for this remarkably useful material.
Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)
The story of LCD displays began at RCA Laboratories back in the 1960s. Today, the technology is used in a wide variety of appliances including flat screen TVS, laptops and mobile devices.
The technology meant users could transition from bulky cathode-ray displays to lighter and more economically viable LCD screens.
It’s been a major revolution within the display industry, and we have chemical engineers to thank for it.
Which are your favorite chemical engineering inventions? Please let us know in the comments.
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