Studies & Degrees in Industrial Chemistry
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Industrial chemistry is a special field of chemistry which works with the industrial use of raw materials. Specifically, it deals with the analysis of problems related to the procurement of industrial raw materials, the creation of solutions for these problems, and the development of better production techniques. It is a practical combination of both science and technology that aims to help the human society to make the most out of the natural resources that are available to them. Thus, industrial chemistry not only finds ways to obtain and procure natural resources, it also deals with developing these raw materials into improved and more useful products.
Historically, industrial chemistry has been made up of two major branches: Organic Industrial Chemistry and Inorganic Industrial Chemistry. Organic Industrial Chemistry focuses on raw materials such as rubber, cellulose, and natural fibers. It uses these materials to compose products such as diesel fuel, soaps, sugars, and fats. It also tries to obtain other compounds from these raw materials such as hydrogen and sulfur.
On the other hand, inorganic chemistry focuses on raw materials such as water, uranium, and phosphates to produce other products such as glasses, cements, and ceramics. It is also the branch of industrial chemistry that produces metals, alloys, pigments, and even fertilizers.
In recent years however, the distinction between these two branches of industrial chemistry has slowly blurred because of their common goal of creating new and useful products out of natural raw materials. The trend is pointing to a probable scenario where organic and inorganic industrial chemistry will eventually merge into one big scientific field of industrial chemistry.
Industrial chemistry makes full use of natural resources found on land, in the atmosphere, and in the ocean as well. Metal and non-metal elements are excavated and mined from the earth’s land masses; gases such as nitrogen and oxygen are extracted directly from the atmosphere; and salt and water are taken from the wide oceans. Aside from these, industrial chemistry also takes resources from the biosphere of the earth such as plants and animals. Essences, saccharides, and cellulose are abundant in plants, while animals are very good sources for enzymes.
A course in industrial chemistry would involve subjects that take up the fundamentals of chemistry such as chemical reactions (stoichiometry and reaction yields), equilibrium, rate expressions, catalysis, and temperature effects. It is also common for subjects in commodity chemicals, gas processes (methanation and shift reactions), and chemical plant operation to be included. Metallurgy and research on the petrochemical industry are also major subjects of study.
Industrial chemists have many career fields that they can pursue. Many industries have a high requirement for industrial chemists from agriculture to medicine to energy and environment protection. In the academe, industrial chemists are sought after by universities for their expertise in problem analysis and solution creation which are important skills that they can teach to future industrial chemists. Industrial chemists with writing skills are also in demand in the education sector as technical writers who can produce relevant articles and journals about the field of industrial chemistry. Other career opportunities available for the industrial chemist include research and development in pharmaceutical and electronics companies, quality control for chemical plants and manufacturing factories, and supervisory positions for laboratories and production facilities.