Chemical Grades 101

Chemical Grades Definitions

Do chemical grades and all those acronyms leave you befuddled? If so, this handy reference guide is for you!

The grades listed here are the most common grades, and are listed in order of highest to lowest purity.

ACS Reagent Grade 

ACS simply stands for American Chemical Society.

The Society was founded in 1876, with a mission to advance chemistry and it’s benefits to mankind.

Several years after the founding of the Society, a need for purity specifications in chemicals became more and more apparent. A committee was formed, now known as the ACS Committee on Analytical Reagents, to create these specifications. Their publication, ACS Reagent Chemicals, is now the only universally accepted standard for high purity chemicals.

In order for manufacturers to label their chemicals ‘ACS Reagent Grade’, the chemical must:

a) have an exactly matching monograph in the ACS Reagent Chemicals guide.

b) meet or exceed ALL of the purity specifications listed.

Reagent Grade

Similar to ACS Reagent Grade, Reagent Grade chemicals are also of the highest purity.

Chemicals are labeled as simply ‘Reagent Grade’, instead of ‘ACS Reagent Grade’, for a variety of reasons.

The chemical may not have an exactly matching monograph in the ACS Reagent Chemicals publication. Or, if even a single specification is off, the chemical cannot be labeled ACS Reagent Grade.

Some high purity applications may require some, but not all, of the ACS specifications. In these cases, Reagent Grade chemicals may be used.

USP / NF / FCC (United States Pharmacopeia / National Formulary / Food Chemicals Codex) 

A Pharmacopeia is, by definition, a book that contains formulas for drug preparation.

The first United States Pharmacopeia was published in 1820 by a group of physicians concerned about the quality of medicines being produced at that time. In more recent years, the USP has acquired two similar publications, the National Formulary (NF) and the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC). To this day, USP standards are created by volunteer experts.

The USP-NF contains thousands of monographs detailing purity specifications for food and drug ingredients. Chemicals may be labeled USP if they meet or exceed the standards.

Lab Grade

Lab Grade chemicals are of relatively high quality. Since exact levels of impurities aren’t known, they are most often used in less critical applications, such as educational applications.

Purified Grade

Purified Grade chemicals are not held to any standard, but the term generally means that it is a good quality chemical. Since they do contain impurities, they should be used in less critical applications.

Technical / Industrial Grade

Technical or Industrial Grade chemicals are of good quality, but do contain impurities. The primary use for Technical and Industrial Grade chemicals is in bulk in commercial and industrial applications.

Still unsure about which chemical grade is right for your application? Reach out to a CORECHEM sales representative today!