Warren Buffett once told shareholders he was “[embracing] the 21st century by entering such cutting-edge industries as brick, carpet, insulation and paint.” His point: Your most profitable investments don’t have to be sexy, high-tech stocks. One of the most undervalued and promising areas: Specialty chemical manufacturers that turn crude oil and other raw materials into plastics, coatings and water-decontamination additives.

Try to contain your excitement, right? But this niche industry is poised to benefit from some of the next decade’s biggest growth trends, including electric cars, freshwater scarcity and semiconductor chips. Three bargain-priced specialty chemical companies poised for big gains…

DuPont de Nemours (DD). Known as DuPont, this US company produces a variety of specialty materials essential in the fabrication of semiconductor chips for autos and electronic consumer products. DuPont’s electronics division now accounts for more than half of its annual revenues. Recent share price: $67.80.

Eastman Chemical (EMN) manufactures films for car windows that extend battery life by reducing the need for air-conditioning and heating. Recent share price: $80.69.

Ecolab (ECL). By the end of this decade, the cost of freshwater will double. Industries that use water for heating and cooling must increase water-usage efficiency and ­wastewater recovery. Ecolab’s filtration systems and chemicals remove sediment and pollutants from water for industrial uses. Recent share price: $180.40.

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