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Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog

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Representing the largest body of scientists in the world, the American Chemical Society has an important role to play in supporting its members and working with partners committed to addressing global sustainability challenges. In part two of this series, we’ll explore four foundational challenges and proposed action areas for ACS (Read part one: The Moonshot of our Times).

 

Action Areas Call Out BoxEach of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represents a set of significant technical and/or social challenges. Without a doubt, awe-inspiring advances in chemical/engineering research, leaps in the sustainability of manufacturing and products, and true integration of sustainability concepts in chemistry education will be needed.

 

But that is not all...a challenge of this nature demands that we look beyond the specifics and identify what kind of mindset will enable us to meet these challenges.


As ACS develops a strategic response to the SDGs, the Division of Scientific Advancement, led by Dr. Mary Kirchhoff, has illuminated some “cross-cutting challenges” we will need to address as a community if we are to move the needle on sustianability. Likewise, four areas for action are proposed to help address these issues.

 

Challenge: A New Mindset
A quick study of social science tells us that by far the hardest thing to do is to change someone’s mind—convince them (or even harder, ourselves) of the primacy of a new way of thinking. It usually takes a strong emotional connection; reason typically only goes so far to change human behavior.

 

Fifty-one years ago, Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took the first color photo of the Earth rising from behind the moon. Anders said of the experience, “That was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.” The picture evoked a strong response worldwide and is credited with inspiring the environmental movement. To me, this image remains potent today as a reminder of the unity and fragility of life in the vast expanse of space.

 

Most likely, if you are reading this from the pages of The Nexus, you also have something that inspires you on an emotional level to connect to sustainable and green chemistry. But for the larger chemistry community, which has yet to fully embrace sustainability, what will it take to get there?

 

Action #1: Create a Sustainability Mindset across the Chemistry Community

At a recent Committee on Environmental Improvement meeting I attended as a guest at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego, I got to meet a group of passionate ACS members already working to spread the sustainability mindset within the chemistry community. Similarly, at the offices of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute in Washington, D.C., I’m constantly inspired by my colleagues who go above and beyond promoting and fostering the green chemistry approach both within the Society and among larger global audiences (e.g., ACS GCI staff have been in India, China and Botswana in the last month alone). Although change can take time, I believe ACS has an important role to play in motivating and unifying the chemistry community around a culture of sustainability.


Education is another area where ACS plays a strategic role in the community. By integrating concepts like systems thinking and green chemistry, and by using the SDGs as a framework, we can help equip students to contribute to solving the grand challenges of sustainability. ACS GCI has been partnering with many groups and individuals to move this effort forward over the past several years, and is about to embark on a three year content creation project to further support educators in this area.

 

There are many facets of creating a sustainability mindset in which ACS can provide leadership and support, and these are just a few.


Challenge: Efficient Translation of Research into Practice
As evidenced by the huge amount of research catalogued in scientific journals—over 3 million peer-reviewed articles per year—there is no shortage of research being conducted worldwide. Where things tend to break down is in how long it takes for research and innovations to be translated into commercial products and industrial practices. This is where the rubber hits the road if we are going to realize practical solutions for the SDGs before the 2030 deadline. A sustained focus on this issue by all sectors of the chemistry community could significantly improve the rate of translation. Improving the understanding and communication between industry and academia, as well as between industry and regulatory agencies, are just two areas to work on.


Challenge: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
An unprecedented amount of innovation and entrepreneurship will be essential to make the kind of scientific and technological breakthroughs needed for achieving the SDGs. The chemistry community can enable this by identifying and addressing innovation bottlenecks; developing new approaches to conducting research and multidisciplinary collaborations; looking for ways to speed up adoption of cutting-edge tools (e.g., data science) in research; and providing greater support for high-risk, high-reward research.

 

Action #2: Foster Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Translation in Chemistry

Frontiers in chemistry are increasingly spanning several fields requiring researchers to form multidisciplinary groups. For example, Frances Arnold, 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, works with molecular biology, biochemistry, bioengineering and chemistry students in her research group. During a 2015 interview I did with her for The Nexus, she said, “I know chemists who feel that biology is the big frontier for them. They can apply their more traditional chemical knowledge to identifying new opportunities for biological synthesis.” ACS can create opportunities for information exchange and collaboration across sectors and disciplines that foster innovation, and efficient translation of research.

 

At the same time, ACS can help chemists develop the skills and knowledge they need to be entrepreneurs, and providing space to promote chemistry innovators. One recent example of this took place at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego where the ACS Industry Member Programs and ACS Small Chemical Businesses Division held a successful Entrepreneur Pitch Training and Competition. Other efforts have included an Entrepreneurial Summit at ACS; a Business Plan Competition at the GC&E Conference; and a student workshop fostering entrepreneurial skills such as networking, IP issues and chemical product design also at the GC&E Conference.

