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Chemicals

Washing-up liquid contains at least a dozen chemicals.Washing-up liquid contains at least a dozen chemicals. A chemical is any substance that has a constant chemical composition. For example, water (H2O) is a chemical because it always has the same ratio of hydrogen to oxygen: two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. Chemical reactions can change one chemical into another, by forming and breaking the bonds between atoms. For example, water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen. Chemical engineering is the industry that uses chemicals as raw materials. Through chemical reactions and other processes, naturally occurring chemicals and materials are used to produce new chemicals. Some of these manufactured chemicals are synthetic (they do not occur in nature), while others are found in nature but are easier to produce through chemistry. Chemical engineering is used in the production of a wide range of products, from soaps and medicines to fertilizers and explosives.


A technician at a chemical plant A technician at a chemical plant

What is chemical engineering?

Chemical engineers change chemicals and other materials into more valuable chemicals and products. In a chemical plant (a factory that processes chemicals), engineers use their knowledge of science to safely carry out chemical reactions. Chemical engineers are often involved in researching new methods of processing chemicals and in developing entirely new chemicals, materials and products. Synthetic chemicals were not widely used until the middle of the 20th century, but today there are over 20 million of them. On average, a new synthetic chemical is created every 27 seconds.

Synthetic chemicals were not widely used until the middle of the 20th century, but today there are over 20 million of them. On average, a new synthetic chemical is created every 27 seconds.

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