Chemical engineers deal with a variety of challenges that are central to our culture and the research is aimed at advancing the technologies and inventing new ones while using enabling tools like modeling, computation, control, catalysis etc. Some of the frontiers in research are:
Energy: The main challenge here is the greenhouse effect and it is leading to research in Renewable fuels (Wind, Biofuels, Solar energy), Electric car, Fuel cells, Processes with improved thermal efficiencies and more.
Water treatment: The main challenges are quality and availability and the relevant technologies are Desalination, Adsorption, Heavy metal separation (see also Env. Eng. Research).
Air Quality: Chemical Engineers designed the Automotive Catalytic Converter, current research is aimed at removal of NOx and particulate, at abatement of pollutants from chemical plants and at Indoor Air Quality.
Polymers: Chemical Engineers led the revolution in the 1960’s that produced synthetic fibers and products. Current research is aimed at producing well defined polymer structure, finding their rheological properties (see also Material Engineering).
Semiconductors: The effort to scale down electronic circuits still continues.
Nanotechnology: While many of the processes are based on nanoparticles (catalysts, adsorbents) we now try to understand how to design and produce well defined structures.
Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology: Slow Release medication, Dialysis, Targeted Delivery of medication, Electronic Nose are some of the hot topics.