About industrial chemistry

Making the chemistry efficient to optimise the processes

Industrial chemistry is the link between the research and industrial-scale chemical engineering.

Industrial chemists make use of their broad understanding of chemistry and environmental sustainability in areas like pharmaceutical companies, polymer manufacturing, petrochemical processing, food science, and manufacturing industries.

Industrial chemists can be found in the most unexpected places. They could be challenging the norm at the cutting edge of research, or taking responsibility for successful operations of some of Australia's largest companies in the chemical industry. In a general sense, industrial chemists are involved in:

Safety and efficiency – industrial chemists are constantly striving to improve the safety and efficiency of making important chemicals and materials.

Product development and innovation – industrial chemists create new chemical ‘recipes’ that meet identified needs. They will scrutinise the chemical composition of substances and then study the chemical changes which occur under different conditions and apply this to their end result.

Process optimization – an industrial chemist plays a part in optimising production to produce large amounts of a substance as cheaply as possible – but, unlike with engineers,  they do so by making the ‘chemistry’ better and more efficient.

Environmental monitoring and control – industrial chemists work on the management and control of the environment during industrial processes, to ensure everything is being done to minimise the impact and work towards a clean and safe future.

Production plant design - in the construction of a new production plant, industrial chemists work in teams with other engineers like chemical engineers or control engineers to ensure the optimal outcomes.

Ideas, design, testing – making a product as good as it can be

Industrial chemistry is part of the long chain in the design and manufacturing process. Industrial chemists deal with the ideas, the design, the testing, and prototyping of new industrial products. In order to design something entirely new to help solve the major problems of the world their essential skills are, in-depth knowledge and application of chemistry and creativity with chemicals.

Whereas a chemical engineer deals with the whole process of changing raw materials into a useful, marketable product, an industrial chemist would look specifically at the nitty gritty science stuff, scrutinising the chemical components and designing a ‘method’ for the product then work out the best way to make it. The industrial chemist precedes the chemical engineer in the process of bringing something to market.

Basically, if you want to know exactly where a product comes from, you should ask an industrial chemist.

Where do industrial chemists work?

Industrial chemists work in many different industries – including petrochemicals, polymers, plastics food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, minerals and new materials.

You could find an industrial chemist wearing a number of different career titles including, research scientist, development chemist, technical representative, plant manager, development chemist, production process manager, operations manager, fuel development chemist, research scientist, production process manager or operations manager. You might also find an industrial chemist working in marketing or management in the chemical industry.

Past graduates have been employed within these companies and industries

  • Reckitt Benckiser (home chemical products)
  • Pfizer (pharmaceuticals)
  • ERA Polymers (polyurethanes)
  • Unilever (personal care products)
  • DuPont (science innovation)
  • Qenos (petrochemicals)

Is Industrial Chemistry right for you?


More information on Industrial Chemistry undergraduate degrees at UNSW.