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Albright’s Chemical Engineering Handbook

Lyle F. Albright (ed.)Hardcover: 1928 pages CRC Press ISBN: 9780824753627

It’s difficult to give a fair evaluation to a potential replacement for something which has been as useful to me for so long as Perry’s handbook, but I’ll try. The introduction suggests that the book is intended not just for Chemical Engineers, but also for “engineers and scientists in chemically oriented fields”. This might be why it is a little more elementary and educational in tone than Perry’s, and consequently gets less hard data into a similarly sized book, yet finds room for lessons in (American) English and ethics. This is not the only place where it strays into parochialism. The chapters on environmental and legal issues are overwhelmingly based solely on US legal frameworks. This focus is perhaps because the contributors are virtually all US academics, as opposed to Perry’s more numerous, geographically variable, and often less academically inclined collaborators.

Rather than the tabulated data and formulae for estimation of thermophysical properties to be found in Perry, Albright assumes the reader has access to the internet, and discusses the sources of such information to be found there. I suppose on reflection that though unexpected, this is more or less acceptable, though I have had many occasions in professional practice where such data was not available from on-line sources, and an estimate was needed. Recognising the problem, rather than giving such formulae, Albright generally refers us to another book which does, (so he is also assuming we have access to an engineering library).

The academic nature of contributors is perhaps responsible for the most notable omission – there is no chapter on capital cost estimation, and even the chapter on material selection makes no mention of cost considerations. On the plus side, I’m guessing that with so many professional educators and researchers on-board, the book will be based on the latest research, and has explanations which have proven comprehensible to those learning the subject.

In summary, this book does not in my opinion stand alone as a quick desk reference as Perry does.  Perry might tell us that another book gives a detailed treatment of a common problem, but he then goes on to give us the commonest formulae and tables we might need in professional practice.

Where I think it likely that this book scores over Perry is as a textbook/handbook combination, especially for US Chemical Engineering students. Perry’s pages of densely written formulae are more like a telephone directory than a learning resource at times, but that is part of what makes it the concentrated source of data that Albright’s challenger to its throne is not.