Skip navigation

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


1United Nations Environment Programme (2012). Achieving the global transition to energy efficient lighting toolkit. Accessed March 24, 2014: nToolkit_1.pdf



“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.

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, 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, 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, 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 (, 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, 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: