(239b) Chemical Reaction Engineering for Economic Growth and Sustainable Development
Beginning with the Second World War and extending through the end of the twentieth century, the growth and prosperity of the U.S. chemical industry was driven by the ability to efficiently manufacture basic chemicals, intermediates, polymers and plastics on a huge scale, based on the technology developed in an emerging discipline, chemical reaction engineering. Now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, global markets and competition, development in the third world, and the biologification of chemical engineering frame new challenges and opportunities for chemical reaction engineering. This paper presents one industrial engineer's perspective on the future of chemical reaction engineering as a catalyst for new economic growth and the enablement of environmentally sustainable technologies. The companies (and yes, governments) that successfully innovate and create breakthroughs in chemical reaction engineering will control the economic pathways for the basic chemicals, fuels and high tech materials that will drive economic prosperity in the coming decades.