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A review of some of the talks present at the GC&E Conference from the session, “Greening the Supply Chain Using Biobased Chemicals”

Richard Mehigh from Sigma Aldrich described how his team improved a process to extract β-Amylase from  sweet potatoes (or yams)—an enzyme used in the pharmaceutical industry and as a gel filtration chromatography marker. The previous process had been developed in early 1960s and was not reliable. The new process improved it on many levels including: used a new source available year round, removing the use of acetone which was a safety issue and disposal cost, cut the process time in half saving labor hours, increased the yield per pound of sweet potato saving cost on the starting material, and created a consistent, higher purity product.


Itaconic acid is a 100% bio-renewable product produced by fermenting carbohydrates such as corn. Itaconix, a company out of New Hampshire specializes in producing polymers from itaconic acid. Yvon Durant, CTO, discussed the polymerization process and how their products improved the performance of detergent formulations—one of their myriad applications.


Rachel Severance from Arizona Chemical Company discussed a pine-based asphalt additive that improves the performance and sustainability of road resurfacing (read the article here).


Other talks were heard from Dixie Chemical, NatureWorks, LLC, Omni Tech International, LanzaTech, Corbion, and Eastern Michigan University.



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Contributed by Rachel C. Severance, Arizona Chemical, LLC


While it is easy to take our road network for granted, it is an impressive feat of engineering that must be continually serviced, maintained, and expanded. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 4.07 million miles of paved roads existed in the United States as of 2010, the most recent year for which they have released statistics.1 In 2010 alone, the Federal highway program invested $28.4 billion for the improvement of 85,597 miles of highway, of which only 1391 miles were new highway construction.2 Pavement preservation over new construction is emphasized at the federal, state, and local government levels.


Building and maintaining our national road network comes at a cost. Asphalt pavement is engineered using specific combinations of stone and sand, held together by a binder. These virgin stone, sand, and other aggregates must be mined, crushed, sieved, and transported to asphalt mix plants with an extensive expenditure of energy and a high environmental impact. The virgin asphalt binder is produced via petroleum fractionation and distillation. Later, during maintenance and reconstruction, waste is generated during milling or removal of existing pavement layers.2,3 This waste, now called reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP), was historically transported to landfills, or was recycled as an aggregate replacement on road shoulders, in sub-base pavement layers, and in other similar applications.


However, just using RAP as gravel or so-called “black rock” sacrifices the inherent bitumen content. As such, many road producers incorporate RAP into new hot mix asphalt (HMA) to regain value from the bitumen coating the aggregate.

Currently, it is not uncommon for new hot mix asphalt (HMA) to contain 20% RAP.4 Research is ongoing by industry trailblazers to develop and implement an appropriate and sustainable technology to use more than 30% RAP.5 However, despite specification allowances, increasing RAP use above 10-25% requires additional knowledge and technology above that of typical new construction.


A major barrier to using reclaimed asphalt materials is the effect aging has on asphalt binder properties. The aging mechanism is complex, and is visible in both binders and mixes. On a chemical level, oxidation and modification is occurring, which leads to the binder becoming harder and more prone to failure.6,7 While this stiffening provides some advantages such as resistance to permanent deformation, the binder within the RA will also be more brittle and thus more susceptible to cracking.5,8


Arizona Chemical Company, LLC, has a strong history of providing sustainable solutions from renewable resources. AZC drew on this background to specifically develop a pine-based performance additive to address the unique chemical and mechanical needs of pavement engineering utilizing recycled pavement. This SYLVAROAD™ RP 1000 performance additive bridges the technology gap and enables the use of high reclaimed content roads.9,10


Samples showing relative quantities of virgin asphalt materials on left compared to use of reclaimed materials with SYLVAROADTM on the right.


Beyond the performance benefits, there are a number of advantages to using pine derivatives for asphalt rejuvenation. The first benefit is the replacement of non-renewable, petroleum-based products with one which is green and is classified as a non-hazardous chemical. Second, the unique chemical composition resulting from upgrading a pine feedstock enhances compatibility with the asphalt, ensuring that the additive will remain miscible throughout the lifetime of the pavement. Third, the nature of Arizona’s bio-refining and upgrading process ensures a product with a highly consistent rheological effect within asphalt, which simplifies dosage and formulation for our customers.


Arizona Chemical’s innovative SYLVAROAD™ RP 1000 Performance Additive was used in the construction of the roads and parking lot around the company’s new Science & Technology Center in Savannah, Georgia, which opened in 2014.


(1)          Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Policy Information. Public Road Length - Miles by Functional System (Table HM-20) (accessed Apr 25, 2014).

(2)          American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Transportation FAQs

(3)          Townsend, T. G.; Brantley, A. Leaching Characteristics of Asphalt Road Waste (Report #98-2); Gainesville, FL, 1998.

(4)          Copeland, A. Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement in Asphalt Mixtures : State of the Practice (FHWA-HRT-11-021); McLean, VA, 2011.

(5)          Zaumanis, M.; Mallick, R. B.; Frank, R. In TRB 2013 Annual Meeting; Transportation Research Board: Washington, DC, 2013.

(6)          Read, J.; Whiteoak, D. The Shell bitumen handbook; Hunter, R. N., Ed.; Fifth.; Thomas Telford Publishing: London, 2003.

(7)          Petersen, J. C. A Review of the Fundamentals of Asphalt Oxidation (E-C140); 2009; Vol. E-C140.

(8)          Karlsson, R.; Isacsson, U. J. Mater. Civ. Eng. 2006, 18, 81–92.

(9)          Grady, W. L.; Overstreet, T.; Moses, C. D.; Broere, D. J. C.; Porot, L. Rejuvenation of Reclaimed Asphalt. WO2013163463 A1, PCT/US2013/038271, 2013.

(10)        Severance, R. C.; Grady, W. L.; Broere, D. J. C.; Porot, L.; Overstreet, T. Rejuvenation of Reclaimed Asphalt. WO 2013163467 A1, PCT/US13/38277, 2013.


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A review of some of the talks present at the GC&E Conference from the session, “Abundant Innovation: Pathways to new chemical feedstocks from CO2 and natural gas”


Professor James Clark of the University of York in the U.K., opened the session with an introduction on the problem of wasted. For example, discarded materials from food production are underutilized or wasted in staggering quantities—things like whey, corn stover, starch, sugar cane bagasse, and risk husks. “We are incredibly unimaginative about what we do with our waste,” says Clark. Even recycling doesn’t stack up—only 1% of all plastic is recycled in the world.


The production of chemicals and fuel from bio-based sources includes co-products of the pine industry in the form of Crude Tall Oil (CTO). Sarah Cashman from Franklin Associates (a division of ERG) presented the results from a life cycle assessment on the use of CTO for chemical products and fuel compared to petroleum and vegetable oil-based alternatives. The LCA boundaries included pine production and the distillation/processing phase, not use or end of life. The results showed that the global carbon footprint of CTO saves 50.7% when compared to traditional substitutes. The carbon footprint of CTO is significant lower when used for products that are otherwise derived from C5 resins, heavy fuel oil, ASA, and acrylic reasons, but equal to products normally derived from soybean or gum. Read the full executive summary.


Carbon dioxide is also a wasted resource, and potential source of energy and chemicals. Professor Andrew Borcarsly of Princeton University discussed his research in utilizing a source of CO2 plus water and renewable energy to create chemicals and fuels. His research shows that creating certain oxidized chemicals may be more efficient from CO2 than from oil—things like acetone, isopropanol, propylene, butanol, and formic acid. Borcarsly co-founded LiquidLight, a company that is perfecting this CO2-based,  low-energy catalytic electrochemistry to create a range of chemicals such as ethylene glycol.


Other talks included Leah Rubin from UC Berkeley on the use of nitrogen heterocycles for feul cells as an alternative to hydrogen, Lyndsey Soh from Lafayette College on using CO2 as a solvent in the production of biodiesel from algae, and David Calabro from ExxonMobile on the chemistry of CO2 capture.



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The ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference technical programming was organized into thematic tracks this year. Each track was able to be followed throughout the conference so as to provide a deeper understanding of the theme, which reflected a important component of green chemistry innovation. One theme this year was “New Chemical Feedstocks,” organized by Julie Zimmerman of Yale University, which was dedicated to major trends in the development of alternatives sources to fossil fuel for chemicals and technologies.


Professor James Clark of University of York organized and chaired a session titled “From Waste to Wealth: Chemicals from Discarded Food and Trash.” Deriving valuable chemicals from various wastes (or waste valorization) is a key field of research that seeks to erode chemistry’s dependence on fossil fuels. According to Clark, “waste valorization is a vital part of a future sustainable society and we need to develop technologies for getting chemical and material value from waste, and not just energy.” He also chairs the “Food waste valorization for sustainable chemicals, materials, and fuels” through the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, where the goal is to bring a critical mass of researchers and stakeholders to harness to potential of food supply chain waste. Stemming from this line of work, this GC&E session dove into different waste streams that are being utilized for a wide range of materials.


