Skip navigation

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 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, 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, 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 ( 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


“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.

While the debate over using crops for fuel continues, scientists are now reporting a new, fast approach to develop biofuel in a way that doesn't require removing valuable farmland from the food production chain. Their work examining the fuel-producing potential of Streptomyces, a soil bacterium known for making antibiotics, appears in ACS's The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. The method also could help researchers identify other microbes that could be novel potential fuel sources.


biodesiel.jpgAriane Deniset-Besseau and colleagues point out that with the rise in oil prices in recent years, the search has been on for alternative fuels. Though plants such as soy and corn have been popular, the honeymoon ended as people realized how much arable land they were taking up. So now, researchers are seeking additional sources, including bacteria. Streptomyces has become a candidate in this search. It can make and store large amounts of oils called triacylglycerols (TAGs), which are direct precursors of biodiesel. Also, manufacturers already know how to grow vast amounts of it because pharmaceutical companies use the versatile bacterium to produce life-saving antibiotics. To better understand these microbes' potential as a fuel source, Deniset-Besseu's team wanted to explore how Streptomyces stores TAGs.


They used a novel laboratory instrument that combines an atomic force microscope with a tunable infrared laser source. This instrument allows researchers to determine how and where the bacteria store TAGs. Some strains hardly accumulate any oil, whereas others stored large amounts of oil in a way that might be easy to harvest. The researchers conclude that their technique could greatly speed up the identification of other microbes that could produce large amounts of bio-oil.


Read the full abstract, "Monitoring TriAcylGlycerols Accumulation by Atomic Force Microscopy Based Infrared Spectroscopy in Streptomyces Species for Biodiesel Applications."


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, 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.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: