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Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog

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Contributed by Dr. Chuck Spuches, Associate Professor for Outreach, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry


The Central New York Section of the American Chemical Society, partnered with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), and RadTech International North America to host renowned chemist and lecturer, Dr. Stephen Cantor.  Dr. Cantor presented and led discussion April 9th on “UV Curing Technology:  A Route to Solvent-Free Adhesives and Coatings”.  Participants from throughout central New York gathered on the SUNY-ESF campus as Dr. Cantor’s presentation was simulcast as a live webinar with participants nationally and internationally. This webinar was part of an ongoing series, the Future of UV/EB Advanced Manufacturing: Trends, Strategies, and Applications.



Photo (L-R):  Dan Montoney, Chief Technology Officer, Rapid Cure Technologies; Dr. Neal M. Abrams, Past chair, CNY Section of ACS, Department of Chemistry, SUNY-ESF; Dr. Stephen Cantor; Dr. Jeff Schneider, Chair, CNY Section of ACS, Department of Chemistry, SUNY Oswego.



Dr. Cantor’s presentation and experience are emblematic of an industry-academic collaboration launched recently by SUNY-ESF and RadTech to support and advance the growing field of low-energy radiation curing. Stephen Cantor, who earned a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and was a Post-doc at Arizona State University, holds numerous patents resulting from a distinguished career researching and developing high temperature fibers and coatings. Dr. Cantor worked at the U.S. Rubber Research Center, American Cyanamid Medical Products Division, Pfaltz & Bauer, and Dymax Corp, where he continues as a consultant.


This recent lecture/webinar, the Future of UV/EB webinar series, and a three-course suite of online courses designed and taught collaboratively by industry experts and university faculty comprise the Radiation Curing Program.


The Radiation Curing Program recently announced the launch of a new short-course, “Principles of Energy Curing Technologies”, that fills a gap by serving key roles and aspects of the energy/radiation curing arena. These include, for example, people working in sales, customer service, marketing and business management,  R&D, and regulatory agencies.  Principles of Energy Curing Technologies is offered as a cost-effective and convenient online course to accommodate workplace and other demands. Participants will have four weeks to complete 10-15 total hours of self-paced instruction, and have opportunity to interact with course instructors. Taught by a team of industry experts with considerable experience in the field, active participation provides participants with a broad overview of energy curing science, materials, equipment, and processes.


Professionals, upper-level undergraduates, and graduate students may learn more about Summer 2014 Principles of Energy Curing Technologies and other Radiation Curing Program short course opportunities at www.esf.edu/outreach/radcuring or contact Kate Wall, Program Manager 315.470.4871 (direct)  l  315.470.6817 (main)  l  kwall@esf.edu



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

On the less glamorous side of space exploration, there’s the more practical problem of waste — in particular, what to do with astronaut pee. But rather than ejecting it into space, scientists are developing a new technique that can turn this waste burden into a boon by converting it into fuel and much-needed drinking water. Their report, which could also inspire new ways to treat municipal wastewater, appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.


space.jpgEduardo Nicolau, Carlos R. Cabrera and colleagues point out that human waste on long-term journeys into space makes up about half of the mission’s total waste. Recycling it is critical to keeping a clean environment for astronauts. And when onboard water supplies run low, treated urine can become a source of essential drinking water, which would otherwise have to be delivered from Earth at a tremendous cost. Previous research has shown that a wastewater treatment process called forward osmosis in combination with a fuel cell can generate power. Nicolau’s team decided to build on these initial findings to meet the challenges of dealing with urine in space.


They collected urine and shower wastewater and processed it using forward osmosis, a way to filter contaminants from urea, a major component of urine, and water. Their new Urea Bioreactor Electrochemical system (UBE) efficiently converted the urea into ammonia in its bioreactor, and then turned the ammonia into energy with its fuel cell. The system was designed with space missions in mind, but “the results showed that the UBE system could be used in any wastewater treatment systems containing urea and/or ammonia,” the researchers conclude.


The authors acknowledge funding from NASA.


From the ACS Office of Public Affairs



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

At the ACS National Meeting in Dallas, I had a chance to interview several representatives of ACS Student Chapters who were leading green chemistry educational activities at their institutions. Together with my colleague Doug Dollemore and the ACS Ambassadors program, we put together this video which highlights some of the student outreach efforts to get kids involved in sustainability and chemistry. (Also available at: http://youtu.be/WKablXLSaJs ).



Many of these students and their institutions also presented their efforts during the Sci-Mix undergraduate poster session at Dallas. Bellow is the creative tree-themed poster from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in Ponce's ACS Student Chapter.

Poster- Green Chemistry.jpg


In fact, there were many more students that I didn’t get a chance to interview on video who are working with their peers to highlight green chemistry this Earth Day/Week:


"We will celebrate the 2014 Earth Week with a whole week of activities," says Jose Mercado Adrover, the leader of the ACS Student Chapter's Green Chemistry program at Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Their activities will include watching and discussing environmental documentaries, doing demonstrations using the Climate Science Toolkit, informing students and public on green chemistry and the water crisis, participating in a community activity planting medicinal trees, and participating in "Festival de la Química" Earth Week Edition in the National Historic Old San Juan.