 

Challenge: Policy Changes
Policy is an important tool to foster innovation in nascent and early-growth sectors. Whether we like it or not, the marketplace will not always drive innovation when it means competing with embedded technologies that have billions or trillions of dollars of sunk investment. Policies aligned with the SDGs must be considered. For example, the current low price of energy and carbon drives our industry toward fossil carbon-based feedstocks, making it extremely difficult for new approaches to take root. Only new policy can change this. The chemistry community can identify and be a strong voice for policy that moves the SDGs forward.

 

Action #3: Promote Sustainable Chemical Manufacturing
Many companies are moving towards more sustainable practices in response to the SDGs and other global challenges like plastic pollution and climate change. Partnering with industry to further their engagement with sustainable chemical and engineering approaches could be an area of increased ACS activity.


A recent example of this type of engagement is the AltSep project to advance sustainable separations. This project was led by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s Chemical Manufacturing Roundtable in partnership with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and supported by a $500,000 grant from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Over the past three years, ACS hosted a series of workshops with academic, industry and government scientists got together to map out the a roadmap for less-energy intensive alternatives to separations. This kind of fundamental change to chemical processes, which represents a significant amount of fundamental research, cannot be tackled by any individual company. ACS holds a unique position as a non-profit in being able to partner with government, academia and industry, as well as other associations, to move sustainable chemical manufacturing forward.


Action #4: Promote Sustainability across the Globe
On July 8, ACS president-elect Luis Echegoyen participated in a forum of chemistry society presidents hosted by the Société Chimique de France at their Paris headquarters. The outcome of this meeting, was a joint agreement among the 15 societies present to collaborate on the SDGs—with an open invitation for others to join in the agreement. Creating and expanding these kinds of global partnerships that address the SDGs is an area that ACS can provide leadership.
In alignment with ACS’s strategic goal to communicate chemistry’s value, communicating progress towards the SDGs across the chemistry community and to the public is another area where ACS can act. I hope this small article is one small step towards achieving that end…but there are many other efforts in this area. For example, at the upcoming ACS National Meeting in Philly and next year’s Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Seattle sessions are being planned that highlight chemistry’s role in the SDGs.

 

Final Thoughts
There are likely a myriad of ways we could approach responding to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, but hopefully these four broad areas proposed resonate with you. Feedback from the community is important--How do you envision ACS supporting you in the context of these goals?

 

In next month’s installment we will start to dig into the specific SDG goals and how they tie into chemistry.

Dr. Bryony Core, Senior Technology Analyst at IDTechEx


We live in the age of plastic. Our lives have become so enmeshed with it that it is becoming impossible to avoid in day to day life. Its uses are myriad: saving lives in medical devices, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by light-weighting vehicles, and packaging food to prevent it from spoiling. But it wasn’t always this way: mass production started to ramp up in the 1950s, and ever since supply has grown exponentially to reach 348 MT produced in 2017 alone.[1] This wouldn’t be a problem, were it not for the fact that the lifespan of plastic typically far exceeds the time spent using it, as well as its synthesis from non-renewable hydrocarbon feedstocks.


One of the central issues with plastic is that it won’t readily decompose, instead being ground into ever smaller fragments, or “microplastics”. Academic investigation into the prevalence of contamination has revealed that plastic is indeed everywhere: microplastics have been found in tap water, in the air and in soil. Following an onslaught of recent news coverage depicting the scale of the problem, plastic pollution now occupies a very prominent position in public consciousness. One proposed solution is to incinerate waste plastic to avoid its longevity in the environment. However, burning these carbon-rich sinks only serves to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to greenhouse gas emissions.


Considering the significant downsides of plastics produced on the current scale, what are the options? Recycling at their end of life is one route to managing waste; however, recycling infrastructure is far from perfect and mechanical recovery methods output ever poorer materials until incineration or landfill are the only options left. Alternatively, another potential solution lies replacing petroleum-based polymers with biobased polymers, which have been partially or completely derived from a renewable biomass feedstock.


Biobased polymers can be chemically identical to petroleum-based polymers, and therefore act as “drop-in” replacements, or they can have entirely new chemistries. They can both directly substitute incumbent materials and offer the potential for improved performance. Furthermore, they partly answer the complications raised above: produced via photosynthesis, biomass locks in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is a carbon sink. As a result, biobased polymers represent a means to substantially reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle compared to current polymers.


In addition, their unique chemistries present novel properties: several biobased polymers are also biodegradable or compostable and can be metabolised by microorganisms in the correct conditions. NatureWorks and Corbion have developed poly(lactide) (PLA), a compostable polyester, who have a combined a global production of over 225 kT annually. Challenging to produce economically from petrochemicals, biobased PLA is used as in emerging applications such as biocompatible drug delivery systems, cell scaffolding and 3D printing, as well as displacing materials in consumer goods packaging.


Despite the opportunity presented by biobased polymers, and customer demand for greener products, production has been slow to get off the mark. Transitioning proof of concepts out of the laboratory and into an industrial fermentation facility is fraught with technical complexity and high CAPEX. Coupled with a chronic shortage of investment, production at scale has been hindered to date; innovators are exposed to volatility in the price of crude oil, resulting in many ventures ceasing operations in recent years.


