facilities, food processing plants, plants converting biomass to fuels); ecological subsystems such as the atmosphere; the human body in its entirety and its parts; and energy devices such as batteries and fuel cells. Examples of products include various types of commodity or specialty polymers; pharmaceuticals; a broad array of inorganic, ceramic, or composite materials; chemicals and materials for personal care products (e.g., cosmetics, moisturizers, shampoos, antibacterial soaps), information and electronic devices (e.g., displays, cellular phones, optic fiber communication networks), medical products, or automobiles; diagnostic devices; drug delivery systems; and others. Examples of applications include monitoring and control of air pollution; extraction of fossil energy; life-cycle analysis, design, and production of “green” products; diagnostic devices; drug targeting and delivery systems; combustion systems; solar energy; and many others.
Chemical engineering involves the development of heuristic approaches founded on basic science to make it possible to achieve practical outcomes. There is an often discussed overlap between applied sciences (chemistry, biology, and physics) and chemical engineering; often they share the same objective, but use different approaches and methodologies and thus they are synergistic.
Research in chemical engineering seeks to explain (analyze) and control (synthesize) one or more of the following five basic elements of a system of interest (product, process, or application):
the physical, chemical, and/or biological phenomena occurring in the system of interest
the performance of the system of interest, that is, the model-based estimate and/or direct measurement of its properties and usefulness in actual or simulated conditions of application
the structure and composition of the system of interest that determine the system’s properties and performance (e.g., the type of processing units in a manufacturing process and their interconnections, the type of atoms in a chemical product or material and their interconnections, the type of materials and components in a device and their interconnections, the type of reactions in combustion and their interrelationships)
the synthesis and processing by which a particular product (chemical, material, device) is achieved
the optimization of any of the above to achieve maximum commercial or societal value
For the purposes of this benchmarking exercise, the Panel divided chemical engineering research into nine major areas with several subareas in each: