Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The report assesses the current state of chemistry and chemical engineering, and it identifies a set of grand challenges for research. The astonishing developments in science and engineering during the 20th century have made it possible to dream of new goals that might previously have been considered unthinkable. This report identifies the key opportunities and challenges for the chemical sciences, from terrorism defense to environmental protection, and looks at the ways in which chemists and chemical engineers can work together to contribute to an improved future for our country, for humanity, and for our planet.

Key Messages

  • Atmospheric and environmental chemistry. The basic understanding that will result from meeting the challenges in this area is absolutely critical for the future of the inhabitants of the earth, human and otherwise.
  • Chemical and physical transformations of matter. The opportunities for detailed understanding of chemical reaction pathways and of the mechanisms of physical transformations represent an exciting challenge for the future that will add to the fundamental science of our field and to its ability to manipulate reactions and processes for practical applications.
  • Chemists and chemical engineers must put much more effort into effective communication with the media, and with students from kindergarten up.
  • Chemists and chemical engineers need to be prepared to work increasingly in multidisciplinary teams, and that this will change the way we educate future chemical scientists.
  • Computation and theory. This area of research has tremendous promise and importance, and that the opportunities should be pursued vigorously.
  • Energy. The practical challenges in dealing with energy needs are enormously important, and that we will need significant new developments in basic science in order to meet those challenges.
  • Isolating, identifying, imaging, and measuring chemical substances and determining their molecular structures. The area of analysis and structure determination presents important and exciting needs and opportunities, challenges such as detecting toxic or explosive materials in the environment, detecting land mines, and making chemical manufacturing processes more efficient and environmentally friendly via real time control.
  • National and personal security. This is an area where the chemical sciences are particularly central and relevant.
  • Profession need to make much more effort to attract women and minorities.
  • Synthesis and process engineering play a central role in our field. Synthesis is the key to creating the substances we study and work with; larger scale chemical processing is the only way most chemical technologies can be developed and realized.
  • The design and manufacture of materials. The opportunities for the invention and production of novel materials with exciting new properties make this one of the areas of greatest opportunity for future research and development.
  • The interface of chemistry with biology and medicine. This area is extremely important in both the opportunities for fundamental discovery and the challenges and opportunities for curing human diseases.
  • more effectively with our fellow citizens, and will need their support so that we can indeed make the contributions that we see as possible.