Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Printable Version

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Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Rogue - 03-15-2013 03:49 PM

This thread is for all Chemical Engineering aspirants who are still at that stage where you haven't been able to make up your mind as to what area is the best for you, or what interests you the most.

The Department of Chemical Engineering across various universities globally have the following concentration/thrust areas for research which I am listing below.

Colloid and Interface Science

Colloid and interface science deals with multi-phase systems in which one or more phases are dispersed in a continuous phase of different composition or state. Classical colloid science deals with dispersions for which at least one dimension of a dispersed phase falls within about 1 and 1000 nm. In applied colloid science the upper size limit is commonly extended to at least 10,000 to 100,000 nm. Interface science deals with dispersions in which there is an extremely large interfacial area between two of the phases. The dispersed phases may be particles, droplets, or bubbles.This area holds a lot of importance in industrials, environmental, biomedical and biotech applications.

The applications include applications include detergency, emulsification, and wetting; adhesives, coatings, and thin films; petrochemical processes; food, paint, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and photographic technologies; controlled-release of active ingredients in pharmaceuticals and consumer products; removal of trace contaminants from water sources; bioseparations; and biomedical applications including skin irritation and mitigation, and transdermal and oral drug delivery.
Some of the systems that can be studied are micellar solutions (surfactant-water systems), solutions of nanoparticles and surfactants, polymer-surfactant systems,pharmaceutical drugs, aerosols etc.

Catalysis and Reaction Engineering

So we know chemical reactions occur. But how can a reaction yield maximum product? How does it occur in an industry? The answer by all means lies in studying reactor design and reaction kinetics.
Chemical reactions lie in the heart of processes where molecules are transformed from raw materials to useful products. For the efficient and economic utilisation of such chemical transformations the domain where they are performed (the reactor) needs to be carefully designed accounting for kinetics, hydrodynamics, mass and heat transfer. Catalysis plays a significant role in many of these transformations, leading to more efficient, greener and more sustainable processing routes.

Often this area is integrated with a Surface Chemistry group too. This helps to study how reactions occur on the surface of catalysts.

Quite a lot is being studied about reactions in microreactors these days.
Some of the other interest areas include photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, catalytic pyrolysis etc.

Polymers and materials

Polymers are versatile because their properties are so wide-ranging. The versatility becomes more profound in the copolymers made from multiple precursors, and polymers compounded with filler materials. Research in polymers encompasses the chemical reactions of their formation, methods of processing them into products, means of modifying their physical properties, and the relationship between the properties and the underlying molecular and solid phase structure.

As for Materials, either it can be studied as one of the research areas in Chemical Engineering or one could opt for the vast field of Materials Science and Engineering for the same.
In any case, inorganic materials that are found in nature form the basis for new materials which are used in novel applications due to their electronic, mechanical and optical properties.
Thin films are studied which find applications in fuel cells, a source of alternative energy being widely studied across the globe.
Nanomaterials are a special class of materials that can be studied as the properties of such materials can be tuned as per requirement.
Biomaterials are also being studied extensively as new materials for biological applications are being generated from biological molecules.

Transport Phenomena

Descriptions of transport of momentum, energy, and species, often accompanied by chemical reaction – i.e. fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mass transfer, and reaction engineering – are one of the central and most successful paradigms of modern chemical engineering.

Modern research in transport processes addresses problems through combinations of theory, computation, and experiment.

Some of the studies in this field include Dynamics of Complex Multiphase materials such as three phase fluid systems and granular materials, Non-Newtonian flow properties of complex fluid systems, problems involving mixing and blending of multiphase polymers and polymer-inorganic nanocomposites. In some universities, emulsions in drug-delivery and food processing are also studied as a part of Transport Phenomena. Microfluidic flow systems, mass transfer and heat transfer in nanostructures are some of the other areas of concentration in Transport Phenomena.

Modeling, Theory and Simulation

Computational power is changing the nature of science and engineering research in today's world. Modeling and simulation can help in cutting cost by focusing experiments on critical areas and creating frameworks in which diverse experimental results can be seen in a coherent picture.

