A changing chemical industry

Edward L Cussler Jr, Geoff D. Moggridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The chemical industry of today has expanded its focus on process to include products. The question is no longer just how to make a product, but what product to make. The new productoriented chemical industry has three categories of products with different key characteristics. The first obvious category is commodities, where the key is their manufacturing cost. Styrene produced by Dow and styrene produced by BASF are chemically identical; the issue is who can produce larger quantities at the lowest possible price. The second and third categories of products are less familiar. The second category is molecules, exemplified by pharmaceuticals. The key to the production of pharmaceuticals is not cost, but time to market, that is, the speed of their discovery and production. These products are normally not made using dedicated equipment, but rather in whatever reactors are available. The third category includes products where value is added by a specific microstructure. The key to the success of these products is their function. For example, we do not care why our shoes shine after we have applied polish; we only care that they do shine. It is the shine - not the molecule that produces the shine - that is important. Customers will pay a premium for enhanced function. This paper will review the skill sets of chemical professionals appropriate for this altered chemical industry. While the basic skill set remains appropriate, new skills that include product design will become more central for the chemical professionals. This paper will also suggest a template by which these new products can be designed, and give examples that will aid chemical professionals in achieving this new, broader, more productive chemical enterprise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-79
Number of pages7
JournalReviews in Chemical Engineering
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012


  • Commodities
  • Design
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Product design
  • Product types


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