It is important to understand the technological, scientific, environmental, industrial, economical impact of chemical engineering in the development of the society, and how it contributes to the solution of the social demands, providing energy, goods and items, through several methods of production. The last technological tools, such as computation and internet, and the scientific research have enhanced chemical engineering.
As a first step, it is necessary to know the topics and research lines dealt in chemical engineering, along the last 20 years or more.
Using as sources the papers published in the most important indexed reviews, the academic programs taught in the main universities in USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, research lines driven for the most prestigious researchers in the world, topics of the most important conferences, CV of the researchers with international prestige in the different universities, research institutes webpages, proceedings and memories of the most important conferences, web pages of chemical engineering societies in the world, etc.
In spite of the difficulties to organize and systematize this collected information and although it is not possible to report precise dates, periods of time due some research lines started and then disappeared, others were kept and still they are studied, it can be seen that the chemical engineering career has had the following tendencies.
Before the year 2000 more or less, chemical engineering received the beneficial of the advances in computation and internet, but in general terms, the traditional topics of chemical engineering were studied, such as: Chemical kinetics and reactors, catalysis and surface phenomena, unit operations, chemical thermodynamics, transport phenomena, simulation and optimization, chemical processes, process control, electrochemistry, etc.
All of these disciplines were in line with the definition of chemical engineering, where it is stated that, a chemical engineer is a professional who works principally in the chemical industry to convert basic raw materials into a variety of products, and deals with the design and operation of plants and equipment, and is addressed to: Design, manufacture, and operation of plants and machinery in industrial chemical and related processes; development of new or adapted substances for products. Then, researchers had interest in new topics, where chemical engineering can have influence or can take advantage of the knowledge of other careers and besides, other disciplines had interest in using the principles of chemical engineering. In other words, the apparent walls and boundaries of chemical engineering with other careers started to fall or disappear.
Chemical Engineering today.
The new lines studied in the last ten years or more have been: Environment, bioengineering, nuclear engineering, material science, thin films, renewable energies, nanoparticles, fluidization technologies, pharmacy, medicine, circulating fluidized beds (CFB), fuel cells, hydrogen power and nanotechnology, materials science, polymer engineering, biomedical engineering, etc.
In summary, chemical Engineering has been changing its tendency in the last ten or fifteen years in a notorious form. Of course these new lines started before. Chemical Engineers are today focusing their branches on the use of alternative feedstocks such as biomass and waste to produce chemicals and energy. Their goal is to use green chemistry with less carbon in the industrial processes and sustainable processing. Each time, chemical engineering is dealing with disciplines apparently from other careers and other careers are using the knowledge of chemical engineering.