"On Earth Day we will again have a campus wide green chemistry seminar," says Ronnie Funk from the Erskine College's ACS Student Chapter. In their last—and first—green chemistry seminar, 89 students attended. This time they will focus for the "non-scientist". In addition, Mr. Funk mentions that the are developing a hands-on green chemistry presentation for a non-major general chemistry class, as well as putting up a poster on green chemistry for display in the department hallway.


Congratulations to all these chapters—some of the 74 total who received the Green Chemistry Award for their outreach efforts in the 2012-3013 academic year!



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

At this year’s Spring ACS National Meeting in Dallas, TX, Callie Bryan, PhD, a medicinal chemist at Genentech Inc. and ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable participant, organized a “Greening the Medicinal Chemistry Toolbox: Lunch and Learn” through the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry. The goal of the event was to inject some momentum into the conversation on how to implement green chemistry in industrial and academic research. This forum allowed for just that. leading to discussions on best practices and challenges that are relevant to both industry professionals and students/professors.


Bryan recruited speakers through the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable. Professor Neil Garg of UCLA kicked off the event by speaking about his research on the development of greener nickel-catalyzed cross-couplings, which was funded through a Roundtable grant. This was followed by brief presentations from Roundtable company members and ACS GCI Director, Dr. David Constable, on specific topics that pertain to medicinal chemistry. Dr. Helen Sneddon of GlaxoSmithKline discussed green reagent guidance in companies, and how to encourage culture change through guides and databases. Dr. Daniel Richter of Pfizer presented on the adoption of greener solvents and solvent reduction in medicinal chemistry practices. Dr. Stefan Koenig of Genentech gave an overview of basic green chemistry research in pharmaceuticals development. Constable rounded out the talks with a summary of greener chromatography approaches.


Pharma Lunch & Learn.jpg(L to R) Neil Garg, David Constable, Dan Richter, Helen Sneddon, and Stefan Koenig at the Lunch & Learn.


The presentations were followed by an hour of question and answer with the audience of industry and academic chemists. The take-aways were numerous—the main one being that everyone has challenges, but there are low-lying fruit and approaches that can help scientists. According to Bryan the low-lying fruit can be something like switching commonly used solvents—for example a common greener choice is THF to 2-MeTHF (which can be bio-derived). What’s currently more difficult is switching away from solvents like DCM (a high toxicity solvent often used in chromotagraphy) and techniques like silica gel chromatography (which requires large amounts of gel, solvents, and glass use). Another huge challenge is trying to move away from critical elements like platinum and ruthenium (both used in common catalysts), which are increasingly expensive as supply shortens.


There were many graduate students in attendance, wondering how to green their research, and industry professionals inquiring how to gain traction for green initiatives. “If we can provide bite-size guidance, scientists will have a much easier time employing and getting buy-in for greener practices. For industry professionals, encouraging upper management engagement will be key,” Bryan explained. The guidance Bryan mentions was heavily discussed at the symposium. One important factor will be approaches for collecting and distributing successful practices and tools that can lay the groundwork for others. More specifically, Richter and Sneddon described their solvent systems at their respective companies, in addition to the Roundtable’s Solvent Selection Guide. Tools like these are important frameworks for chemists to access and use to improve the safety and efficiency of their reactions. Resources like an upcoming sustainable chromatography manuscript and opportunities like the recent (and currently open) Greener Amide Reductions $50K Grant are other ways the Roundtable is informing and encouraging green engagement.


“The feedback from the event was very positive! There were many inquiries for solvent guides and a lot of research-specific information dissemination,” Bryan said.


To learn more about the topics discussed in the lunch and learn, and if you have any questions, email gci@acs.org. The upcoming ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in greater Washington, DC area and sustainability-themed 248th ACS National Meeting in San Francisco will be important venues for scientists to convene, continue the discussion, and create new directions for research and implementation. Follow the links to register today!



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

The Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship is awarded to undergraduate through early career scientists who demonstrate outstanding research or educational interest in green chemistry. Breen Fellows receive financial support to participate in an international green chemistry technical meeting, conference or training program. The 2014 winner is Dr. Jennifer Dodson from the United Kingdom.


JennyDodson.jpgJennifer Dodson did her PhD work under Prof. James Clark at the Green Chemistry Centre at the University of York in the UK on the thermochemical conversion of biomass. While there, she became interested in the how to recover and recycle valuable elements with a mesoporus material she developed directly from fresh seaweed.


Then in 2012, she began a post-doc study with Prof. Claudio Mota from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in Brazil. “During her period in my group,” said Dr. Mota, “[Jennifer] did very good work, combining her experience and skills in hydrothermal carbonisation of biomass, with the group’s capability in catalysis, especially related to biomass conversion.”


JennyDodsonWheatField.jpgIn addition to her research interests, Jennifer, or “Jennie” as she goes by, is a strong advocate for communicating science to the public. She has done outreach to hundreds of school children in both the UK and Brazil, and is developing a green chemistry community outreach strategy for UFRJ’s Green Chemistry School. “Jennie is a very dedicated person and was instrumental in setting up our outreach activities in Green Chemistry,” says Dr. Peter Siedl, Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in the Department of Organic Processes. “She is highly deserving of our recognition and gratitude.”