Mark Mascal, a Professor of Chemistry at University of California—Davis, set the stage for the Waste to Wealth session by discussing important considerations for bioderived molecules and their processes with his presentation “5-(Chloromethyl)furfural (CMF) is the new HMF: Functionally equivalent but more practical in terms of its production from biomass.” HMF (or 5-hydroxymethyl furfural) is considered to be a very important platform chemical for pathways to a wide range of materials and fuel. It can be made from fructose in high yields, but is quite variable from any other feedstock. Mascal’s talk focused on the discussion of CMF as an alternative to HMF due to its ability to be derived from many different feedstocks (sugars from various biomass and waste), its stability, and the opportunity for it to supply key markets in the future (such as levulinic acid, which is a U.S. Department of Energy Top 12 Value Added Chemicals from Biomass). Mascal has worked to create a continuous process, which has now been scaled to pilot and is moving towards large scale demonstration.


The audience continued to have the opportunity to learn from a diverse set of people and topics showing how waste can be turned into valuable chemicals and materials, and as Clark recapped “with real examples, but also showing real challenges.” Another example of the wide range of technologies that can be supported by waste materials was illustrated by Zhiguang Zhu of Cell-Free Bionnovations (a company that also competed in the 2014 ACS GCI Business Plan Competition). Zhu discussed Cell-Free’s high-power and high-energy-density biobattery running on renewable sugars derived from biomass, eventually seeking to derive the sugars from cellulose. Hayman Abdoul, a graduate student at the University of York, discussed his work to create materials derived from alginic acid (via brown algae) to be used as super-adsorbents for the removal of bulky dyes from waste waters. In addition to these talks, the other subjects discussed ranged from an overview on “Biomass valorisation, sustainable materials, and the methanol economy” (as presented by Robin White, a project scientist at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies E3—Earth, Energy, and Environment) to University of Milan’s Nicoletta Ravasio’s talk on “Valorization of rice bran and other agro-industry wastes by extraction of oil and esterification over solid catalysts.”


The session wrapped up with Michalis Koutinas, a Lecturer at Cyprus University of Technology, who gave a talk on the bioprocess development for the production of ethyl lactate from dairy waste. Koutinas’ research presented a framework for ethyl lactate (used in pharmaceutical preparations, flavorings, and as a solvent) from cheese whey. By the end of the entire session it was clear that in the case of biobased chemicals, one person’s trash will someday be another person’s treasure. The take home message from Clark is “waste is a resource and we need many more good examples of this to make industry and government wake up to the opportunity.”


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On July 15, a paper titled “Sustainable Chromatography (an oxymoron?)” by the medicinal chemistry subgroup of the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Green Chemistry. Flash chromatography is a significant source of solvent waste in both industrial and academic synthetic organic labs. The paper discusses approaches for making flash chromatography more sustainable and less time consuming and alternatives to traditional flash chromatography. The authors also present opportunities for avoiding chromatography altogether with the aim of presenting ideas for reducing waste generation during synthesis. A high-level compound isolation decision tree was created to assist chemists in avoiding chromatography or mitigate the waste generated from chromatographic purification. Furthermore, the paper is packed with practical ideas for laboratories to reduce their waste, ranging from how to replace solvents like DCM (dichloromethane, a toxic and highly volatile solvent commonly used in chromatography) and how to reuse pre-packed columns.

Check it out!



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New this year, the ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference technical programming was organized into thematic tracks. Each track was able to be followed throughout the conference so as to provide a deeper understanding of the theme, which reflected an important component of green chemistry innovation. One theme this year was “New Chemical Feedstocks,” organized by Julie Zimmerman of Yale University, which was dedicated to major trends in the development of alternative sources to fossil fuel for chemicals and technologies.

The session that kicked off this theme, “Building new chemical platforms from biological systems,” was chaired and organized by Professor Richard Wool of University of Delaware. According to Wool, "One of the greenest approaches to making eco-friendly materials is to let the materials be grown under circumstances that remove CO2 from the air by photosynthesis powered by the sun with little additional energy cost to process and bring the materials to market." Aligning with this, the GC&E session was devoted to how various sustainable bio-feedstocks and polymers can be modified for the synthesis and processing of materials the world depends on every day.


Seven talks comprised the session, and it began with Robert Mathers, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University, who presented his talk “Bio-renewable alternatives to petroleum-based polyesters using continuous flow.”  With the goal of using design criteria that can maximize the degree of sustainability and the potential for commercialization of polyesters, Mathers is working with several approaches to achieve 80% biobased content, reduce waste, design for degradation, etc. and use continuous flow to streamline the process. He started by discussing the simple Fischer Esterification reaction (a useful reaction because it is reversible, thereby allowing for biodegradability), which he was able to demonstrate with citric acid and glycerol to start a polyester network (and only liberated water as a byproduct). Overall this 100% biobased, self-catalyzing reaction exhibited a low waste ratio, and degradability; Mathers went on to describe other reactions and additional steps his group has taken to utilize biobased oils as starting materials and new processes that can eliminate halogenated waste and organic solvents, and isomerize via continuous flow to produce polyesters.


Throughout the morning attendees were privy to a wide range of discussions—from the topic of upcycling raw materials streams into highly functional polymers (as presented by Rick Tabor, a Research Associate in Stepan Company’s Synthesis Group) to utilizing lignin, a waste stream from papermaking that is typically incinerated, as less toxic alternative to styrene (as presented by Kaleigh Reno, a graduate student in Wool’s group). Some talks dug into applied, drop-in solutions for industrially relevant needs. For example Meg Sobkowicz-Kline, an Assistant Professor of Plastics Engineering at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, presented her talk “High speed reactive extrusion processing for renewable polymer blends.”


Attempting to address various concerns surrounding plastics such as toxicity, petroleum-derived raw materials, and degradation, Sobkowicz-Kline’s lab seeks to understand how to reactively combine commercial bioplastics to improve properties and create further viable alternatives to traditional plastics. Currently they are working to blend two bioplastics, polyamide 11 (PA11) and poly(lactic acid) (PLA)—PA11, a thermoplastic from castor oil, could allow for extended use of PLA, which can be brittle and not perform well with hot foods. The interchange reactions they have achieved thus far can be done in conventional processing equipment using some traditional condensation chemistry metal catalysts (eventually working towards enzymatic catalysis); as they proceed with their research, they hope to soon create an industrially relevant, strengthened bioplastic.


Other presenters included Madhu Kaushik (a graduate student at McGill University) who presented on “Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) as supporters, reducers and chiral inducers;” Mark Schofield (an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Haverford College) who presented his talk “Chemical modification of sophorolipids for the synthesis of novel biomaterials;” and C. Stewart Slater (a Professor of Engineering at Rowan University) presented “Shear-enhanced membrane processes for efficient biomass concentration in the design of biorefineries.”


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LAUNCH is an open innovation platform that was founded by NASA, NIKE, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and The U.S. Department of State to identify and foster breakthrough ideas for a more sustainable world. LAUNCH aims to move beyond incremental change and make an impact at a system-wide level.



LAUNCH is currently focused on positively transforming the system of materials and manufacturing, which can have dramatic social, environmental and economic impacts on the world. In order to harness the innovation needed to advance this system, LAUNCH has issued a series of global challenges to address key barriers. The current LAUNCH challenge focuses on green chemistry, a crucial component in a sustainable materials and manufacturing system.


With this LAUNCH System Challenge: Green Chemistry, LAUNCH is seeking innovations that leverage or advance green chemistry to transform the system of materials and manufacturing to one that advances global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet’s resources. When referring to green chemistry LAUNCH uses the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, the definition which the Environmental Protection Agency also uses, in order to provide a common framing.


This challenge is specifically focused in the following areas with preference for projects that support local, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise inclusion that also create equitable, empowered workforces:


  • Solutions that reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in materials and processes
  • Solutions that enable the use of low environmental impact, renewable feedstocks
  • Chemistry that enables end-of-life recycling or maximize the potential for closed loop systems while minimizing hazard
  • Solutions that increase energy, water, and raw material efficiency, minimizing the use of constrained resources
  • Solutions that maximize community, worker, consumer, and environmental safety from hazardous chemicals
  • Enabling models, education, and tools to help industry and consumers select greener chemistry alternatives


This Challenge is currently open for submissions and will close September 24th, 2014. Innovations can be technical, processes, business models, enabling platforms, relevant data capture and assessment, and capability building.


