Battery technology explores using chemical reactions and new materials to force electricity generation. Individuals who are interested in learning about battery technology can get a foundational knowledge through bachelor's degree programs in chemical engineering. In these programs, they study battery design and function as well as the consequences of reliance on consumable energy. Master's and doctoral programs offer the opportunity to engage in research in this field and look for practical solutions to problems with battery technology.
Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering
Students enroll in chemical engineering programs to learn how to apply the principles of scientific methods to chemical engineering problems, like building a better battery. Batteries provide electricity by taking advantage of chemical reactions; once the energy supply from a battery is exhausted, batteries may be recharged or thrown away. Concerns over fuel cell and battery production and use include environmental health, energy security and economic growth. Programs take 4-5 years to complete, and applicants are not expected to meet any specific prerequisites other than earning a high school diploma or equivalent.
Students in bachelor's degree programs in chemical engineering learn about the far-reaching consequences of consumable energy product design, such as the use of conflict minerals in battery and electronics development. Coursework includes:
- Differential equations
- Fluid mechanics
- Reactor design
Master of Science in Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineering master's students prepare for careers in the energy field, creating batteries from metal compounds and searching for renewable sources of energy. Programs generally take two years to complete, including the writing of a thesis. Applicants are expected to have a strong undergraduate background in biology, engineering, physics, math, and chemistry.
Chemical engineers train to design and manufacture products ranging from fuel cells to synthetic human organs. Students learn about heat transfer, energy storage, fluid mechanics, and battery materials. Topics of study include:
- Advanced thermodynamics
- Chemical reaction engineering
- Engineering analysis
- Heat transfer
- Mass transfer
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Doctoral Degree in Chemical Engineering
Doctoral students in chemical engineering learn how to apply their knowledge of chemical processes to air pollution control, nanomaterials, and flow batteries. Chemical engineering combines scientific analysis of microscopic chemical transformations with an engineering interest in solving practical problems, like rapid battery depletion. Schools offer research opportunities in biochemical engineering, chemical catalysis, environmental engineering, and systems engineering. Programs take 5-6 years to complete, including research for a dissertation project. Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree in a relevant field.
Doctoral students in chemical engineering can often specialize in an area of interest, such as interfacial phenomena, polymer films, and two-phase flow. Programs topics can include the following:
- Molecular computation
- Numerical methods
- Reactor engineering
- Transport phenomena
Popular Career Options
The principles of chemical engineering are applicable to a variety of fields, such as electronic material production, hydrocarbon fuel engineering, biotechnology, and battery or fuel cell production and design. Among these, entry-level workers found work as:
- Cell development engineers
- Integration and test engineers
- Senior project engineers
BLS reports from May 2015 show that the highest levels of employment for chemical engineers were in the architectural, engineering, and related services; basic chemical manufacturing; and scientific research and development services industries. Graduates of a doctoral degree program in chemical engineering qualify for several engineering, research, and academic careers, including:
- Chemical engineer
- University professor
- Research scientist
- Thermal sciences engineer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of chemical engineers was expected to increase 2% over the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports that demand is affected by the manufacturing industry and the demand for the industry's products. However, those employed in the alternative energy, biotechnology, and nanotechnology services should experience greater demand. BLS data showed that the median annual wage of chemical engineers was $97,360 as of May 2015.
Courses in chemical engineering programs focus heavily on the sciences and discovering new sources of renewable energy, while more advanced programs teach students how to design and create new products and offer research opportunities. Graduates with chemical engineering degrees are most often employed by the scientific research and development, basic chemical engineering and architectural and engineering industries.