This research focus, thus, deals with computational aspects of complex systems covering modelling, simulation, control and optimization.

Studies can be conducted on process control and monitoring with applications in large scale chemical plants, model- based control and monitoring of hybrid process systems with applications to chemical processes and biological networks. Computer simulations can also be used to understand how microscopic properties of materials influence macroscopic behavior.

Modeling and simulation can also be done at the molecular and nano scale. In this case, fundamental principles of statistical mechanics and quantum theory are coupled with modern computing tools to derive atomistic descriptions of materials structure, materials properties, and a wide range of solid state and fluid phase physico-chemical phenomena.

Process Design and Process Engineering

In chemical engineering, process design is the design of processes for desired physical and/or chemical transformation of materials. Process design is central to chemical engineering, and it can be considered to be the summit of that field, bringing together all of the field's components.
Process design can be the design of new facilities or it can be the modification or expansion of existing facilities. The design starts at a conceptual level and ultimately ends in the form of fabrication and construction plans. The documentation of the design can be done by preparing Block Flow Diagrams, Process Flow Diagrams or Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams.

The Design of the process is made with the aid of mathematical tools that simulate the process and obtain optimum conditions for operation.

Use of simulation in design allows the identification of dangerous operating regions and testing of accident conditions.

During process design, economic analysis and feasibility of the process must also be analysed.

Some of the areas that one can look into for process engineering are multiscale process operations and control, nanoscale process systems engineering, biochemical process engineering and process optimization.

Alternate Energy

One of those areas where a lot of money is being spent globally to find new and alternate sources of energy.

The research themes in this area include, batteries, fuel cells, biofuels, solar energy, carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, hydrogen storage and conversion.

As per my knowledge and research of universities and their research areas I have tried my best to include all possible options.

Hope this helps. Seniors please do feel free to comment and add if anything has been missed out.

Thank you.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - GSCHM - 03-16-2013 01:26 AM

Amazing thread!!!

Any insight on Nanotechnology, Food Science, Green Chemistry/Technology , Environmental Engg, Pharmaceutical etc? Are these not specializations too?

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Rogue - 03-16-2013 02:26 PM

(03-16-2013 01:26 AM)GSCHM Wrote:  Amazing thread!!!

Any insight on Nanotechnology, Food Science, Green Chemistry/Technology , Environmental Engg, Pharmaceutical etc? Are these not specializations too?

These areas that you mentioned are vast and often allied branches of Chemical Engineering that can be pursued as separate disciplines. The areas that I have talked about are thrust areas as far as Chemical Engineering research is concerned.

However, now that you mention, I'll consider writing about the allied branches that can be pursued by a Chemical Engineer.

Thank you.

Allied Branches of Chemical Engineering - Rogue - 03-20-2013 03:02 PM

Now that we have an idea about the various research themes in Chemical Engineering, I just thought that having an idea about the various other disciplines that we Chemical Engineers can pursue would be good.

So below I am listing the allied branches of chemical Engineering. Note that I call these branches allied and not specializations as these areas are vast enough to be pursued as a separate discipline.

Food Science and Technology

Food Science or Bromatology is a branch of applied Sciences. It is a discipline in which engineering, biological and physical sciences are combines to study the nature of foods, causes of deterioration, underlying food processing principles, and improvement of food products for public consumption.

Food industry is practically the largest industry in the world and needs professionals who will be developing food and beverages in response to the needs and demands of the society.

There are ample career opportunities in this field as there are less number of graduates than there are positions available to them in the industry.

So, what are the areas that you can study in this field?
1. Sensory Science- This area primarily involves new product development, creating new tastes and flavors, develop more nutritous food items. It also involves tasting of a new food product, trying to identify what is desirable and what is not. Hence, this involves a lot of work with trained experts and consumers and interaction with them.

2.Food Chemistry- It teaches you to understand the structure and function of food ingredients and how to make food healthier for consumption. This is the area where chemistry comes into picture and you learn to ensure product stability, consistent flavor and texture and ease of processing the food items.