A portfolio of approximately 10 innovators will be selected for support, networking, and mentoring from influential business and government leaders. On being selected as a LAUNCH innovator, you will become part of the LAUNCH Network, not only for the duration of the current challenge cycle, but beyond. When you join LAUNCH, you will become an active participant in a growing network of the most disruptive thinkers. You will receive visibility for your own work, exposure to new ways of thinking and access to key experts and stakeholders across the materials and manufacturing system that can accelerate the trajectory of your innovation into the marketplace.


For more information or to submit your innovative idea, visit:



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Contributed by Lisa Miller, SUNY Oneonta Office of Communications


Dr. Jacqueline Bennett has invented a new chemical process that’s safer, greener and more efficient than traditional methods used to make imines, a class of chemical compounds that has household and industrial applications.


Chemical processes used to create essential materials often consume large quantities of relatively toxic compounds that are later disposed of as hazardous waste. Bennett’s research focuses on finding more environmentally friendly ways to make imines, which are found in a wide range of products, from automotive rust inhibitors to antibiotics.


Because traditional imine synthesis uses solvents that pose inhalation hazards, Bennett experimented with a benign alternative solvent called ethyl lactate, a naturally occurring, FDA-approved food additive that breaks down quickly and harmlessly in the environment. Unlike the established method, Dr. Bennett’s process does not require heat, agitation, recrystallization or purification. Yet it forms imines more quickly, producing higher yields.


Specific aryl aldimines that may be formed through Bennett’s inventive methods include salicylideneanilines, which are active against tuberculosis; cinnamylidene imines, which are useful as intermediates in preparation of beta-lactam antibacterial compounds and which accelerate photodegradation of polyethylene; and p-hydroxybenzylideeanilines, which are useful as intermediates in preparation of cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as Zetia. More details on Bennett's process are available at


Bennett, who spoke about her discovery in a 2011 Academic Minute segment on the Albany NPR Affiliate, WAMC, received a United States Patent for it on July 1. “Green Synthesis of Aryl Aldimines Using Ethyl Lactate” is the result of years of research, including projects undertaken in collaboration with SUNY Oneonta undergraduate students in Bennett’s research group, the BLONDES: Building a Legacy of Outstanding New Developments and Excellence in Science.


An associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at SUNY Oneonta since 2006, Bennett received the American Chemical Society's Committee on Environmental Improvement 2011 Award for Incorporating Sustainability into Chemistry Education in recognition of her work on imine synthesis. She holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Riverside.


Bennett’s research interests include green chemistry, inquiry-based learning and the use of technology to enhance student learning. Her most important interest, however, is mentoring future scientists in her research group. One of her research students, Michelle Linder, won an international green chemistry award in 2011 for research she did under Bennett's supervision. Linder was the first undergraduate ever to win the award.


In addition to inspiring the next generation of chemists, Bennett’s discovery has the potential to validate the effectiveness of green chemistry as a strategy for protecting our health and planet, once imines can be mass-produced economically using her method.


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Heather Buckley and Florence Chardon were selected from a competitive group of applicants to receive the 2014 Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award. The award ceremony was held at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference on June 17 in Bethesda, Md.



Florence Chardon and Heather Buckley receive Hancock Awards at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Pictured from left to right: David Constable (Director of the ACS GCI), Madeleine Jacobs ( ACS Executive Director and CEO), Florence Chardon, Heather Buckley, and Diane Hancock (wife of Kenneth G. Hancock). Photo Credit: Peter Cutts Photography.



Buckley is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Berkeley where she works with Professor John Arnold on non-platinum oxygen reduction catalysts for fuel cells. Her award was sponsored by the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry.



"I was delighted to hear that Heather was a recipient of the Hancock Memorial award this year,” says Arnold. “Heather has worked tirelessly to promote green and sustainable chemistry at UC Berkeley and beyond.”


In addition to several publications on her research in Chemical Communications and J. Am. Chem. Soc., Buckley developed an green chemistry undergraduate lab for UC Berkeley’s general chemistry course which was published in J. Chem. Edu. Her enthusiasm for green chemistry extends to leadership in activities at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, as well as working internationally to facilitate a Global Green Chemistry Network.


Arnold continues, “She has traveled across the globe to discuss her fine research work and to help build support for teaching and research in green chemistry. The award is a therefore a very fitting recognition of her hard work and dedication."


Buckley is finishing up her thesis now, and will be starting a post-doc at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry in in August.




Chardon recently graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley. Her award was sponsored by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).


