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In the midst of an intensifying global water crisis, scientists are reporting development of a more economical way to use one form of the “ice that burns” to turn very salty wastewater from fracking and other oil and gas production methods into water for drinking and irrigation. The study on the method, which removes more than 90 percent of the salt, appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Yongkoo Seol and Jong-Ho Cha explain that salty wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. These methods use water and produce as a byproduct almost 10 barrels of salty water for every barrel of oil. That water could help people in water-stressed regions. But it can’t be desalinated economically with traditional methods. Seol and Cha knew that an alternative called “gas hydrate desalination” showed promise. A gas hydrate consists of only water and a gas such as methane, the stuff of natural gas. Thus, when hydrates form, salts and other impurities are left behind. When the hydrate breaks down, the gas and pure water are released. However, forming the gas hydrate used in desalination required costly chilling of the water to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Seol and Cha sought to develop a less costly version of the method, which involves a variation on methane hydrates, chunks of ice retrieved from deep below the sea that burst into flame when brought to the surface.

They describe development and laboratory testing of a new type of gas hydrate desalination technique. They formed the hydrates from water and carbon dioxide with the gases cyclopentane and cyclohexane, which made the method work more efficiently. It removed more than 90 percent of the salt compared to 70 percent with the previous gas hydrate technique. And the process works at near-room temperature, reducing the need for chilling.

The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.


Read the abstract, "Increasing Gas Hydrate Formation Temperature for Desalination of High Salinity Produced Water with Secondary Guests"


From the ACS Office of Public Affairs


Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey



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To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home. grant from The Bayer USA Foundation supported high school students for a summer of paid laboratory research in Pittsburgh and Houston through the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Project SEED. This effective program, that has served almost 10,000 economically disadvantaged students since 1968, is historically offered by mentors in academic settings. Bayer’s current grant to ACS aims to assess the potential for placing students in industrial settings and began with a pilot project to place high school chemistry teachers in corporate labs to sharpen their research skills and address challenges unique to high school students. In Pittsburgh, Bayer MaterialScience chemist Matthew Vila (pictured on left) guided a research experience for local teacher, Kirk Wicker.


BayerMaterialsScience1.jpgAt the end of the first summer of the two-year grant, “A Celebration of Project SEED” presented at Duquesne University with support from The Bayer USA Foundation prompted a visit to the Pittsburgh headquarters of Bayer MaterialScience LLC. Entering Building 14 one first notices the LEED Gold certification plaque. Our host, Dr. Irene McGee, Vice President for Health, Safety, Environment, Quality, was justifiably proud of the $17 million interior renovation of two of the main buildings. I was struck by the natural light that fills the greener workplace. The showcase for Bayer materials such as versatile Makrolon® polycarbonate sheets improves energy efficiency and encourages employee collaboration. The incorporation of rigid foam insulation, insulated metal panels and recycled content all contribute to the buildings’
environmental friendliness.


BayerMaterialScience2.jpgThe expanded number of conference rooms – one for every 30 employees – carry names such as LEED, Responsible Care, STEM, and Sustainability, all priorities Bayer shares with the American Chemical Society and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®. Along with good coffee and hanging out in the kitchens, the open office design promotes opportunities for collaboration across diverse functions. The impressive results of the remodeling contributed to Bayer Corporation being recognized as the number one large company in the Green Workplace Challenge, a friendly competition put on by Sustainable Pittsburgh to promote energy and water savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.



Sustainable Products


“Bayer MaterialScience’s commitment to sustainability goes far beyond the buildings in which its employees work. Sustainability impacts the products we produce, the markets we serve and our day-to-day business operations” explains McGee.


For example, Bayer’s materials make a vehicle lighter, which in turn reduces fuel consumption, saves money and lowers emissions—all without sacrificing safety or style. There’s another benefit as well: Bayer’s materials use less energy in the manufacturing process compared with materials traditionally used in the automotive sector, such as glass and metal.


BayerMaterialScience3.jpgIn buildings, Bayer’s solid and multi-wall architectural polycarbonate sheet can be used for glazing, sky lights and façade cladding. The polycarbonate sheets enable daylighting which reduces energy usage and aids in visual comfort. Also, insulating materials for roofs, walls or floors based on Bayer polyurethanes provide highly effective insulation against heat and cold, which reduces energy requirements. It’s also worth noting that the energy required to produce polyurethane foam can yield a 50 to 1 or better return on embedded energy over the life of a building.


In addition to polycarbonates and polyurethanes, Bayer also offers more sustainable coatings technologies. The company’s two-component waterborne polyurethane coatings can have film characteristics similar to those of solvent borne coatings, but reduce volatile air emissions by as much as 99 percent. In fact, Bayer received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for developing waterborne industrial coating materials that use water instead of solvents.