3. Microbiology- Microbes are all around us and so are they present in our food items. Thus it is necessary to ensure that the food products are safe for consumption. So, this field teaches you to ensure the safety of food supply right from initial storage through processing, transportation and retail channels, until the consumer purchases the item. Therefore, one develops processes, monitors conditions and tests foods for contamination.

4. Engineering- Packaging foods in a way their shelf life is extended, flavor and nutrition is preserved and is appealing to the customers falls in the domain of work of an engineer. An engineer is also responsible for developing processes to ensure product quality and maximising process efficiency.

5. Fermentation Science- It involves the creation of wines, beers, and fermented food products. It is an ancient art, combined with modern science. It's all the aspects of food science—sensory science, food chemistry, microbiology, and engineering, focused in on a specific set of products. Fermentation scientists know how to analyze ingredients, how to monitor processes, how to adjust procedures to obtain a desired outcome—and how to create a product that is appealing to the consumer.

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Down to Nano

Follow the link above to know everything about Nano.

Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum engineering is a field of engineering concerned with the activities related to the production of hydrocarbons, which can be either crude oil or natural gas. Typically, a petroleum engineering graduate is given the job to discover natural sources of oil and examine the same. Similarly, developing the latest machines and equipments which can be used in the extraction and processing of oil is part of the job of a petroleum engineer. Petroleum engineers have global career and are hired by global oil companies. The petroleum Engineering is divided into two parts.

Upstream Sector

The upstream sector consists of activities like exploration, production and exploitation of oil and natural gases. After gaining a qualification in petroleum engineering, the engineers work in the exploration and production activities of petroleum and other related products. Using the latest drilling technology and geophysics for the exploration of oil reservoirs, they exploit the same for maximum output.

Downstream Sector

The downstream sector consist activities such as the refining, marketing and distributing of petroleum products. Production is not the only work carried out in a petroleum company and the job of petroleum engineer does not get over as the oil is produced, rather, it starts at this stage. Refining process is crucial for an oil product as then only it can be used. Marketing and distributing department may require a petroleum engineer to have some management degree.

Petroleum engineers divide themselves into two types:

1.Reservoir engineers work to optimize production of oil and gas via proper well placement, production rates, and enhanced oil recovery techniques.
2.Drilling engineers manage the technical aspects of drilling exploratory, production and injection wells.
3.Production engineers, including subsurface engineers, manage the interface between the reservoir and the well, including perforations, sand control, downhole flow control, and downhole monitoring equipment; evaluate artificial lift methods; and also select surface equipment that separates the produced fluids (oil, natural gas, and water).

Environmental Engineering

Environmental Engineering is often offered as a part of civil engineering department or as a part of the Chemical Engineering department.

It is the integration of science and engineering principles to improve the natural environment (air, water, and/or land resources), to provide healthy water, air, and land for human habitation (house or home) and for other organisms, and to remediate pollution sites. Further more it is concerned with finding plausible solutions in the field of public health, such arthropod-borne diseases, implementing law which promote adequate sanitation in urban, rural and recreational areas. It involves waste water management and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, radiation protection, industrial hygiene, environmental sustainability, and public health issues as well as a knowledge of environmental engineering law. It also includes studies on the environmental impact of proposed construction projects.

Environmental engineers study the effect of technological advances on the environment. To do so, they conduct hazardous-waste management studies to evaluate the significance of such hazards, advise on treatment and containment, and develop regulations to prevent mishaps. Environmental engineers also design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems as well as address local and worldwide environmental issues such as the effects of acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion, water pollution and air pollution from automobile exhausts and industrial sources. Environmental "chemical" engineers, focus on environmental chemistry, advanced air and water treatment technologies and separation processes.

Scope of environmental engineering

Solid Waste Management
Environmental impact assessment and mitigation
Water supply and treatment
Waste heat conveyance and cause
Air pollution management


Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products. Biotechnology finds application in agriculture, food production and medicine. Over the last couple of centuries, biotechnology has expanded to include genomics, recombinant gene technologies, applied immunology and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.

