What does a chemical engineer do?


Chemical engineers design, supervise, test and research processes and equipment for large scale production of chemicals. For example, chemical engineers are generally involved in making of/working for:
Energy & fuels
(like oil, natural gas)
Agricultural chemicals
(like fertilisers)
Synthetic fibres
(like nylon, polyester)
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Packaged foods
Detergents, shampoos, perfumes
Engineering services
(like designing)
(like water treatment)
Chemicals for industry
(like methanol)

Exciting new areas

Alternative energy
(like fuel cells)

Functions of a chemical engineer

Major technical functions of a chemical engineer in the industry are:

In this virtual tour you will understand how a chemical engineer designs chemical production process by working on similar engineering assignments.


In this virtual tour you will understand how a chemical engineer supervises chemical production by working on similar engineering assignments.

Note: Assignments are quite simplified compared to real work so that high school students can solve them

Tour Compatibility: Tours can be viewed well only on laptops/desktops and not on mobile phones currently.

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Chemical engineers plan and conduct tests to check the performance of equipment and production processes, and analyse the outcome. They may also routinely test the quality of product being manufactured.

Test equipment in a plant to ensure it is not only working efficiently but also complying with safety and environmental regulations


Research ways to improve existing or invent new product/process, and evaluate them for development feasibility and market potential

• Developing new methods for efficient biofuel production
• Improving systems for harnessing heat energy released into atmosphere along with exhaust gases, in a factory

Note - In industry, roles may also involve combinations of above functions and different companies may use different terminology for functions.

What will I study in chemical engineering?

Chemical engineering undergraduate degree often involves following courses:
Fluid Mechanics

Study of fluids (liquids, gases) at rest and in motion, and the forces involved

Practical example
Fluid systems in aircrafts, pumps, brakes

Related high school topics

Pressure in fluids, streamline flow, Bernoulli’s principle, viscosity, Reynolds number, surface tension


Study of heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work

Practical example
Coffee-maker, air-conditioner

Related high school topics

Thermal equilibrium, heat, internal energy, work, laws of thermodynamics, specific heat capacity, thermodynamic state variables & equation of state, heat engines,refrigerators, heat pumps, Carnot engine, enthalpy

Heat Transfer

Study of exchange of thermal energy between physical systems

Practical example
Coffee-maker, air-conditioner

Related high school topics

Temperature & heat, thermal expansion, specific heat capacity, calorimetry, change of state, Newton’s law of cooling

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Materials Science and Engineering

Study of properties and applications of materials such as metals, ceramics,

Practical example
Materials for spacecrafts to withstand extreme temperatures

Kinetics and Reactor Design

Study of rate of chemical reactions and design of reactors to produce required product with highest efficiency

Practical example
Reactor to produce ethyl acetate which is used in paints, perfumes, as solvent etc.

Related high school topics

Basics of rate of chemical reactions

Separation Processes

Processes like distillation, absorption, adsorption, drying, crystallisation, filtration, centrifugation

Practical example
Distillation at an oil refinery to separate crude oil into fractions of different boiling points

Related high school topics

Basics of topics mentioned in above description

Process Design

Design and analysis of chemical production processes and equipment, including by use of software

Practical example
Designing chemical plant to produce large quantities of ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen

Process Dynamics and Control

Process control system involves monitoring and controlling a production process to get a desired output

Practical example
Control system to regulate the temperature of a reactor at a chemical plant to get desired product yield

Chemical Process Calculations

Material and energy balances in systems involving chemical reactions and physical changes

Practical example
Determining amount of reactants required to produce desired quantity of products in a reactor

Engineering Chemistry

Organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, electro chemistry

Practical example
Understanding chemical reactions occurring in reactors

Related high school topics

Basics of topics mentioned in above description

Note - Courses may vary with university. Undergraduate engineering programs also include fundamental courses like physics, chemistry, calculus, which are often common to all engineering careers.


Understanding of below concepts and equations (wherever mentioned) is required

Reaction stoichiometry

Relationship between quantity of reactants and products given by a balanced chemical reaction.


CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O

As per above reaction, one mole of CH4 reacts with two moles of O2 to give one mole of CO2 and two moles H2O

Molar mass

Mass of one mole of a substance. It is generally in g/mole.

Example: molar mass of water is 18 g/mole


Distillation is separation of components from a mixture based on difference in their boiling points. It involves selective evaporation and condensation.

Volume of right cylinder

V = πr2h

(where V = volume, r = radius, h = height)


Understanding of below concepts and equations (wherever mentioned) is required


Crystallization is a process that separates a pure solid in the form of its crystals from a solution.