As the pressing needs of the world gradually shift toward the sustainable supply of energy and raw materials, preservation of natural resources and the environment, and targeted delivery of services and products, new opportunities arise for chemical engineers. In general, chemical engineers have focused on developing and applying fundamental physical and chemical principles to effect economical and efficient processing. However, the nature of these processes has evolved from large-scale, centralized processing of crude oil and other fossil-derived raw materials to include processes that involve distributed resources, process intensification, miniaturization, and individualization. Economies of scale no longer dominate decision-making. Precision, adaptability to changing specification and speciation, and the ability to function in complex environments have become important factors to consider. Accompanying these changes is a growing demand for new materials that have superior properties and can be produced economically at practical scales.
In the October AIChE Journal Perspective article, “New Materials for Catalysis and Energy Storage Devices,” Harold Kung of Northwestern Univ. writes, “One of the most pressing problems facing the world is dwindling critical resources needed to sustain the ever-increasing population. We have explored two areas,...
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