Specialty/fine chemicals are generally characterized by their innovation. Products are sold for their function rather than for their chemical content.
In chemical technology, a distinction is made between bulk chemicals produced in massive quantities and fine chemicals, which are custom-produced in smaller quantities for special uses. There is a very large number of fine chemicals that are produced, and thus the chemistries of producing them need to be flexible, whereas the atom economy is not as critical as for bulk chemicals. Owing to the small volume and often-changing chemistry, fine chemicals production is more expensive, generates more waste and requires a higher research investment per kilogram. However, fine chemicals are produced in industrial quantities.
Fine chemicals are pure, single chemical substances commercially produced with chemical reactions for highly specialized applications. Fine chemicals produced are categorized into active pharmaceutical ingredients and their intermediates, biocides, and specialty chemicals for technical applications.
Speciality chemicals are produced for technical applications. Inks, performance-enhancing additives, special coatings, and photographic chemicals are common examples. They are generally sold based on differentiated performance characteristics instead of price per mass, the basis upon which fine chemicals are generally sold.