A scientist is essentially one who explores the natural sciences, or the physical, chemical and biological phenomena, attempting to quantify and qualify it using known or new hypotheses. Scientists primarily discover the underlying principle explanations to an observation. Engineers on the other hand are responsible for scaling up that knowledge and applying it to solve practical issues. Engineering typically considers an astute understanding of the underlying scientific phenomena, integration of the different natural sciences, economics, environmental considerations, efficiencies etc. amongst a host of numerous other variables. These basic differences draw the line between scientists - Biologists, Chemists, Physists, and engineers - Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, etc.
So which other engineering fields are there and how do they relate to Chemical and process engineering??
Engineering may be loosely divided into
- Process/Chemical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Manufacturing Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical and Electronics engineering.
Let us consider an example. A group of scientists make a breakthrough discovery and come up with a new technology, or product synthesis route for, say, recycling plastic. This information is then availed to a chemical engineer who then works out the optimum conditions for the scaling up the new technology. He/She is furnished with information as regards the conditions that favor the the reaction, the nature of reagents that will be used, the costs associated with achieving both the conditions and the reagents, the safety concerns associated with the process parameters, types of waste that will be generated, and product specifications, material requirements etc. All of this information, in its raw form is supplied by the scientists after exhaustive investigations, and the process engineer then designs an economical route for recycling plastic using this newly found technology.
Beyond the design stage, process engineers are required to adapt the installed unit processes to varying and ever changing conditions. Mechanical engineers are required for routine maintencance and inspections. Chemists are required for quality control, and quality audits. Computer, systems and electronic engineers are necessary for systems maintenance. It is therefore evident any successful production endeavor requires the successful integration of all the engineering and scientific fields.
The Haber process for production of ammonia, a raw material necessary for the production of fertilizers amongst many other uses was developed by Fritz Haber and this discovery won him a noble prize in chemistry in 1918. The generic form of the modern ammonia production plants was developed by Carl Bosch, an engineer giving birth to the Haber-Bosch ammonia production routes. Today engineers across all fields work together to set up new and run existing ammonia production plants (e.g. Sable Chemicals, Zimbabwe). The Haber - Bosch process is a classical example of scientists and engineers working together. However it should aos be noted that sometimes and engineer makes a discovery of principle and a scale up design altogether, sometimes the scientist, and sometimes engineering titles change depending on the employee description. A process engineer may feel in as an industrial engineer and vice versa, it is, in those cases dependant only on whats required of the engineer.
Do you know more about the other engineering disciplies? Are you a scientist? Feel free to comment and join in the discussion as we share and learn more about each other