Jennie has also gained an understanding of science policy communication during a 2011 fellowship at the House of Parliament in the UK where she conducted briefings on sustainable technologies. As a past participant in the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy, she is developing an international early-career network for scientists and engineers.


“Jennie Dodson is one of the most able and motivated young researchers I have had the privilege of working with in my career,” says Prof. Clark.  “She is a very talented research chemist with a wide knowledge and understanding of green chemistry and a real desire to see the principles of sustainability applied in all walks of life.  She is a very fitting winner of this Fellowship that honours the man who started the green chemistry movement in the United States.”


Jennie will be using her Breen Fellowship to travel ACS GCI’s 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference and Student Workshop this June where she will be presenting a poser on her research, “Novel natural solid-acid catalysts from carrageenan for the upgrading of glycerol”, as well as an oral presentation in the Education track, “Network of Early-Career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers (NESSE): an initiative from the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy 2013.” We are thrilled to have her participation!


Dr. Joe Breen was an US EPA chemist and manager who played a major role in creating the EPA’s Green Chemistry and the Design for the Environment program. He went on to collaborate with colleagues in government, industry, and academia to found the Green Chemistry Institute—which later became part of the American Chemical Society—and is now known as ACS Green Chemistry Institute®.


“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

AppliedSeparations_logo.jpgAt ACS GCI’s 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, Applied Separations will award the 4th Annual Supercritical Fluids Education Grant, worth over $30K, to an institute of higher learning to support education in supercritical fluids and their importance to green chemistry.


Applied Separations Unit.jpgBy using Applied Separations' Supercritical Fluid Extraction system, the Spe-ed SFE Prime, a system designed for teaching supercritical fluids in the classroom, professors will be able to educate their students about this green technology and its applications in foods and natural products where solvents can't be used, as well as nanotechnology, materials science and so much more.


Students can be shown how to easily replace petroleum-based or halogenated solvents with supercritical carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the most commonly used supercritical fluids because it is green, safe, inexpensive, readily available and an ideal substitute for many hazardous and toxic solvents. Supercritical fluids are already being used in many industrial processes such as decaffeinating coffee, and countless ways to use apply this technology are being employed every day.


Click here to apply for the grant or to learn more about Applied Separations and its advancements with Supercritical Fluids. You can also call (610) 770-0900.


Award Cropped sm.jpg

Rolf Schlake, CEO Applied Separations gives grant at the 2013 GC&E Conference.

Photo Credit: Christine Brennan-Schmidt


“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

I missed writing something for the Nexus last month and over the period of time since I last wrote there have been a number of significant events I’d like to tell you about.


On the 11th of March I had the opportunity to take part in a gathering at the NASA headquarters here in Washington as part of the LAUNCH initiative.  LAUNCH is a collaboration between NASA, the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and Nike that tries to stimulate pivotal innovations in materials.  This year the LAUNCH organizers have decided to focus on a Green Chemistry challenge and that’s an exciting thing. A few new faces were in attendance, but for the most part, the usual suspects from the green chemistry community were sitting at the table.  It was an interesting day and I’m looking forward to seeing how the challenge shapes up.


On the 12th of March the Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference Program Chairs met with the ACS GCI staff to finalize the technical program for the conference. The conference is shaping up to be quite an event and we continue to work very hard to ensure that participants will not be disappointed. The program organizers have been working to maintain thematic coherence and continue to work with session chairs to ensure there will be a high degree of “connectedness” between sessions despite the usual diversity in content. I think you will see a difference in this years’ Conference that we hope to carry forward to future conferences.


The ACS National Meeting in Dallas the week of March the 16th turned out to be a great meeting.  There continues to be a considerable amount of technical programming across many divisions related to sustainable and green chemistry.  Like many areas of chemical research (e.g., nanotechnology, materials research, biochemistry) that are cross- or interdisciplinary, green and sustainable chemistry thinking and practices are being integrated in one way or another into research so it’s hard to decide where to listen in.  This is a very good problem to have.  Dallas was also where the ACS GCI launched its’ “What’s your Green Chemistry?” campaign.  Simply stated, this campaign is trying to capture all the ways people are applying sustainable and green chemistry in what they are doing.  It’s clear that a lot is happening throughout the world in green and sustainable chemistry and it is difficult at times to keep up with all that is happening!


In late March I had the opportunity to attend the Spring meeting of the Pharmaceutical Roundtable (ACS GCIPR) in Vitry, France hosted by Sanofi-Aventis. The ACS GCIPR continues to thrive and is a model for industrial collaboration and partnership. There are now about ten sub-committees within the roundtable working on implementing sustainable and green chemistry like solvent selection, reagent guides, biopharma best practices, grants, medicinal chemistry, etc., and more are being explored. Thinking back on where this group started in 2005 and where it is now is very gratifying and in many ways, pretty amazing. It is certainly our ambition to get all of the ACS GCI roundtables to this point.


This past week I had the great honor to be invited to Gordon College to speak. Gordon is a small school with a large green chemistry footprint. There are actually a significant number of schools, colleges and universities in New England, both small and large, that have been very active in teaching and promoting green chemistry. It certainly helps to have organizations like Beyond Benign, the Warner Babcock Institute, the Yale Green Chemistry and Engineering Institute and EPA Region I working very actively in the region, but many schools are equally active and influential in their own right. Once again, it is quite exciting to see just how many people are integrating green and sustainable chemistry into their education, their research, and into their communities. Green and sustainable chemistry is alive and well!