Is there a future for biobased polymers? Biobased or not, these polymers still require robust waste management processes, but they do offer a partial solution to the issues of curbing carbon dioxide emissions as well as avoiding waste leaking into the environment. Addressing the funding shortages which have stifled growth, the EU has made €80 billion available under the Horizon 2020 project as part of its updated Bioeconomy Strategy which promotes circular economy initiatives. Based on these factors, IDTechEx projects that biobased polymers will play an increasingly important role in the plastics industry, and that the market size for biobased polymers will grow to 2.7 Mt by 2023, as barriers are addressed and demand for more sustainable materials grows.[2]


[1] “Plastics- The Facts 2018”, Plastics Europe, www.PlasticsEurope.org
[2] “Biobased Polymers 2018-2023: A Technology and Market Perspective”, IDTechEx, www.idtechex.com/biopoly

It was lovely to see so many of you at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego in August! Green chemistry symposia were presented across numerous divisions on a variety of topics. The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable organized a workshop and symposium during the National Meeting. Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold, who also received the 2019 Bower Award for Green and Sustainable Chemistry, gave a fantastic Kavli address on “Innovation by evolution: Bringing new chemistry to life.” We enjoyed catching up with many of you at the ACS GCI reception at the Dubliner on Tuesday evening, and look forward to seeing you at green chemistry receptions at future ACS National Meetings.

 

One outcome of the San Diego meeting that I am very pleased to report is the approval from the ACS Board of Directors to fund the development of green and sustainable chemistry education resources. These new resources will integrate green and sustainable chemistry, systems thinking, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will be targeted at undergraduate students studying general and organic chemistry. We hope to engage a number of you in developing these new classroom resources over the next three years. This initiative is part of the Green Chemistry Education Roadmap project, to which many of you have contributed over the years. If you want to catch up on these efforts, I recommend reading ACS GCI Advisory Board Chair Bill Carroll’s article in the August 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News where he mapped out ACS GCI’s education efforts.

 

In other news, I recently returned from the Federation of African Societies of Chemistry conference in Gaborone, Botswana. Our colleagues in Africa have a strong interest in green chemistry, and I was delighted that so many speakers referenced the SDGs during their presentations. The SDGs are proving to be a compelling framework to guide chemistry research and education going forward. ACS is currently mapping out how we can best contribute to achieving the ambitious goals articulated by the SDGs, and we will keep you apprised of our efforts and opportunities for you to join us in meeting these global challenges.

 

The Peter J. Dunn Award for Green Chemistry & Engineering Impact in the Pharmaceutical Industry will be presented October 25, 2019 to Prof. B. Frank Gupton at the NESACS Process Chemistry Symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


The award, established in 2016 by the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable, recognizes excellence in the research, development and execution of pharmaceutical green chemistry that demonstrates compelling environmental, safety and efficiency improvements over current technologies.


B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D.Professor Gupton holds the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is being honored for his achievements “Increasing Access to Global Health Care through Process Intensification”. Gupton helped to create the Medicines for All Institute, with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates, to address access to affordable medications in developing countries. By developing innovative new manufacturing processes for drugs that treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, the Institute has been able to significantly lower the cost of manufacturing medicines leading to reduced cost and greater availability for patients.


Prof. Gupton’s work exploits catalysis and flow chemistry to maximize process efficiency and decrease the environmental impact of drug manufacture. Early results have been impressive. For example, Gupton and his team were able to use increase the yield of manufacturing an HIV drug from 53% to 91%, reducing waste and saving 30-40% in raw material costs. Gupton also recently developed a novel approach to producing Fluconazole, an antifungal medication, using a flow Grignard process. The new process mitigates the safety risks of standard Grignards, reduces material use, and is a more efficient route that could be broadly applied to other drugs.


Before his work at VCU, Gupton led a distinguished industrial career at Celanese and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.


Nominations are now open for the 2020 Peter J. Dunn Award, recognizing the best of pharmaceutical Green Chemistry. Submissions should highlight impact relative to the principles of green chemistry. The 2020 award will be presented at the 24th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Seattle, Washington June 16-18, 2020 and the winner will be invited to present their green chemistry innovation during the conference. The award reimburses expenses up to $2,500 for conference attendance. Industrial chemists are encouraged to apply.


For more information on eligibility and to download the nomination form go to www.acsgcipr.org/educating-leaders#award.

Grant winners pictures

Left to right: Fernando Albericio, Beatriz G. de la Torre, Mark Mason, Aaron Vannucci, Arnaud Voituriez, Susan Olesik, and Ryan Shenvi.

 

Researchers from four U.S. institutions as well as South Africa and France received a total of almost $200,000 in funding from the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable (GCIPR) to advance green chemistry research in the pharmaceutical sciences.


“Providing grants to support advanced research represents a cornerstone of the ACS GCIPR strategy,” says Paul Richardson, Ph.D., director of oncology chemistry at Pfizer, and co-chair of the Roundtable. “The broad range of research initiatives funded by this current of grant awards serves to highlight the diversity of the Roundtable’s activities.”


