Chemical engineering is a branch of science that applies physical sciences (physics and chemistry) and life sciences (microbiology and biochemistry) together with applied mathematics and economics to produce, transform, transport, and properly use chemicals, materials and energy. Essentially, chemical engineers design large-scale processes that convert chemicals, raw materials, living cells, microorganisms and energy into useful forms and products.
Advancements in computer science found applications designing and managing plants, simplifying calculations and drawings that previously had to be done manually. The completion of the Human Genome Project is also seen as a major development.
Chemical engineering involves the application of several principles. Today, the field of chemical engineering is a diverse one, covering areas from biotechnology and nanotechnology to mineral processing.
Chemical engineering involves managing plant processes and conditions to ensure optimal plant operation. Chemical reaction engineers construct models for reactor analysis and design using laboratory data and physical parameters, such as chemical thermodynamics, to solve problems and predict reactor performance.
Plant construction is coordinated by project engineers and project managers depending on the size of the investment. A chemical engineer may do the job of project engineer full-time or part of the time, which requires additional training and job skills, or act as a consultant to the project group. In USA the education of chemical engineering graduates from the Baccalaureate programs accredited by ABET do not usually stress project engineering education, which can be obtained by specialized training, as electives, or from graduate programs.
A unit operation is a physical step in an individual chemical engineering process. Unit operations (such as crystallization, filtration, drying and evaporation) are used to prepare reactants, purifying and separating its products, recycling unspent reactants, and controlling energy transfer in reactors. On the other hand, a unit process is the chemical equivalent of a unit operation. Along with unit operations, unit processes constitute a process operation.