As always, let me know what you think.




“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

According to the UN Environment Programme, switching to energy efficient lighting could be one of the most significant short-term initiatives to counter climate change1. In addition, it would save everyone a lot of money. In the US alone, the switch to energy efficient lighting could save $19.8 billion dollars annually, reduce electrical consumption for lighting by 36.6%, and reduce CO2 emissions by 111.8 million tons per year.


One of the best energy efficient lighting technologies on the market is the Light Emitting Diode, commonly known as LED lamps. LEDs outshines their closest competitor, the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), on longevity and brightness. They are also more environmentally friendly than the CFLs since they do not contain mercury, which has become a landfill and recycling problem. The one drawback of LEDs is that they emit a harsh light that is unpleasant to the eye. This is where Seth Coe-Sullivan's company, QD Vision, comes in.


Seth Coe-Sullivan, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in June, is an engineer, nanotech entrepreneur, and proponent of green chemistry. After receiving his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at MIT, Coe-Sullivan founded a company with four colleagues based on his research into the properties of quantum dots. In his words, "Quantum dots (QDs) are a new class of materials designed on the nanoscale, where we use quantum mechanics to change the color of the material without changing the chemical composition of the material." Today QDs are used in Sony LCD televisions, which help Sony deliver superior color quality and have a beneficial environmental impact. "We can deliver light where the human eye wants it more efficiently than any other material, and so TVs with high color quality can consume less power, and hence reduce the net environmental carbon, heavy metals, and electricity consumption of TVs, which are otherwise consuming more and more of the typical home's power budget," says Coe-Sullivan.


In the future, this technology could be used to modify the light of LED light bulbs too, to make these environmental champions pleasing to the eye. Here is how it works:



Coe-Sullivan is a strong proponent of nanotechnology's potential for positive impact on the environment through innovation. He sees an opportunity in the emergence of nanomaterials to "become a living case study" showing us "that our society doesn't have to wait for an environmental disaster to begin a science-based regulatory process that enables us to benefit from new materials without having the sometimes associated negative impacts." Others share this proactive view, and have identified the need for research into the unique nature of nanomaterials to inform policies, procedures, and the development of greener nanotechnology. At QD Vision, Coe-Sullivan established a strong Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) policy which  led to a focus on greening the product.


"My interest in the EH&S impacts of nanotech stem from the first time my company was hiring people not otherwise involved in the field.  In putting them in the lab developing these materials, we had to be sure that we weren't putting them into harm's way. From occupational safety, it was a natural continuum to start looking at the product safety and environmental safety aspects of our materials and products, so that we could develop them in a responsible manner and design safer products. The green chemistry actions were an even easier fit, where making our chemistry green also meant making our costs lower and our material efficiencies higher. We had a green chemistry program before any of us knew to use the words."


QD Vision is now nine years old and Coe-Sullivan is confident in the company’s progress: "QD Vision has launched Color IQ, a line of optical component products that are currently in TVs, and are being designed into displays of all types from 17" and up. The big opportunity for QDs in displays is to transition from a high-end feature into the mainstream of the market, from TVs to tablets." Indeed, this is a big market. According to Global Industry Analysts, the market for flat panel displays is expected to reach $110 billion by 2017. We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Coe-Sullivan at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, June 17-19, 2914 in the Washington DC area. Find out more at http://www.gcande.org.


1United Nations Environment Programme (2012). Achieving the global transition to energy efficient lighting toolkit. Accessed March 24, 2014: http://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/publication/Complete%20Enlighte nToolkit_1.pdf



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

A waste product from making paper could yield a safer, greener alternative to the potentially harmful chemical BPA, now banned from baby bottles but still used in many plastics. Scientists made the BPA alternative from lignin, the compound that gives wood its strength, and they say it could be ready for the market within five years.


They described the research here today in one of the more than 10,000 presentations at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, taking place here through Thursday.


"Approximately 3.5 million tons of BPA are produced annually worldwide," said Kaleigh Reno, a graduate student who presented the report. BPA is the component that gives shatter-proof plastic eyewear and sports equipment their strength.  Additionally, BPA is used in high-performance glues, in the lining of cans and in receipt paper, she explained. The downside is that bisphenol-A, as it’s called, can mimic the hormone estrogen, potentially affecting the body and brain. Some experts have suggested that it’s unsafe for young children and pregnant women to consume.


To find a safer, more environmentally friendly alternative, Reno and her advisor, Richard Wool, Ph.D., who are at the University of Delaware, turned to lignin. They note that papermaking and other wood-pulping processes produce 70 million tons of lignin byproduct each year, 98 percent of which is incinerated to generate small amounts of energy.


Reno has developed a process that instead converts lignin fragments into a compound called bisguaiacol-F (BGF), which has a similar shape to BPA. She and Wool predict it will act like BPA, as well. "We expect to show that BGF has BPA-like properties within a year," said Wool, with a product ready for the market two to five years later.