The Ignition Grant Program for Green Chemistry & Engineering Research funds novel and innovative ideas that have the potential to provide sustainable solutions to chemistry and engineering problems relevant to the pharmaceutical industry from discovery to manufacturing. The four winners will receive $25,000 each for a 6-month research timeline. The winners are:

 

Professor Fernando Albericio and professor Beatriz G. de la Torre from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa for their proposal, “Baroc, a Green α-Amino Protecting Group for Solid-Phase Peptide Synthesis.”

 

Professor Mark Mason, director of the School of Green Chemistry and Engineering at The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio for “Iron-Catalyzed Cross-Coupling of Heterocycles.”

 

Assistant professor Aaron Vannucci from the University of South Carolina for his proposal, “A New Approach to Catalyst Immobilization Research: Designing Molecular Catalysts for Heterogeneous Catalysis.”

 

Arnaud Voituriez, research director at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, France for his proposal, “Towards an Electro-Catalytic Wittig Reaction.”

 

The Roundtable’s analytical chemistry team sought a proposal to clearly define sustainable chromatographic, analytical and purification methodologies in the pharmaceutical industry. Professor Susan Olesik of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio was awarded $46,996 for her proposal, “A Study of the Environmental Impact of Analytical and Preparative Scale Supercritical Fluid Chromatographic Processes.”

 

The Roundtable’s greener medicinal chemistry grant seeks to advance the development of precious metal-free cross-coupling methodology applicable to substrates such as heterocycles that are widely used in the industry. The $50,000 award goes to associate professor Ryan Shenvi from the department of chemistry at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California for his proposal, “C–N attached-ring synthesis by Markovnikov hydroamination.”


“We strongly believe that through these research collaborations, significant scientific breakthroughs will be realized to further the application of green chemistry within the pharmaceutical industry and beyond,” adds Richardson.


The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has awarded over $2.25 million in funding since their grant program began in 2007. You can learn more about the program at https://www.acsgcipr.org/advancing-research/

By Michelle Muzzio, Graduate Student, Brown University

 

I never realized how much location could profoundly change an experience until I was walking to class about to learn more about green chemistry from some of the world’s leading experts on the topic, walking past South Table Mountain, breathing in the freshest air I’ve ever breathed, all while talking to my new friends about innovations in CO2 capture and conversion. That was the scene every day while I was attending the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy this past August at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO. Location is everything. Bringing together people with similar values, research interests, and of course passion for dancing, in one location, is everything.

 

View of Golden from the hike up South Table Mountain in the early morning before lectures

           

Over sixty graduate students and postdocs from all over the United States, Canada, South America, and beyond, found themselves in Colorado for the experience, and were welcomed the first night with a barbecue. At first, it was overwhelming: so many new faces in a new location. I am the first from my university to come the summer school and I applied on a whim almost, because my research in nanoparticle synthesis has begun to drive my interests in more sustainable biomass conversion. I was nervous I wouldn’t fit in. However, within minutes, that changed as we all started talking about our shared interests in green chemistry and even our cultures and where we came, from leading us to Colorado and to this summer school. Of course, the welcome from Dr. Mary Kirchhoff, who was the guiding force of the whole week, quelled any residual anxieties, and we were all excited.

 

Roommates in Maple Hall, right outside of where our lectures were, posing before the final dinner

 Roommates in Maple Hall, right outside of where our lectures were

 

The week began with a lecture about systems thinking from Dr. Jim Hutchison from the University of Oregon. Using engaging group activities, he made us think about systems thinking in everything we did, from our experiments in lab to even our morning coffee. He gave two lectures during the week, both of which made participants think much broader than ever before. During the allotted times for breaks between lectures, we had a chance to talk to the speaker or each other about anything: the class content, wild ideas for the future, or any in-between (with coffee, tea, and snacks, of course!). These breaks ended up being where so much of my learning happened during the week, being able to process and bond more with those amazing scientists around me.

           

Two more staple lecturers were given by Dr. David Constable from the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and Dr. Philip Jessop from Queen’s University. Both are powerhouses of the field of green chemistry, so as students, you could argue that seeing them lecture was comparable to a celebrity sighting. Within Dr. Jessop’s talk, we were all exposed to the joys and tribulations of life cycle analysis (LCA), which highlighted the nuances in green chemistry, assumptions that are often made, and all the factors that must go into deciding whether one thing is “greener” than another.

           

With its location right around the mountain, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) made an impactful presence with lectures from Dr. Emily Warren and Dr. Bryan Pivovar, about solar cells and fuel cells, respectively. They gave us insight in being working scientists thinking about these complex issues of sustainable energy and how we, as the next generation of scientists, can begin to make research a reality. Lectures about entrepreneurship from Dr. Eric Beckman from the University of Pittsburgh and pharmaceutical green chemistry from Dr. Dan Richter from Pfizer gave us concrete tools how we can think about green chemistry in our own lives. Lectures from Dr. Nancy Jensen of the Petroleum Research Fund and Dr. Natalia Martin allowed participants to understand the grant-writing and job-hunting process, both of which are often scary and misunderstood. The lectures closed with Dr. Ryan Richards of Colorado School of Mines and also Dr. Grant Miyake of Colorado State University, a former Summer School participant, who highlighted a career built on principles he learned at the Summer School, which was very inspiring considering all we learned through the week.

