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Chemical engineering is the junction between the molecular sciences and engineering. It combines the study of mathematics and physics with chemistry, biology and materials science. Traditionally, chemical engineers were known for their work in fuel combustion and energy systems. But today, chemical engineers are developing innovations in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals, electronics, food products, consumer products, paper, utilities, automotives and more. A wide range of companies hire chemical engineers, but some of the top employers are major corporations that are leading new innovations in their respective fields.
Dupont: Stopping Bullets to Building Decks
From the development of Kevlar, which saves the lives of military soldiers and law enforcement officers in body armor, to harnessing solar technology, DuPont has been a leader in solving some of the biggest challenges facing the fields of energy, food and protection. The corporation is a collection of businesses that span building products, electronics and communications, industrial bioscience, nutrition and health, packaging, sustainability and performance polymers. Chemical engineers have been behind the formulation of chemical-based substances used in some of the company's most commonly known products, such as Tyvek, Corian, Teflon and Kevlar. Tyvek, for example, was created when chemical engineers realized they could bond together flash spun polyethylene fibers into thin sheets of indestructible, waterproof and tear-proof material, which is now used to wrap homes for greater insulation, cover cars and boats for off-season protection and for medical packaging then ensures a sterile environment.
Goodyear: More Than Just Tires
Goodyear, known worldwide for developing the rubber used in tires, was among the first companies in the world to pioneer hydraulic brakes, develop synthetic rubber and apply its rubber materials to innovative new tire products. Today’s Goodyear tires, used by many NASCAR and Formula One racing teams, can sustain speeds of up to 250 miles per hour. By manipulating rubber materials and developing renewable plastics, chemical engineers at Goodyear also have developed the first shatterproof polyester resin soft-drink bottle, an experimental air-driven artificial heart and a rubber roofing system.
ExxonMobil: Fueling Uses of Oil
ExxonMobil is an oil and gas company that specializes in oil exploration and extraction, petroleum development and oil refinery. They actively identify ways to develop efficient energy sources as they work to advance fuel technology. ExxonMobil is also a leader in the chemical industry. They are the largest producer of polyolefins, including plastics and polymers. At ExxonMobil, chemical engineers develop processes that reduce the environmental impact of the company's operations and innovate and refine the chemical processes used to refine petroleum.
Bristol-Myers Squibb: Fighting Disease
A global biopharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb works to develop innovative medicines to help treat some of the world’s most pressing medical conditions. The company has pioneered a number of innovative drugs for those suffering from cancer, cardiovascular disease and immune deficiencies. In the pharmaceutical industry, chemical engineers are responsible for developing new processes, such as mixing, packaging, cooling systems and raw material handling of materials in a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. They may also develop new products or oversee the production of a product line.
3M: Post-its to Paints
3M is a global consumer products company that develops products in industries as diverse as transportation, electronics, health care, manufacturing and security. Most well-known for office products such as Post-it notes, the company is a leading producer of products and services in composites manufacturing, paintings and coatings, renewable energy, roadway safety and marine products. At 3M, chemical engineers design plant equipment for the production of chemical-based products and develop chemical manufacturing processes.
Laura La Bella has worked as a marketing communications writer and editor in the fields of advertising, development and higher education for more than 15 years. She has authored more than two dozen nonfiction books for young adults, covering biographies of socially relevant people, timely social issues and career paths.