Reno is confident that BGF will be a safe stand-in for BPA. "We know the molecular structure of BPA plays a large role in disrupting our natural hormones, specifically estrogen," she said. "We used this knowledge in designing BGF such that it is incapable of interfering with hormones but retains the desirable thermal and mechanical properties of BPA." The researchers also used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency software to evaluate the molecule, determining it should be less toxic than BPA.


And because BGF is made from an existing waste product, Reno believes it will be a viable alternative economically and environmentally. BPA is manufactured from compounds found in oil, a fossil fuel, while BGF’s feedstock, lignin, comes from trees, a renewable resource.


The researchers chose BGF based on their unique "Twinkling Fractal Theory," which Wool explains can predict mechanical and thermal properties. "This approach considerably simplifies the design of new biobased materials since we can predetermine properties and screen for toxicity for a broad range of potential compounds from renewable resources such as lignin and plant oils," he says.


The researchers acknowledge funding from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory via a DoD-SERDP grant.


This research was presented at the Spring American Chemical Society National Meeting in Dallas, Texas, March 16, 2014.


From the ACS Office of Public Affairs



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Contributed by Dr. Masha Petrova, MVP Consulting Solutions, LLC


What exactly is a "Biopolymer"? Is your definition of this term the same as that of your colleague down the hall? "Biopolymer" is a relatively new term currently used to describe everything from biodegradable plastic bottles, to bags made out of corn, to biocompatible parts used in knee replacement surgeries, to proteins.


As the marketing trend for all things “green” continues to climb, it seems that everything but the kitchen sink gets thrown into the “biopolymers” bucket. To further complicate things, biopolymer products span a variety of seemingly unrelated industries, such as commodities (e.g. packaging, containers and additives), medical applications (e.g. drug casings and prosthetics) and food applications (sugar and starch are in fact biopolymers).


So what is the “correct” definition of a biopolymer?  Wikipedia will have you believe that a biopolymer is a type of polymer produced by living organisms, in other words a macromolecule produced in nature. While that statement is technically correct, this is only a part of the definition. According to Dr. Pat Smith, a Sci-MindTM expert and a research scientist at the Michigan Molecular Institute, some describe biopolymers not only as materials of a "green birth" but polymers with a "green death" as well. In addition to the bio-derived definition, a polymer is considered to be a "biopolymer" if it is said to be biodegradable according to international standards on biodegradability (which, by the way, are also ever-changing). This means that a biodegradable polymer material created solely from fossil fuel feedstocks may, in fact, be described as a "biopolymer".


Which means that a bottle made 100% from corn starch but that happens not to be biodegradable (and might sit in a landfill for decades) and a bottle that is made from fossil fuel feedstock but biodegrades under similar conditions - are both "biopolymer" products. So which biopolymer side is "greener"?


Dr. Smith has seen his share of biopolymer companies emerge, merge, and disappear. He was involved in the Cargill Dow joint venture that launched NatureWorksTM poly(lactic acid) and in the Metabolix joint venture with Archer Daniels Midland which attempted to commercialize polyhydroxyalkanoates. Dr. Smith has a message for the biopolymer industry: "Stop wasting money trying to create novel commodity polymers from bio-sources, but instead, focus on synthesizing traditional and well-established polymer materials from bio-based monomers."


According to Dr. Smith, developing the market for new polymer materials is significantly more difficult than inventing the technology to produce them. Monomers for conventional polymers like poly(ethylene), poly(acrylic acid) and poly(ethyleneterephthalate) can be derived from bio-sources and already have a commercial outlet. They simply need to meet price and purity metrics to succeed. This latter strategy is well defined and is faster to the market.


In contrast, Dr. Richard Gross, a Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Sci-MindTM expert, believes that both routes are potentially viable and have their own challenges. For example, developing conventional monomers from biobased feedstock has been slower than anticipated due to the challenge of competing strictly on cost at equivalent performance. Dr. Gross believes there is plenty of room for new innovations by using the functionality inherent in biobased feedstock to develop new materials.


While the commodities industry might be concerned with high yields and low cost-per-unit, the situation could not be more different for the medical industry research. Professor Sujata Bhatia, the assistant director for undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering at Harvard and a Sci-MindTM expert, works with students to develop naturally-derived biopolymers for medical applications in wound healing, drug delivery, and tissue regeneration.


Dr. Bhatia says that for biomedical applications, where many materials are custom-tailored for a handful of patients, the cost-per-unit is not much of a concern. However, the biocompatibility and specialized properties of a particular material certainly are.


Not only do biopolymers have such varying roles in different industries, but with evolving globalization of economy and research, paying attention to how biomaterials are positioned around the world is becoming more relevant.


Dr. Bhatia's advice to professionals working in the medical field concerns globalization issues: "We need to recognize that countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have something unique to contribute to biomedical materials. Because these countries have diverse and abundant agricultural materials, they can develop biopolymers and participate in the biomedical revolution in ways that were not previously possible."


No matter in what line of work you might come in contact with biopolymers, one thing always remains constant– the importance of solid knowledge of fundamental science. Dr. Tim Long, a professor of Polymer Chemistry at Virginia Tech and a Sci-MindTM expert, knows the significance of understanding the basics. His work involves integrating fundamental research in novel macromolecular structure and polymerization processes for development of high performance macromolecules. According to Prof. Long, a good knowledge of fundamental science is essential for anyone interested in bio-derived, biocompatible or biodegradable polymers.