 

Whitewater rafting is more fun with green chemists!

Whitewater rafting is more fun with green chemists!

 

Beyond the lectures, there were two poster sessions in which most participants presented their work. Without comparison, it was the most amazing poster session I’ve ever been to because everyone was so engaged, asking important questions, and the lecturers even came, which added to the excitement of seeing green chemistry icons walk up to your poster.  

 

It wasn’t all schoolwork either. Most of it, actually, was talking and soaking in the beautiful location. From morning hikes up South Table Mountain, to our free Saturday in which this New Yorker whitewater rafted for the first time and then had lunch with her new friends at a delicious Nepalese restaurant, there really never was a dull moment. We also got to explore Golden, stumbling across a street fair that was unfortunately just ending, making our own karaoke, and of course, dancing to new music with our new friends. The ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy is more than just a week of lectures on exciting content; it provides a location and sets a scene for a whole lifetime of experience to come after.

 

On the way to the poster session, posing with some statues on Colorado School of Mines Campus

On the way to the poster session, posing with some statues on Colorado School of Mines Campus

 

Moving forward, I will start a job as a scientific editor at CellPress in September after finishing up my Ph.D., and this experience could not have come at a better time. I am excited more than ever to talk about green chemistry, which as I learned this week, is a facet of all chemistry and life in general, not its own separate endeavor.

Before I go, thanks must first go to Mary and Stephanie Wahl, who organized one of the most significant and reenergizing weeks of my graduate school career. You brought all of us together, and for that, we are forever grateful to you both, and ACS, the sponsors, and Colorado School of Mines for hosting.

By Christiana Briddell, Communication Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute


In a cultural and political climate that grows increasingly more divisive and nationalistic, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand as a clarion call for decisive and coordinated action for the benefit of global humanity. These far-reaching goals cover everything from the eradication of poverty to climate action to peace and just institutions. If you want to dream big—look no further.


Set in 2015, these 17 broad goals each contain specific targets with indicators to help track progress in achieving them. If you are interested in learning more, the U.N. website is very educational: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

 

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
The American Chemical Society—representing the world’s largest society of scientists—recognizes the importance of chemistry in uplifting people’s lives and ensuring the well-being of the planet. In their policy statement on Sustainability and the Chemistry Enterprise, the Society states: “We believe the chemistry enterprise must continue to provide leadership in forging the science and technology that will provide humanity with a sustainable path into the future.”


Using the SDGs as a framework, the ACS is developing a strategic response to this challenge. One of the first priorities is to inspire and enable chemists to see themselves and their work as directly relevant to one, if not many, of the goals. Indeed, there are a myriad of ways that chemistry will necessarily underpin our global efforts in achieving them.


For example, we cannot truly meet goal #2, End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, without closing the loop on soil fertility by finding a way to produce ammonia (NH3) sustainably (which requires a sustainable energy source to produce hydrogen), and by recovering and recycling phosphorus from waste streams. This will require significant development in the fields of catalysis and low-energy, high-efficiency separations respectively. In just this one goal, a revolution in agricultural science and subsequent impact on global infrastructure is required.


It is easy to be overwhelmed when faced with an immense transformative challenge, such as truly meeting the SDGs. On the other hand, sufficiently inspired groups of researchers have performed similarly “impossible” feats under tight timelines—most recently brought to mind with the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission to the moon in July of 1969. Truthfully, although the technological challenge is Nobel-Laureate quality significant, the harder challenge may be in our own capacity to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the future of the planet and the humans who will live on it. Can we put aside other demands; adopt a focus, purpose, collaborative and innovative spirit fit to meet these goals?


This is the question we must ask ourselves.


In the coming issues of The Nexus, we will focus on each goal in turn and discuss specific ways that chemistry innovation can help to move us forward. We will also reveal ACS’s evolving strategic response to the SDGs including a new hub on the website for all things related to chemistry & sustainability. We invite the chemistry and chemical engineering communities to share their approaches to addressing the SDGs so that we can highlight successes, learn from each other, and work together in achieving the dream of a sustainable world.

That’s a wrap! The American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute would like to sincerely thank all of the 579 attendees who presented and participated in the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference and 9th International Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference this past week at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Virginia.

 

This year’s keynote speakers – Udit Batra, Lee Cronin, and Dana Kralisch – gave exceptionally interesting and insightful speeches. The numerous networking sessions and fun social events provided attendees the opportunity to establish a multitude of professional connections, share ideas and build lasting friendships with colleagues from around the globe. In fact, this year we had attendees from 31 different countries and six different continents, from China to Ireland to Australia and everywhere in between. This year's conference was one of the most diverse yet with 31% of attendees coming from outside the United States. The various exhibitors, poster session, product showcase and technical sessions gave fascinating updates on the latest technologies, theories and developments across the chemical field while answering questions and taking suggestions from an exceptionally inquisitive audience.

