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Polymer engineering is generally a branch of engineering that designs, analyses, and/or modifies polymer materials for aiding the manufacture of articles from polymers. Polymer Engineering uses the theory and knowledge of chemical engineering to solve various problems involving the production and use of polymers. Polymer engineers use the principles of plant design, process design, thermodynamics, and transport phenomena to develop new products. Polymer engineering covers aspects of petrochemical industry, polymerization, structure and characterization of polymers, properties of polymers, compounding and processing of polymers and description of major polymers, their structure, property relations and applications. Many of the engineers currently working in the industry trying to solve these problems have background in either chemical engineering or polymers.
As plastic usage have increased a lot, proper management of plastic is necessary. This necessitated the requirement of developing eco friendly plastics for reducing pollution and increasing recyclability. Here comes the role of polymer engineer. They must have an understanding of both the properties of polymer materials and the processing methods used to shape them into the products we see in our everyday lives. Thus duties of polymer engineer involves supervising the production process of plastics and other polymers. It is under their supervision, plastic moulders and technicians carry out the shop floor manufacturing processes.
To pursue a career in polymer engineering one must opt for chemistry, physics and mathematics at 10+2 level. B.E./B.Tech in polymer engineering is the basic qualification required to be in this field.
Degree and postgraduate degree courses are offered by the engineering colleges and Institutes of Technology (IITs), and diploma courses by various polytechnics. Admission for B.E./B.Tech is made on the basis of entrance examination (joint entrance exam / JEE for the IIT's and separate state level and national level exams for other institutions). The national level exam AIEEE is also conducted for admissions in the NITs in India and many other prestigious colleges. Those who have obtained a B.E. or B.Tech. degree in polymer engineering can take up M.Tech courses. Candidates who have qualified in the GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) exam will find it as an advantage for admission to the M.Tech courses in most of the elite institutions.
The B.E/B.Tech course is of four years duration, while the M Tech / ME program is of one and a half to two years duration. These courses cover the properties and applications of the range of plastics and rubber materials used in the manufacture of goods, and also the engineering aspects of designing products and processing the materials into shaped products. Polymer engineering involves detail study of subjects like Petrochemical industry, Polymerization, Structure and characterization of polymers, Properties of polymers, Compounding and processing of polymers, Description of major polymers, their structure, property relations and applications.
Excellent analytical, communication and teamwork skills is a necessity and the candidate should be hardworking, good at organizing and solving problems. As the knowledge and duties of chemical engineers overlap this field, they must be aware of aspects of chemical engineering. Imagination, creativity are required for developing new products and in devising new uses of the basic product. Must be able to concentrate for long periods and pay attention to detail.
Job Prospects & Career Options
As polymer industry is a rapidly growing sector, those with knowledge and understanding of a broad range of principles and technologies of manufacture of products from polymer is required. This has increased the demand for qualified personnel in this field.
Students who complete this course undergo campus selection for jobs in major tyre companies, fuel refineries, polymer manufacturing and processing industries and research institutions. Both public and private sectors offer tremendous job opportunities to polymer professionals.
Those with qualification in polymer engineering and technology can find jobs with polymer manufacturing industries as production engineers or technologists, quality control inspectors, polymer specialists, marketing executives and so on. Opportunities also exist in research and development field. Many private companies and MNCs that deal with the production and marketing of plastic commodities also offer employment.
Even though polymer is not a known field compared to other engineering areas, there is ample scope for well qualified resource persons, especially abroad. The research wings of many multinational companies require young dynamic polymer professionals who are capable of fulfilling their goals.
Working experience, qualification, skills are important factors in determining the pay level. The starting salary of Polymer Engineer in public sector ranges from Rs.10000 to Rs.15 000 per month. In the private sector, the starting remuneration can be in the range of Rs.9000 to Rs.12000 per month whereas for those with an M.Tech degree can earn as high as Rs.15000 to Rs.20000 per month at the starting level. Senior Polymer engineers/scientists with more than five years of working experience can earn anywhere in between Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 80,000 per month.
Institutes conducting courses in polymer engineering are few compared to other engineering fields. Most institutes consider this field as a specialisation of chemical engineering and it is included as a subject area in chemical engineering. Some of the institutes that conduct courses in polymer engineering as such, are Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi; Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Sangrur; Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra; CUSAT: The Department of Polymer Science and Rubber Technology, Thrikkakara, Kochi.