For those working in biopolymers, that knowledge becomes even more diverse for the "bio" counterparts of the polymer molecules. According Dr. Gross, aside from the basics of polymers science, one must be familiar with biochemical processes, such as fermentation and bio-catalysis. Dr. Gross is currently working on routes to monomer and biopolymers using cell-free and whole-cell biocatalysts. He also is an avid proponent of combining chemical and biocatalytic steps in biopolymer process development.


"The synthesis of biopolymers via biocatalytic routes requires an understanding of how cells are engineered to produce different chemicals, the properties of enzymes that are important catalysts for cell-free processes, and an understanding of fundamental principles in cell biology and biochemistry. It's critical that scientists interested in biopolymers learn the language of biocatalysis since biocatalytic processes are fundamentally important to many developments in the general area of biopolymers," says Dr. Gross.


The rapidly growing field of biopolymers is indeed exciting and diverse. In order to assure that researchers and industry professionals can stay up-to-date on the latest research trends, science fundamentals, regulations, and real-world case studies in order to be able to answer questions like those presented above, the American Chemical Society has created Sci-MindTM Biopolymers – a community based, online learning curriculum for industry professionals. This article highlights the knowledge of just a few of the experts involved in ACS Sci-MindTM Biopolymers program launching on April 7th.


Can't get enough of Biopolymers? Sign-up for the next cohort launching April 7th here:





“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

As part of this year’s Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is holding the only business plan competition exclusively devoted to green and sustainable chemistry and engineering.


Early stage, pre-revenue companies who are reimagining chemistry and innovating for a sustainable future, are encouraged to apply with a short Executive Summary of their green business idea. The judges will be looking for possible solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges like our dependence on critical elements in chemical processes, transforming renewable or waste feedstocks into valuable chemicals, reducing hazardous chemical inputs in products and processes, and minimizing energy use and emissions.


Participants will gain the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship throughout the entire competition, which is being led by an expert organizing committee:

  • Dr. Dan Daly—Director of Alabama Innovation & Mentoring of Entrepreneurs Center
  • Dr. Michael Lefenfeld—President & CTO of SiGNa Chemistry, Inc.
  • Dr. Rui Resendes—Executive Director of Green Centre Canada


Semi-finalists who are accepted to compete, will develop a full business plan with help from a free subscription to Business Plan Pro and a How-To Webinar led by Dr. Dan Daly. In addition to the chance to win tens of thousands of dollars in prize money, the competition provides access to intellectual property law experts, and early stage investors who are involved in green and sustainable chemistry.


Don’t miss this opportunity to receive business plan training and high-end constructive comments, and to make valuable business connections. And of course, win BIG money.


Applications are due April 25, 2014 5:00 p.m. EDT (GMT -4)



All semi-finalists are expected to submit a full business plan for Round Two judging, which will take place on-site at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in the Washington, DC area on June 18, 2014.


The 2012 competition, sponsored by Preferred Sands, Cabot, Stream, K & L Gates, and SiGNa Chemistry Inc., awarded Sue Wang with Ancatt Inc. a $40,000 cash prize for their business plan ‘The Next Generation of Anti-Corrosion Coating Technologies’. AnCatt Inc. discovered and is developing a unique environmentally compatible high performance anti-corrosion coating platform technology utilizing novel conductive polymer nanodispersion (CPND) as anti-corrosion pigments instead of traditional toxic heavy-metal pigments such as chromate, lead, cadmium.  SafeLiCell, represented by University of Maryland undergraduate Mian Khalid, was presented with a $10,000 cash prize for their plan Safe and Powerful Battery Solutions. SafeLiCell has developed a novel, patent-pending battery electrolyte material, called Lithium Flex, that provides for a lighter, safer, and flexible lithium based energy source.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Concern for our planet and its well being is forcing us to think about greener, more sustainable processes to make the things we need and want, such as new technologies, fuels and drugs.


During the 1990s many industries began to earnestly adopt green chemistry and other sustainable practices. Forward-looking companies realized that the practice of green chemistry not only leads to environmental benefits, but also economic and social benefits.


Today, many strides continue to be made not only by companies, but by researchers and academics, whom are incorporating more green practices in their labs and academic curriculums in an effort to inspire the next generation of individuals entering the chemical marketplace.


Indeed, there is much going on in raising important awareness of green practices throughout academic labs, research centers and corporations alike. These are the stories we want to hear about.


Right now, ACS GCI is at ACS’ spring 2014 National Meeting and Expo, March 16-20, 2014, in Dallas, Texas. We are hosting a bulletin board at its booth #1323 (next to the main ACS booth) to engage attendees in sharing their green practice stories.


Our mission is simple: we believe that innovation in sustainable and green chemistry and engineering (GC&E) is vital to solving many environmental and human health issues. We want to catalyze and enable the implementation of GC&E throughout the global chemical enterprise. We focus on three strategic areas, 1) Advancing scientific research and innovation for sustainability, 2) Advocating progress in education and communicating the science of green chemistry, and 3) Accelerating the industrial adoption of GC&E. Through our Industrial Roundtables, annual GC&E conference (gcande.org), and educational resources, ACS GCI empowers the sector to reimagine a sustainable future.