 

Udit Batra, CEO of MilliporeSigma, gives the opening keynote address.

Photo Credit: Jackie Garcia Photography

 

ACS GCI would also like to offer a special thank you to our conference co-chairs Joan Brennecke and Philip Jessop for helping to make this year’s conference one of the best ones to date. They helped ensure that the conference maintained its scientific and academic core, while featuring a substantial number of industry/entrepreneurial sessions and other exciting features to keep events fresh and add to what is already an exceptional conference.

 

With the 2019 conference now in the books, rest assured that ACS GCI has already started planning and preparing for the 24th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference taking place in beautiful Seattle, Washington from June 16-18, 2020. We are pleased to announce that theme for the 2020 conference will be “Systems-Inspired Design” and will be led by co-chairs Paul Richardson of Pfizer and Meg Sobkowicz Kline of UMass Lowell. The call for symposia for the 2020 conference will go out next month and be due in early October and we encourage you to submit your ideas. Submissions are welcome in all areas of green chemistry and engineering, particularly those that address the 2020 conference theme.

 

Attendees discussing green chemistry at a conference networking breakfast.

Photo Credit: Jackie Garcia Photography


Finally, we hope to see many of you at the ACS National Meeting coming up from August 25-29, 2019 in sunny San Diego. The topic of green chemistry will be featured in many of the events taking place there. We look forward to continuing our discussions with you there!

Contributed by Rachel Simon, Senior Research Associate, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, and Lauren Heine, Senior Science Advisor, Northwest Green Chemistry; Director of Safer Materials and Data Integrity, MaterialWise; and member of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Advisory Board.

 

Many researchers working on the forefront of green chemistry are designing new chemistries and chemical products to reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Similar to green chemistry, the field of alternatives assessment shares the objective of addressing the health and environmental impacts of chemicals, seeking to find safer and feasible solutions to chemicals of concern. Despite the clear connections between alternatives assessment and green chemistry, the two fields—and their respective scientific communities—have not been highly integrated.

 

A4The Association for the Advancement of Alternatives Assessment (A4) is a new professional association solely dedicated to advancing the science, practice, and policy of alternatives assessment and informed substitution. A4 offers the opportunity to connect with a collaborative community of professionals representing a broad range of scientific disciplines – chemistry, toxicology, exposure science, engineering, life cycle assessment, law and policy, and economics, among others – who are working to accelerate the transition to the use of safer chemicals, materials, processes, and products.

 

At the recent 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference and 9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry A4’s President Pamela Spencer spoke about the intersection of these communities in her presentation Fostering Green Chemistry and Alternatives Assessment Collaborations in Safer Product Design. If you did not have a chance to learn about A4 at the conference, we invite you to come take part in our community. Visit www.saferalternatives.org to find out more.

We have just wrapped up the joint 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference/ 9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry in Reston, Virginia. We were thrilled to welcome more than 600 attendees to this year’s conference, which focused on “Closing the Loop” of the chemical life cycle. My sincere thanks to our wonderful co-chairs, Joan Brennecke of the University of Texas at Austin and Philip Jessop of Queen’s University, Canada, for putting together such a compelling and engaging technical program.

 

The conference would not be possible without the countless hours dedicated by our volunteers to organizing and supporting the conference. Forty experts in green chemistry and engineering served on the organizing and international advisory committees. These individuals provided input into the technical program and encouraged participation in the conference with their colleagues across the globe. Poster judges thoughtfully assessed the student posters during the Green Chemistry & Engineering Poster session, recommending the top posters among an outstanding field. Throughout the conference, volunteers offered support during sessions, directed attendees to the right meeting rooms, and provided assistance with the mobile app. Thank you to all who volunteered to make the 2019 conference such a success!

 

The success of the conference also depends on the engagement of our sponsors and exhibitors. We are especially grateful to our gold sponsors, MilliporeSigma and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Pharmaceutical Roundtable, for their generous support. We were delighted that MilliporeSigma’s CEO, Dr. Udit Batra, delivered the opening keynote address of the conference, providing insights into “Green Chemistry at Global Scale.” Keynote addresses by Professor Lee Cronin and Professor Dana Kralisch expanded on the conference theme through their presentations on “Programming Organic Synthesis using the Chemputer” and “Which Way to Go from Innovation to Sustainable Process/Product Design?”, respectively. All three of our keynote speakers volunteered their time and expertise to share their perspectives on future directions for green chemistry and engineering. And a huge thanks to our exhibitors, who interacted with attendees throughout the conference, showcasing their greener products and services.

 

We look forward to welcoming everyone to next year’s conference in Seattle, Washington, where we will explore the theme of “Systems-Inspired Design.” I encourage you to submit your symposium ideas for the 2020 conference after submissions open in July. Please visit gcande.org/call-for-symposia for key dates and additional information.

