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The Golden Age of chemical engineering

Aug 13
15:08 2014


Professor Westmoreland has said that there is a burst of demand and innovation at the moment, which is contributing to the chemical engineering industry entering a Golden Age. This also includes new resources for fuel and chemicals, such as hydrofracking and biomass. The industry of applied chemical biology has in the past led to new medicines, medical tools and practices and biocompatible and biomimetic materials. And dramatic advances in computerisation, networking, and mobile devices have transformed the world.

When it comes to industry, it has generally moved towards process based, high productivity manufacturing which Westmoreland says chemical engineers have pioneered. Also, the systems approach central to chemical engineering has found an increasing importance in industry, economics and public policy.

Golden days of the past

There have been two previous periods of golden prosperity for the chemical engineering sector. 1915 – 1929 saw a geographical broadening in the chemical industry, an increased demand for petroleum based fuels and the emergence of the modern profession through the unit operations concept. The second age emerged 15 years post World War II. This was partly due to the high demand for petroleum products once again. However new factors included the widespread development of synthetic polymers, pharmaceuticals and other products. The profession of chemical engineer also moved ahead due to intellectual advances within education which saw a growth in applied mathematics, physics and reactor engineering.

International Congress of Chemical and Process Engineering

Westmoorland will be presenting a plenary lecture looking at the Golden Age of chemical engineering titled ‘Making Bio-oils: A Microcosm of the Opportunites and Challenges for a Golden Age of Chemical Engineering’, at the 21st CHISA.

Of the talk and the Golden Age, Westmoorland has said, ‘my research on biofuel production illustrates both the exciting present as well as the challenges facing chemical engineering. Using biomass is a great advance toward sustainability and mitigating climate change if done right. If not, it could be a serious addition source of pollutants and could consume excessive water, land and energy.

‘On the other hand, newly abundant oil and gas could wash away thoughtful examination of the science and implications of these more sustainable choices. Chemical and process engineers have a professional and public obligation to engages in and even lead these discussions.’


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