In an effort to further spotlight our core mission, our “What’s Your Green Chemistry?”TM campaign is designed to showcase the diverse work and practices being adopted across our sector, so we can further raise public awareness on the importance of adopting green practices. We want to engage a larger audience and we need your help to make that happen.


We invite you to come and share your stories with us, describing how you are incorporating green practices in your labs and why you think it is important. At our booth, you will have the opportunity to write out a short paragraph that showcases your most “green” practice. We will post it on our bulletin board and promote it through our Twitter handle and other communication platforms. It is our goal that the stories shared not only reinforce the importance of adopting sound green practices, but also inspire others to follow suit.


So stop by our booth 1323, share your stories and be eligible to win a chemistry textbook! Follow us on Twitter and keep an eye out for the campaign conversation occurring with #mygreenchem.


We look forward to seeing you next week!


ACS GCI booth 1323
Dallas Convention Center
Sunday: 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Monday and Tuesday: 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Twitter: @ACSGCI
#mygreenchem, #ACSDallas



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Demand is high for metals, which are being extracted at increasing rates and can have poor end-of-life recycling rates. We depend on these critical elements every day but rarely do we realize what is required to get them from the mine to chemical company to customer to landfill, and how this impacts our planet and society. In order to depict the life cycle and effects of these critical elements, we are seeking stunning and thought provoking images.


How do we use on these metals? And what are the impacts?

What does a gold mine look like? From space?

Where does e-waste end up?

Who are the miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

How do the impacts differ between abundant and precious metals?

What does a biocatalyst look like? What are other green chemistry solutions?


Send us your high-resolution image(s) for consideration. In addition to being displayed at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Washington, DC June 18-20, these images will be on display at our first-ever Science & Society event, “Endangered Elements,”  at the ACS national headquarters in Washington, DC on Monday, June 16, 2014.


Submit all photos to gci@acs.org with “Call for Photos” in the subject line by April 30, 2014. Please name your photo files by First and Last Name, Appellation, Photo Title (i.e., Jane Smith, Company/Org, Title.jpg). Files should be saved as jpegs.


Please note that by submitting these materials, you are representing that you hold all original copyrights to the materials submitted or that you have obtained written permission from the copyright owner to submit these materials; (ii) representing that the materials submitted do not infringe on the copyrights, trademarks, moral rights, rights of privacy/publicity, or other intellectual property or proprietary rights of any third party; (iii) granting the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) and its media partners a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, transferable, royalty free right and license to copy, reproduce, perform, display, prepare derivative works from, and distribute publicly all of your submitted materials in both print and digital format and in any other media format (now known or hereafter invented) for any purpose whatsoever; and (iv) agreeing to indemnify and hold ACS GCI and its officers, directors, and employees harmless from and against any losses, liabilities,  claims, damages and expenses (including reasonable attorney fees and expenses) that ACS GCI  incurs by reason of or arising out of a breach of any of your representations, ACS GCI's use of  your submitted materials and/or your license grant.  ACS GCI will accept digital images only.  Submission does not guarantee use/placement, and ACS GCI reserves the right to discontinue use of your submitted materials at any time.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

I've started reading a book called “Countdown” with the subtitle “Our last, best hope for a future on earth?” by Alan Weisman. It is a sequel to Weisman's book “The World Without Us,” where the “Us” is people. Where “The World Without Us” describes how earth would rebound without humans, “Countdown” is the story about the inexorable increase in human population and the many effects that population doubling brings to the world. I think anyone who reads “Countdown” is likely to walk away with a range of emotions that range from disbelief to depression.


Some wouldn't even read the book because it is outside their area of interest and they have no reason to care about it.


Others who read the book will resist the central tenets of the book and will point out a myriad of ways in which technology will find a solution or they think the problem is not really a problem. Years ago I learned that this particular way of viewing things was termed “naïve technological optimism.” I would argue that a large number of people in the science and engineering community fall into this camp.  I have heard things like “Science will triumph and all we need is a little more money for research.” I can only wish that this group of individuals could travel (in the most sustainable fashion possible) to any developing nation, and many large cities in developed nations, to witness firsthand what the author is describing and live as the locals do. That might temper their optimism a bit.


Another group of people are likely to be depressed by what they read as the book chronicles population growth, the state of the environment, our struggle to feed ourselves, and our fight over potable water, among other topics. They will feel impotent and disaffected, unsure that they can do anything that would make a difference and unwilling to try. They would say “What’s the point? I’m just one person, and I can’t change the world.” I can empathize with the depression, but I would argue that change happens with one person at a time making different choices. Personal actions do matter.


Still others would likely say that these are symptoms of political and economic mismanagement and all we need do is find the right political and economic systems to address these problems. It’s not science that will find an answer, there’s more than enough space on the earth to expand into, and we just need to do a better job at distributing resources.  While there are some things in this point of view that are true, I would argue that this group does not have a good understanding of thermodynamics, the limits of sustainability, and the simple mathematics of population doubling.