 

Thank you for all you do to advance green and sustainable chemistry and engineering across the chemistry enterprise. We are grateful for your dedication to designing greener chemical products and processes and educating the next generation to practice chemistry in service to society.

 

The American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) was honored to partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to host the 2019 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony and reception at the EPA headquarters in Washington D.C. this past Monday! A panel of technical experts convened by the ACS GCI make recommendations to EPA for the winners of each award category. The awards were presented by Alexandra Dunn, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. 

 

Congratulations to this year’s recipients:

 

Alexandra Dunn gives Professor Sanjoy Banjeree his award, joined by his team of collaborators.
Photo credit: @DCEventPhoto

 

Academic Award – Professor Sanjoy Banjeree of The City University of New York Energy Institute: Rechargeable Alkaline Zn-MnO2Batteries for Grid Storage Applications.

Professor Banerjee, in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Urban Electric Power Inc., created rechargeable zinc-manganese dioxide batteries that can be recharged thousands of times without significant degradation of capacity. These batteries do not have some of the limitations of lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries, and use materials that are abundant and already in use. Transforming this technology into a grid-scale rechargeable system would enable a revolutionary, low-cost, green technology able to meet critical U.S. electrical grid needs.

 

The Kalion, Inc. team receiving their award from Alexandra Dunn.
Photo credit: @DCEventPhoto

 

Small Business Award – Kalion, Inc.: Microbially Produced High-Purity Glucaric Acid for Diverse Uses.

Kalion, Inc. has commercialized the first microbial fermentation process to produce glucaric acid. Glucaric acid produced by Kalion’s method offers the possibility of replacing environmentally polluting chemicals with a biodegradable, non-toxic, sugar-derived product. Kalion's fermentation process solves the challenges of traditional chemical approaches and enables the production of high-purity, low-cost glucaric acid. 

 

The Merck & Co. team accepting their award from Alexandra Dunn.

Photo credit: @DCEventPhoto

 

Greener Synthetic Pathways Award – Merck & Co.: Innovating for a Greener Future: Development of a Green & Sustainable Manufacturing Process for Zerbaxa.

Merck & Co. is being recognized for their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint and energy usage by redesigning the manufacturing route to the antibiotic component of Zerbaxa. Key to the redesign is a sustainable crystallization-based purification process that enabled the development of the revolutionary new process that reduces process mass intensity by 75%, reduces raw material costs by 50% and increases the overall yield by more than 50%. Additionally, carbon footprint and energy usage are expected to be reduced by 50% and 38%, respectively, and water savings are estimated to be 3.7 million gallons annually.

 

Alexandra Dunn presents the WSI team with their award for TRUpath.
Photo credit: @DCEventPhoto

 

Greener Reaction Conditions Award – WSI: TRUpath.

By creating TRUpath, WSI developed a successful alternative to traditional commercial laundering technologies that use harsh and harmful chemicals. TRUpath utilizes more readily biodegradable surfactants and eliminates phosphates from wash formulas making it less toxicTRUpath™ detergent has prevented the discharge of petroleum hydrocarbons into wastewater by approximately 200,000 lbs/yr and reduced overall laundry wastewater discharge by more than 1.3 million lbs/yr. Additionally, the annual use of natural gas is reduced nationwide by greater than 5.1 million therms, and 545 million gallons of water are saved annually. 

 

A big congratulations to all of this year’s winners!  These award-winning technologies once again demonstrate that great science can be accompanied by significant health and environmental benefits, reductions in the use and generation of hazardous substances, and economic advantages.

 

ACS GCI would like to thank Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Assistant Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention for giving the congratulatory address and presenting the awards. We would also like to thank Chair of the ACS Board of Directors, John Adams for giving the Science Address, David Widawsky, Director of the EPA's Chemistry, Economics, and Sustainable Strategies Division for giving the welcoming remarks, and the U.S. Military District of Washington for presenting the colors and singing a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem.

 

We look forward to doing it again next year!

Organizers: Se Ryeon Lee, Research Group Leader; Chad Landis, Research Associate; Kristin Nuzzio, Senior Research Chemist, PPG Industries

 

Converting an economy that is still largely linear (Take-Make-Dispose), to a circular economy where waste streams can be fed back into an industrial cycle will require new chemistries and innovative processes. The sources for recycling or repurposing can exist anywhere along the material lifecycle from industrial waste streams to post-consumer waste. Ideally, the recycling and repurposing could turn these waste streams into value streams for industry in the near future.

 

This session will focus on those new chemistries and processes that are necessary for repurposing waste streams both pre- and post-consumer.  It will also analyze already implemented projects as well as potential new science necessary to make a circular economy more feasible. In addition attendees will learn what is done with waste streams at the manufacturer level to make for an overall greener process and look at chemistries, processes, and regulatory issues in this area.

