Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Becoming an Chemical Engineer

Name: n ameyaw
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Around 1993


Question:
What exactly do chemical engineers do?



Replies:
Chemical engineers are employed in a variety of areas. Manufacturing is one major areas of employment. In that area, a chemical engineer would be perhaps responsible for procuring/testing/analyzing chemicals used in a process to determine which chemicals in which amounts would be best for insuring the safe completion of a process in the most economical and least environmentally damaging way. In my employment at AT&T Microelectronics, our chemical engineers are responsible for facilities which use acid etches (hydrofluoric, phosphoric acids) and chemical cleans (sulfuric peroxides, etc.) to create films on silicon wafers in the manufacture of integrated circuits. The cost of these materials am manufactured can be quite high, perhaps exceeding $500.00 per silicon wafer. It is clear that persons must be responsible for the safe processing of lots of 50 or 100 wafers as "overetches" or "missed cleans" could result in compromised yields, and higher per-unit cost. In a competitive cost business, careful controls must be placed on these processes. In addition, insuring the safety of personnel using these facilities must be a primary consideration of the chemical engineers, but both in terms of physical (touch) safety and also preventing exposure to these process chemicals by inhalation. The manufacturing facility itself generates a large quantity of chemical waste in the manufac- turing of the IC's, and these materials must but be cleaned up for release to the environment. This includes liquids, solids and gases. I hope this discussion gives at least one example of chemical engineer's (CE's) work.

rickru


I think that is an excellent description. Of course chemical engineers are also involved in the design of large-scale synthetic processes, the development of new materials and their character- ization, and computer modeling of manufacturing processes. To be a chemical engineer, you must learn a fair amount of chemistry, math and physics as the foundation...then it is on to lots of thermodynamics and kinetics. Since the degree is so demanding, in the past the employment prospects have been pretty excellent. But of course things change. Chemical engineers might also be concerned with environmental issues (how do you make sure that a factory does not emit toxic substances? How can we ensure that we waste as little energy as possible?), or really, any aspect of chemistry that has an engineering component to it (i.e., a real-world problem that needs solving).

rtopper


Click here to return to the Engineering Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory