The department of chemical engineering was established in 1944 in A. C. College of Technology under University of Madras. In September 1978, the department was transferred to the then newly-formed Anna University, a unitary type of University. The department which started with an undergraduate course in chemical engineering is presently offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses in chemical, petroleum refining and petrochemicals, and environmental science and technology. The curricula and syllabi for the undergraduate and postgraduate courses have been periodically updated in line with modern day developments in the chemical engineering arena and taking into account the demands of industry and R&D institutions. The department has fully equipped undergraduate laboratories in the core areas of chemical engineering to impart practical knowledge to the students. The students of the department are placed in established process and product industries through campus and off-campus recruitments.They are also selected for higher studies in the best chemical engineering schools in India and abroad.
Research activities in the department were initiated way back in the year 1947 and several pioneering research works were carried out by stalwarts like Dr. G. S. Laddha. To start with, research work was carried out in the conventional areas of chemical engineering like absorption, liquid extraction, and multiphase flows. Over the period of years the areas of research have moved in tandem with the developments in the chemical process industries. Currently the department focuses on forefront areas like nanofiltration, bio engineering and environmental systems. The active and rich research culture of the department has been maintained throughout these years with research publications in well known journals in chemical and allied engineering and science.
Active interaction with the industry has been maintained over the years and the department has been collaborating with several industries through several consultancy services towards technology development activities such as wastewater characterization, effluent management, safety systems, etc., using the sophisticated testing facilities available in the department. The post graduate programs in petroleum refining and petrochemicals and sugar technology are actively supported by CPCL and sugar industries respectively.
The department has been receiving financial assistance from various funding agencies like AICTE, UGC, DST, TNSC, etc., and has successfully completed several research projects funded by these agencies. The department has been accredited by AICTE as "A" grade and it is recognized as DST-FIST Sponsored Department. The chemical engineering department is the first department in Anna University to be recognized for COSIST and DSA programs by UGC.
The alumni of the department are very well placed in India and abroad and hold responsible positions in various commercial organizations and academic institutions. Prominent CEO’s of prestigious business organizations like Murgappa group, Sanmar group, Shasun Chemicals, Ramco Systems, etc., are distinguished alumni of this department. From its modest beginning in 1944, the department has attained the status of one of the leading centers of chemical engineering education in the country with an excellent international reputation.
History of the Department:
Chemical engineering as a discipline is a little over one hundred years old. It grew out of mechanical engineering in the last part of the 19th century, because of a need for chemical processers. Before the industrial revolution (18th century), industrial chemicals were mainly produced through batch processing. Batch processing is similar to cooking. Individuals would mix ingredients into a vessel, heat or pressurize the mixture, test it, and purify it to get a salable product. Batch processes are still performed today on expensive products, such as perfumes, or pure maple syrups, where one can still turn a profit, despite batch methods being slow and inefficient. Most chemicals today are produced through a continuous "assembly line" chemical process. The industrial revolution was when this shift from batch to continuous processing occurred.
The industrial revolution led to an unprecedented escalation in demand, both with regard to quantity and quality, for bulk chemicals such as sulfuric acid and soda ash. This meant two things: one, the size of the activity and the efficiency of operation had to be enlarged, and two, serious alternatives to batch processing, such as continuous operation, had to be examined. This created the need for an engineer who was not only conversant with how machines behaved, but also understood chemical reactions and transport phenomena (how substances came together to react, how the required conditions could be achieved, etc), and the influence the equipment had on how these processes operated on the large scale. Thus, chemical engineering was born as a distinct discipline; distinct from both mechanical engineering on one hand and industrial chemistry on the other.
The set of 12 lectures that George Davis presented at the Manchester Technical School in 1887 can be regarded as the forerunner of chemical engineering syllabi as a separate discipline. This organization of course material came to be the hallmark of chemical engineering. Shortly thereafter, the Chemistry department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started the first four-year program in chemical engineering called Course X (ten). Other programs soon followed.
These early programs married industrial chemistry with mechanical engineering, with the emphasis most decidedly on engineering. But chemical engineers still needed to clearly define their activity as something more than a mishmash of chemistry and engineering. To emphasize their identity and thus help the growth of their profession, chemical engineers formed the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 1908. For the other established branches of engineering, there were ready associations in the mind of the common man: mechanical engineering meant machines, electrical engineering meant circuitry, and civil engineering meant structures. So what symbolized chemical engineering? The answer, provided by Arthur D. Little to the President of MIT, was to emphasize the approach chemical engineers took to the design and analysis of processes rather than a process or a product. The concept of Unit operations was developed to emphasize the underlying unity among seemingly different operations. For example, the principles are the same whether one is concerned about separating alcohol from water in a fermenter, or separating gasoline from diesel in a refinery, as long as the basis of separation is generation of a vapor of a different composition from the liquid. Therefore such separation processes can be studied together as a unit operation (in this case called distillation). The concept has stood the profession in good stead in its phase of growth, and has even been used to understand the way the human body functions.
In the early part of the last century, a parallel concept called Unit Processes was used to classify reactive processes. Thus oxidations, reductions, alkylations etc. formed separate unit processes and were studied as such. This was natural considering the close affinity of chemical engineering to industrial chemistry at its inception. Gradually however, the subject of chemical reaction engineering has largely replaced the unit process concept. This subject looks at the entire body of chemical reactions as having a personality of its own, independent of the particular chemical species or chemical bonds involved. The latter does contribute to this personality in no small measure, but to design and operate chemical reactors, a knowledge of characteristics such as rate behaviour, thermodynamics, single or multiphase nature, etc. are more important. The emergence of chemical reaction engineering as a discipline truly signaled the severance of the umbilical cord connecting chemical engineering to industrial chemistry, and served to cement the truly unique character of this discipline.