 

In addition this session will feature two in-depth talks from leaders in the field. Richard Engler of Bergeson & Campbell, PC will discuss the regulatory barriers to a circular economy, and Brian Riise of REMADE Institute will talk about the challenges and opportunities in developing a circular economy for plastics.

 

We hope you will join us for this exciting discussing on this important and intriguing topic!

 

This session will take place at the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference/9th International Conference on Green & Sustainable Chemistry on Thursday, June 13 from 9:45 AM to 12:30 PM at The Hyatt Regency Reston, VA.

Organizers: David J. C. Constable, Science Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute; Xianlai Zeng, Associate Professor, School of Environment, Tsinghua University

 

There is a growing list of elements that are considered strategic metals; they are rare, expensive, and heavily relied upon for electronics, energy and chemistry. The current methods of extracting, purifying and using these metals is unsustainable and as these materials approach impending extinction from the supply chain while escalating environmental and socioeconomic costs across the world, it is critical to identify low-cost and abundant alternatives, or sustainable technologies to recover, recycle and reuse these elements. In general, there have been few chemistry alternatives that could recreate the performance of these metals in a variety of fundamental applications.

 

 

This session will showcase innovators who are creating alternative chemistries and chemical technology approaches that can increase the sustainable reuse and recycle of these critical elements, or provide comparable functional, commercially viable materials for a variety of applications. In addition this session will cover how cyclical chemistry is proposed to close the loop from the extraction of material to end-of-life recycling.

We will have an in-depth presentation from Dr. Xianlai Zeng of Tsinghua University on the emergence of cyclical chemistry as it relates to green chemistry, closed-loop supply chain theory and industrial ecology at different scales. We propose that cyclical chemistry can address three inter-related problems:  resource depletion, over reliance of linear economies and environmental pollution. In doing so, cyclical chemistry will play an increasing role in closing the loop and enabling a smooth transition to a circular economy and society.

We look forward to discussing this topic more with you at the conference!

 

This event will take place at the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference/9th Annual Conference on Green & Sustainable Chemistry on Thursday, June 13 from 2:00 PM to 5:05 PM at the Lake Anne, Hyatt Regency Reston, VA.

Organizers: Peter A. Reinhardt, Director, Office of Environmental Health & Safety, Yale University; Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO, Environmental Safety Manager, Keene State College

 

There are many commonalities and shared principles between the fields of chemical safety and green chemistry. A thorough understanding of both will benefit practitioners in both communities, correct misconceptions and ensure that green chemistry innovations do not overlook chemical safety considerations in the laboratory. That is why the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety’s symposium at the 2019 GC&E Conference will focus on and discuss the connections between chemical safety and Green Chemistry within the chemical enterprise.

 

This session will address a variety of elements within the systems that support environmental health and safety, in both the laboratory and in the larger economy at whole. Attendees can expect to learn how emerging greener and safer approaches to chemical education and research interact to form a system that can have more sustainable environmental impacts. Attendees will also learn about innovative work in both academic and industrial chemistry that takes a systems approach to educating chemists and identifying innovative chemistries which serve multiple environmental stakeholders.

 

The keynote speaker of the symposium is Dr. Kristen M. Kulinowski of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will also present and discuss real-world case studies where a major incident resulted in changes to chemical processes that made them both safer and greener.

 

We hope you will join us for “Making Chemistry Greener & Safer” and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

 

This session will take place at the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference/9th International Conference on Green & Sustainable Chemistry on Thursday, June 13 from 9:45 AM to 12:30 PM at the Lake Audubon, Hyatt Regency Reston, VA.

Organizers: Gonghu Li, Associate Professor, University of New Hampshire; Jonathan Rochford, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston

 

The green chemistry community, and indeed most of the general populace, are well aware of the negative effects that the increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has on our planet. What is less known and talked about is the fact that C02 is also a renewable C1 feedstock and can be used to produce chemicals, materials and fuels. This is why it is important for the public to know and understand different strategies for safely and efficiently utilizing C02 as a valuable feedstock.

 

Our session at this year’s GC&E Conference will focus on and discuss the design of innovative catalytic systems for efficient C02 conversion. While unfortunately there are still few viable strategies for large-scale C02 utilization due to the lack of scientific breakthrough and lack of technologies that are sufficiently mature for industrial deployment, research is progressing towards this goal.  Attendees can expect to learn about the latest in cutting-edge research in the field of chemical conversion of C02 and how it can be used to help protect our atmosphere.

 

This session will be broken down into seven different oral presentations, all given by leading researchers from respected U.S. and Canadian universities as well as a U.S. National Laboratory representative. Topics will include, but are not limited to, rational design of C02-reduction catalysts, molecular and heterogeneous catalysts, and spectroscopic investigations of C02 reduction using catalysts.

 

We hope you will join us for what is sure to be a timely and informative session.

 

This session will take place at the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference/9th Annual Conference on Green & Sustainable Chemistry on Tuesday, June 11 from 9:45 AM to 12:10 PM at the Town Center, Hyatt Regency Reston, VA.

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