Last month, the American Chemistry Council (ACC; www.acc.org) released its 2022 edition of the “Guide to the Business of Chemistry ,” which profiles the U.S. chemical industry, including markets, developments, contributions to both domestic and global economies and more. The report reminds us how ubiquitous the products of the chemical process industries are in our everyday lives.
Products manufactured by the chemical process industries are used in most of the items that surround us in our modern world. The importance of some of these products was highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, when hand sanitizers, disinfectants and personal protective equipment were in very high demand. But contributions of chemistry to healthcare are much broader and found in home and hospital medical supplies, such as in tubing, sutures, bandages, IV (intravenous) bags, instruments and equipment, as well as in pharmaceuticals.
Chemistry also plays an important role in our everyday electronic devices in components such as touchscreens and batteries. Plastics allow for versatile and lightweight products for everything from smart phones to our automobiles. In fact the increased demand for electric vehicles has been driving the demand for high-performance polymers .
In the energy sector, increased implementation of renewable energy sources requires solar panels that rely on silicon-based chemistry. Battery developments are ongoing. And efforts to improve energy efficiency make use of chemistry, for example in new lighting sources and home insulation products.
Chemical products are also used in just about every facet of building and construction, including cement, roofing and siding, as well as interior elements like flooring and countertops.
Developments in chemistry contribute to sustainability goals in decarbonization, recycling efforts, water conservation and other environmental challenges. See, for example, winners of the “Green” Chemistry Challenge .
With the wide variety of products from the chemical industry, the ACC reports that it is one of America’s largest manufacturing industries — “a $517 billion enterprise providing 537,000 skilled, high-paying jobs.” It is also one of the world’s largest exporters, responsible for 10% of all U.S. goods exported in 2021 at $151 billion. The industry also spent over $30 billion in capital investments last year.
Chemical companies typically invest about 2–3% of their annual sales in research and development (R&D), and some companies invest at a significantly higher rate. In 2021, R&D investments were $11.4 billion.
Many more details about the categories of production, markets and economics can be found in the ACC report . ■
Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director
1. The 2022 Guide to the Business of Chemistry is prepared by the ACC’s Economics and Statistics Department and can be found on its website (www.acc.org).