The U.S. chemical industry has consistently had a positive balance of payments in international trade. However, this favorable position has shrunk in recent years from $12.4 billion in 1982 to $9.3 billion in 1987. Certain major sections of the U.S. chemical industry, such as the manufacture of apparel fibers, are becoming less competitive. The chemical industry is undergoing major changes, moving away from commodity materials toward more highly engineered products such as optical discs and AIDS diagnostic systems. People speak of a chemical industry revolution as large as the one brought on by the advent of synthetic polymers. The impact of one of these, polymer composites, suggests the importance of these new ventures (Figure 2.4). According to industry analysts quoted in Chemical and Engineering News (March 16, 1987), sales of polymer “composite to certain specialty markets will grow from $2.5 billion in 1986 to $3.7 billion in 1991…” and will be “…a major growth market with an annual value of $10 billion by the late 1990s.”

The survey of the chemical industry stressed the materials (including

FIGURE 2.4 Filament-wound pressure vessel. (Reprinted, by permission, from E.I.du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc. Copyright © 1989 by E.I.du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc.)



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