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CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES:: THE ROLE OF CHEMISTRY AND CHEMICAL ENGINEERING SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS This report underscores the importance of chemical and chemical engineering research for technologies that have been deemed critical for the nation. It was written by a committee of 24 chemists and chemical engineers and was commissioned by the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology of the National Research Council. Chemical and chemical engineering research is vital to a broad range of materials technologies, a point illustrated by this report's discussion of such innovations as plastic parts for automobiles, ceramic engine components, high-performance food packaging materials, and modern construction materials. To a large extent, the materials of the future will be made possible by advances in chemical research. Many important areas of manufacturing depend on research by chemists and chemical engineers. The report presents examples from the manufacture of petrochemicals, computer-aided chemical process design, and the process technology involved in the automated manufacture of plastic films and coatings. The fields of energy and transportation rely heavily on chemical and chemical engineering research. Such research has led to the development of designer gasoline to meet new product performance and emission requirements; liquid fuels from natural gas, coal, and shale; automobile emission control techniques that preserve vehicle performance and fuel economy; batteries with high energy density; and novel energy-conversion technologies such as fuel cells and solar cells. Technologies that contribute to improved public health depend significantly on advances in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, and biochemical engineering. As illustrated in the report, the many examples include biomaterials, biomedical devices, medical diagnostics, the chemical synthesis of drugs, computer-aided drug design, the genetic engineering of recombinant human proteins, gene therapy, drug delivery systems, and medical imaging technologies. Information and communication technologies are based on materials and processing techniques that are often the products of chemical or chemical engineering research. Optical fibers, nanofabrication technologies, multilayer electronic packages, optical interconnection and optoelectronic devices, electronic displays, data storage and retrieval systems, and single-atom manipulation techniques help illustrate that point. The 1990s have justly been called the decade of the environment. Chemistry and chemical engineering play dominant roles in most environmental technologies. This report presents examples from atmospheric chemistry, product life cycle analysis, environmental risk and impact analysis, environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and products, control of
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CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES:: THE ROLE OF CHEMISTRY AND CHEMICAL ENGINEERING emissions from mobile and stationary sources, materials recycling, separation and conversion technologies for waste reduction, and the cleanup of contaminated sites. Vignettes discuss selected topics in greater depth; these include materials of the future, catalytic cracking for the production of high-octane gasoline, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors for combating hypertension and chronic heart failure, the microelectronics factory of the future, and a new type of catalyst to meet the “ultralow ” automobile tailpipe emission standards recently enacted in several states. In many cases, commercial technologies are directly connected with the underlying chemical or chemical engineering research. Most of the national critical technologies either directly depend on, or are substantially influenced by, research in chemistry or chemical engineering. Chemical and chemical engineering research relies on an effective infrastructure that successfully converts research results into commercial technologies. This infrastructure utilizes both public and private research funding. Maintaining and strengthening the infrastructure of chemical and chemical engineering research are key to sustaining and advancing our national critical technologies.
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