Eco-friendly Manufacturing Innovations


In terms of how its materials are produced, Bayer considers eco-friendly manufacturing processes as vital resource conservation to help protect the climate. One example is chlorine production, which accounts for two-thirds of the company’s consumption of electricity. To reduce this requirement, the company and its partners developed oxygen depolarized cathode (ODC) technology. Since 2011, the company has demonstrated the effective production of chlorine from common salt utilizing the ODC process requiring 30 percent less energy than the conventional technology.


Bayer is months away from opening a new plant in Dormagen, Germany that will produce toluene diisocyanate (TDI). TDI is a precursor for the manufacture of flexible polyurethane foams used to make everyday products such as mattresses and car seats. The new plant will use the gas phase phosgenation process that was successfully tested at the company’s Shanghai plant in 2011. The use of this process reduces solvent consumption by around 80 percent and cuts energy consumption by up to 60 percent.


Bayer began its Dream Production research initiative in 2010 with the aim of incorporating CO2 directly into polyurethane foam. A pilot plant in Germany has been using CO2 from a power plant to manufacture a key component of polyurethane, saving some of the petrochemical raw materials normally used. Tests published by Bayer in 2012 prove that the quality of this product matches and in some cases exceeds polyurethane manufactured in the conventional way. The company plans to market its CO2-based products beginning in 2015.


According to McGee, innovation and sustainability have been and will continue to be the driving forces behind the company’s business. “For the last 150 years, Bayer has constantly innovated and adapted to the changing needs of our customers. Sustainability is a key component of our future developments and success, embodying Bayer’s mission of ‘Science for a Better Life.’”


Building photography by Ed Massery Architectural Photography



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, 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.

By Laura Hoch and Melanie Mastronardi, PhD Students at the University of Toronto    

In the fall of 2012, we founded the Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI), a student group dedicated to raising awareness about green chemistry, in order to promote sustainable practices within the chemistry community at the University of Toronto.  Through seminars, workshops and networking, the GCI strives to educate scientists and engineers about important green chemistry concepts that are relevant to chemical research and the community at large. To give you some insight into our motivation and how our organization works, we thought we’d share the following dialogue:


Laura: This all began because I wanted to learn more about how I could apply green chemistry to my research, but I didn’t know where to start.  I scoured online resources, but having never received any formal training about green chemistry and without any face-to-face support, it seemed really daunting.  After talking with you, Mel, and some of our colleagues, I realized that our best bet would be to come together to pool our resources and teach each other. What was your motivation to start the GCI?


Melanie:  I had never really heard about green chemistry until you started talking about it, and I realized that I probably wasn’t the only grad student who had little or no prior knowledge about it. By starting a student group, we could make sure all the students in our community had an opportunity to learn about green chemistry.  Since founding the GCI, we have initiated several projects to engage our peers about green chemistry. What do you think has had the biggest impact?


Laura: Inviting expert speakers from academia, industry and government to present in our Green Chemistry Seminar Series has definitely helped people see the impact of green chemistry and the many ways it can be applied, but I think we influence the most people with our weekly trivia events. By asking thought-provoking questions in an informal setting, we’ve managed to start some interesting discussions, which is a great way to really get people thinking.  Despite our best efforts, there has been some resistance though. What would you say are our biggest challenges?


Melanie:  One is overcoming the misconceptions about “green chemistry.”  People who don’t really know what green chemistry is about often think it’s not relevant to their work, when really it’s relevant to all chemistry.  I’ve also found that while it’s quite easy to get people to attend a lecture about green chemistry, getting them to actually go into the lab and incorporate the concepts into their research is much more challenging. If our peers were to take one concept into the lab, what do you think would be most valuable?


Laura: The more I learn about green chemistry, the more I realize that in its essence it’s really simple: before you start, think about what you want to do and then try to figure out the best way to achieve the desired goal for yourself, but also for your co-workers, your communities, and the environment.  Green chemistry is definitely the way of future, and if we can convince our peers to think about science in this way, I think it will be a huge benefit to them in their professional lives, even if they don’t know it yet.  What advice would you give to other students thinking about starting up a green chemistry group?


Melanie: Think about what you would like to do, and then decide what tools and support you’ll need to accomplish it. You would be surprised by how many people are willing to help you if you just ask. I continue to be amazed at the support we have received from our university, department, other student organizations and the many green chemistry experts we have had the pleasure of working with so far!


If you are interested in learning more about our group, please visit our website at:

We would love to hear about other green chemistry student organizations that are out there, so please share your stories in the comments sections below! Or if you are interested in starting something similar, let us know and we'd be happy to help in any way we can!

Students participating in the first annual Green Chemistry Workshop at the University of Toronto



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, 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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