Math in Engineering

Chemical Engineering

How is mathematics used in chemical engineering?

Mathematics is used a great deal in chemical engineering, especially since chemical engineers design materials and the processes by which those materials are made. To solve chemical problems, many types of mathematics are used, not least of which is calculus (including partial differential equations). Even simple calculations, such as working on chemical formulas and equations, involve mathematics. (For more information about chemical formulas and equations, see “Math in the Physical Sciences.”)

Traditionally, chemical engineers worked in the petroleum and large-scale chemical industries. More recently, they have spread out to the pharmaceutical, foodstuff, polymer and material, microelectronics, and biotechnology industries. Using mathematics, they are involved in such studies as thermodynamics, chemical reaction processes, and process dynamics, design, and control. They help to develop new chemical products and processes, test processing equipment and instrumentation, gather data, and monitor quality.

Chemical engineers also build mathematical models and analyze the results, mostly to help understand the performance of a process. In fact, the “solution” to a math problem is often in the understanding of the behavior of the process described by the mathematics, rather than the specific numerical result.


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