So what does all this have to do with sustainable and green chemistry?  In my mind, the kinds of emotional reactions I have outlined above are very similar to reactions and conversations I've had with many people over the years about sustainable and green chemistry.  People have a range of emotional reactions to it and I have found it very difficult to move them off their initial reaction.


So you know where I stand, I think chemistry and chemical engineering are absolutely fundamental to life as we know it.  That means life as it is now, with all its opportunities and looming problems as it is chronicled in a book like “Countdown.”  Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, I’d like to encourage you to always be thinking about how you can do the chemistry and engineering you do in a more sustainable and green way.  There really is no reason for you not to do so, and every reason for you to do so.  I just think we are rapidly running out of time to say that it’s optional.  You may not agree, but what do you have to lose?  You might just gain a better world for our children’s, children’s, children…..of all species.


As always, let me know what you think.




“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Growing, processing, and dyeing fabric is a huge global industry (over $70 billion in the U.S. alone)—and one with a significant environmental footprint. Most people don’t know much about the how our clothes—made of all kinds of materials and colored with all shades of color—are produced. Dyeing cotton, for example, is an expensive, time consuming process which generally requires large amounts of salt, alkali, water and energy. The waste water from dyeing is highly polluted with salt and excess dye, both of which are difficult to remove from the effluent. In addition, most dyes and many fabrics are derived from petroleum-based sources and are not easily recyclable. In essence, fabric, something that touches us all (no pun intended) is ripe for the kind of innovation that green chemistry and engineering drives.


One of the pioneers in this effort is Dr. Richard Blackburn, who heads up the Advanced Textiles Programme at University of Leeds. His research interests cover natural dye extraction, sustainable dyeing processes, and sustainable fibers. Blackburn will be giving a keynote address at the upcoming 18th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (gcande.org) this June 17-19, in the Washington DC metro area.


richard_blackburn_324x198.jpgIn the late 1990s, Dr. Blackburn was a Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds when he became interested in how to make dyeing processes more environmentally friendly. The book Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice had just been published, and the concept of reducing waste and energy use through chemistry made a lot of sense to him. When Dr. Blackburn joined the faculty of Leeds Centre for Technical Textiles in 2000, sustainability research in textiles was virtually unheard of. So Dr. Blackburn put together a Green Chemistry Group (now Sustainable Materials Research Group) and started off on a broad course of sustainability research.


One of his early research topics addressed the currently waste-intensive methods of dyeing cotton. Dr. Blackburn was able to develop a new chemical process that doesn't require as much salt or alkali, nor the time and energy that goes with it. Another area of research was on the properties of polylactic acid (PLA) as a replacement for synthetic polyester. PLA is polyester made from 100% renewable sources and is completely compostable. Dr. Blackburn also worked on a novel process for coloring polymers that completely sidesteps wet-processing entirely and has the potential to save time, money, and resources in the coloring of fabrics.


In 2006, Dr. Blackburn decided to organize a conference, "Green Chemistry in Textiles,"  to bring together industry members and researchers exploring innovative greener approaches. This was the first conference of its kind, and they were expecting around 50 participants—210 showed up. Building on the interest generated, Blackburn teamed up with John Mowbray, of Ecotextile News, Phil Patterson, currently the managing director of Colour Connections Textile Consultancy, and others to establish a non-profit called the RITE group (Reducing the Impact of Textiles on the Environment). Formed to educate the textile industry on what sustainability means and looks like, the RITE Group held well-attended annual conferences from 2007 to 2012 in London. "A lot of the perception in the industry is that things that are clean and more sustainable are more expensive," notes Dr. Blackburn. "Of course there are economies of scale, but if you think about it purely theoretically; if you are making a garment using less energy, less water, less waste, surely that is more economically feasible. Surely that should actually be cheaper." Achieving this in textiles, with a global supply chain that is often lacking in transparency, is difficult and at times slow, but certainly what many in the industry are reaching for.


Lately however, Dr. Blackburn is putting more of his attention on the next generation. "I think the most important thing is that the people going into the industry in the future understand sustainability properly, rather than just trying to educate the people who are already there," says Dr. Blackburn. He explains that many U.K. students don’t think of textile engineering as a career opportunity. There is a perception that textiles is an old fashioned industry that has mostly moved out of Europe—However they are interested in textile design. Dr. Blackburn’s mission is to help the best of these students recognize the scientific career opportunities in textiles and convert them to a chemistry-based Ph.D. program. "One of the things I’m most keen on, is trying to get designers to think about sustainability and the full supply chain," emphasizes Dr. Blackburn. "If the designer understands it, they can build in aspects of sustainability—be it in relation to materials use, processes that are used, or what happens at the end of life. If they just design it to look nice, they won’t ever consider sustainability."


Dr. Blackburn’s current research includes investigating the possibility of extracting natural dyes or building blocks chemicals from food waste. Natural dyes went out of fashion in the mid to late 1800s, as petroleum based replacements took the market. Lately however, there is more interest in natural products, yet growing plants for dyes has its own drawbacks—namely, in acreage needed and expense. Recovering dyes from organic waste, however, is an exciting avenue of research.


We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Blackburn at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. In addition to Dr. Blackburn’s keynote, there will be many sessions designed for people advancing green innovation in the apparel and footwear industry at the conference this year. Find out more at http://www.gcande.org.


“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

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