The fact that living organisms have evolved such an enormous spectrum of biological capabilities means that by choosing appropriate organisms it is possible to obtain a wide variety of substances, many of which are useful to man as food, fuel and medicines. Over the past 30 years, biologists have increasingly applied the methods of physics, chemistry and mathematics in order to gain precise knowledge, at the molecular level, of how living cells make these substances. By combining this newly-gained knowledge with the methods of engineering and science, what has emerged is the concept of biotechnology which embraces all of the above-mentioned disciplines.

Biotechnology has already begun to change traditional industries such as food processing and fermentation. It has also given rise to the development of a whole new technology for industrial production of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals, food and energy sources and processing of waste materials. This industry must be staffed by trained biotechnologists who not only have a sound basis of biological knowledge, but a thorough grounding in engineering methods.

The different terms that have been coined to identify the different applications of biotechnology are:
1. Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization and analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale. Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics, structural genomics, and proteomics, and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.

2. Blue biotechnology describes the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology.

3.Green biotechnology is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example would be the selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation. Another example is the designing of transgenic plants to grow under specific environments in the presence (or absence) of chemicals. One hope is that green biotechnology might produce more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture.

4. Red biotechnology is applied to medical processes. Some examples are the designing of organisms to produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.

5.White biotechnology, also known as industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial processes. An example is the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical. Another example is the using of enzymes as industrial catalysts to either produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals.

So what kind of applications are we looking at?
1. Medicine
Drug production
Pharmacogenomics-study of how genetic inheritance affects an individual's response to drugs
Genetic testing for examination of DNA molecule to identify mutated sequences.
Gene therapy- a technique than can be used to treat or even cure genetic and acquired diseases like cancer and AIDS
Human Genome Project
2. Agriculture
Crop yield
Reduced vulneraility of crops to environmental stresses
Improved texture and taste or appearance of food
Reduced dependance on fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals
Production of novel substances in crop plants
Animal biotechnology
3. Biological engineering
Biotechnologists are employed to scale up bioprocesses from the laboratory to manufacturing scale. It includes branches like biochemical engineering, biomedical engineering, bio-system engineering and bio process engineering etc. It is a field which has an integrated approach of fundamental biological sciences and traditional engineering principles.
4. Marine biotechnology
It is an emerging field encompassing marine biomedicine (new pharmaceuticals discovery), materials technology, bioremediation, marine biomedical model organisms, molecular genetics, genomics, bioinformatics and much more. The fundamental enthusiasm for this discipline is clearly derived from the enormous biodiversity and genetic uniqueness of life in the sea. Thirty four of the 36 fundamental Phyla of eukaryotes are found in the world's oceans. Many of these life forms, such as those that reside in the deep oceans, are poorly known.

Materials Science and Engineering

Materials Science is also known as Materials Engineering. It is an interdisciplinary applying the properties of matter to science and engineering. It incorporates principles of applied physics and chemistry. With significant media attention focused on nanoscience and nanotechnology in recent years, materials science is becoming more widely known as a specific and unique field of science and engineering. As a result, it has been propelled to the forefront at many universities.

Materials Science and Engineering encompasses all natural and man-made materials – their extraction, synthesis, processing, properties, characterization, and development for technological applications. Advanced engineering activities that depend upon optimized materials include the medical device and healthcare industries, the energy industries, electronics and photonics, transportation, advanced batteries and fuel cells, and nanotechnology. Students in materials science and engineering develop a fundamental understanding of materials at the nano, micro and macro scales, leading to specialization in such topics as: biomaterials; chemical and electrochemical materials science and engineering; computational materials science and engineering; electronic, magnetic and optical materials; and structural materials.

This field not only involves the study of different class of materials but also their synthesis and analysis techniques. There are various ways in which materials can be characterized such as Electron Microscopy, X-ray diffraction, calorimetry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Photoluminescence, Electron diffraction. A student of materials Science has the opportunity to study and get hands-on experience with these analysis techniques.

The sub disciplines of materials science are:

Biomaterials – materials that are derived from and/or used with biological systems.
Ceramography – the study of the microstructures of high-temperature materials and refractories, including structural ceramics such as RCC, polycrystalline silicon carbide and transformation toughened ceramics
Crystallography – the study of regular arrangement of atoms and ions in a solid, the defects associated with crystal structures such as grain boundaries and dislocations, and the characterization of these structures and their relation to physical properties.
Electronic and magnetic materials – materials such as semiconductors used to create integrated circuits, storage media, sensors, and other devices.
Forensic engineering – the study of how products fail, and the vital role of the materials of construction
Forensic materials engineering – the study of material failure, and the light it sheds on how engineers specify materials in their product
Glass science – any non-crystalline material including inorganic glasses, vitreous metals and non-oxide glasses.
Materials characterization – such as diffraction with x-rays, electrons, or neutrons, and various forms of spectroscopy and chemical analysis such as Raman spectroscopy, energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), chromatography, thermal analysis, electron microscope analysis, etc., in order to understand and define the properties of materials. See also List of surface analysis methods
Metallography - Metallography is the study of the physical structure and components of metals, typically using microscopy.
Metallurgy – the study of metals and their alloys, including their extraction, microstructure and processing.
Microtechnology – study of materials and processes and their interaction, allowing microfabrication of structures of micrometric dimensions, such as Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).
Nanotechnology – rigorously, the study of materials where the effects of quantum confinement, the Gibbs–Thomson effect, or any other effect only present at the nanoscale is the defining property of the material; but more commonly, it is the creation and study of materials whose defining structural properties are anywhere from less than a nanometer to one hundred nanometers in scale, such as molecularly engineered materials.
Rheology – Some practitioners consider rheology a sub-field of materials science, because it can cover any material that flows. However, modern rheology typically deals with non-Newtonian fluid dynamics, so it is often considered a sub-field of continuum mechanics. See also granular material.
Surface science/catalysis – interactions and structures between solid-gas solid-liquid or solid-solid interfaces.
Textile reinforced materials – materials in the form of ceramic or concrete are reinforced with a primarily woven or non-woven textile structure to impose high strength with comparatively more flexibility to withstand vibrations and sudden jerks.
Tribology – the study of the wear of materials due to friction and other factors.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - GSCHM - 03-21-2013 11:48 AM

Another great post! I propose that this thread be stickied.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - anuragm - 03-21-2013 04:41 PM

Excellent work! I second the request to sticky this thread.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Rogue - 04-25-2013 11:01 AM

@[The_Observer] can you please sticky this thread for future reference of all Chemical Engineering aspirants.

It was requested here before, but I think you missed it.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Rogue - 04-25-2013 11:10 AM

Apologies in advance, I know your signature says NOT to tag or PM you, but I still did that.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Silent_Killer - 07-17-2013 01:50 PM

@[The Black Swan] : Kindly Sticky this Smile

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - suparna2609 - 09-08-2013 01:45 PM

Thanks, the information provided here really opened my eyes about the various options available to me.

I am a complete newbie here, can you please suggest some threads where I can start looking for good universities to pursue MS in chemical engineering is USA.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Rogue - 09-10-2013 05:55 AM

You can begin with google and use the UniSearch feature along with that to come up with an initial list of universities. Then seniors can evaluate your profile and suggest further modifications if needed.

Hope that helps.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Hoshang Mehta - 02-12-2014 02:08 AM

hey.. i wanted to know more about food engineering, and food technology. also, what is the difference between the two in terms of the subjects they offer?
i am also interested in the product design and development course. can u please suggest which universities offer the above mentioned courses?

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - Rogue - 02-12-2014 02:13 AM

I am afraid, I don't know about the product design and development course as such.
Also, you can probably try and PM Sol Invictus and see as he is from food technology. He should be able to give you a better perspective. I am not sure how active he is though on Edulix now a days.

Also, please fill your infobank if you have not done that already.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - thatgeeman - 02-12-2014 01:48 PM

Great thread. Favourited.

RE: Chemical Engineering Specializations thread - amarnathk - 04-18-2014 08:38 PM

this is a really informative thread...

but can you also pour in some insight about courses related to chemical engineering equipment design......

and also on petroleum....

and the best place to do so,....