Chardon interned in 2013 with Genentech, Inc., a biotechnology company in San Francisco Bay Area, where she researched solvent substitution for chromatography. Genentech scientist Stefan Koenig, explains:



"Florence participated in a summer internship to demonstrate removal of the hazardous solvents dichloromethane and hexanes from routine silica gel chromatography.  By utilizing a 3:1 isopropyl acetate / methanol (or 3:1 i-PrOAc/MeOH) polar mobile phase with heptane, we were able to demonstrate a greener approach to the practical purification of complex organic compounds.  This was a collaborative effort between the process chemistry and medicinal chemistry groups at Genentech that has now been published to share with the wider chemistry community (DOI: 10.1039/c4gc00884g)."


Currently, Chardon’s plans are to return to Genentech to do a 2-year Process Development Rotational Program covering different areas of process development. In the future, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry. “Green chemistry,” Chadon says, “has the potential to become one of the primary focuses in our generation.”


Congratulations to these outstanding young scientists!




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The ACS GCI team will be traveling to San Francisco this August to attend the ACS National Meeting. If you are coming, please visit us at booth #825 in the Expo and share your green chemistry story for a chance to win prizes!


There will be a lot of sustainable and green chemistry programing related to the conference theme, “Chemistry & Global Stewardship”. Highlights include:


  • Joan Brennecke from the University of Notre Dame will be giving the distinguished Kavli Lecture on “How Ionic Liquids Can Contribute to Global Stewardship” on Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
  • The Plenary Session on Sunday from 3-6 p.m. includes a number of interesting speakers and topics: Heinz Leuenberger (U.N. Industrial Development Organization) on “Requirements for a Globally Sustainable Chemicals Industry”, Paul Anastas (Yale) speaking about “Molecular Design for Sustainability”, Walter Leitner (RWTH Aachen University) on “Catalysis as a Key Science and Technology for Sustainable Chemistry Supply Chains”; and Pedro Alvarez (Rice) on “Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Disinfection and Microbial Control”.
  • The Division of Environmental Chemistry (ENVR) will be celebrating their 100th anniversary with symposium on the impact of environmental chemistry over the years.
  • The Division of Chemistry Education (CHED), in partnership with others, will be holding a “Sustain-Mix” series with speakers from each chemistry division sharing how sustainability can be furthered in their area. Sessions include:


Other notable green chemistry symposia and presentations include:


  • Chemistry and Global Stewardship. This symposium from the CHED has several green chemistry talks of interest to the educator community—one of which is a progress report on a roadmap for green chemistry education presented by ACS GCI’s David Constable and Jennifer MacKellar. Other speakers include Michael Cann, Amy Cannon, John Warner, and David Laviska.
  • High School Program. This symposium, also from CHED, covers several green chemistry topics relevant to high school teachers.
  • Green Chemistry and the Environment. This ENVR session covers a wide variety of green chemistry topics.
  • The undergraduate program includes an “Eminent Scientist Luncheon and Lecture” with Professor Martin Mulvihill (UC Berkeley). ACS GCI is a cosponsor.
  • Green Metrics: From small molecules to biologics. Sa Ho (Pfizer) will discuss green chemistry efforts in biopharmaceuticals made by members of the BioPharm focus group of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable. The talk includes how Process Mass Intensity (PMI) metrics can be applied to biologics manufacturing.
  • Market Drivers and Policy Tools to Spur Innovations in Green Chemistry. Kate Weber (ACS) will present an overview of factors affecting greener innovation based on the outcome of a session at the recent ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. If you missed this in June, now is your chance!
  • Green Chemistry Is Safe Chemistry. David Finster (Wittenberg) will explore the connections between green chemistry and Inherently Safer Design (ISD) technology for chemical safety professionals.



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By Thomas Kläusli, Chief Marketing Officer, AVA Biochem

The evolution of biorefineries has driven the development of bio-based chemicals as an alternative to petrochemicals.  Due to increasing public concerns around health, the environment and limited fossil resources, there is a growing interest in using sustainable technologies to produce chemicals, plastics and other products from renewable resources.  Furthermore, new production processes for bio-based chemicals, such as 5-HMF, offer new, promising pathways for a wide range of applications.


Understandably, there is a lot of excitement around bio-based platform chemicals. Platform chemicals are building blocks which can be converted to a wide range of chemicals or materials.  When made from renewable raw materials, bio-based platform chemicals offer great potential for decarbonising everyday products, allowing everything from running shoe soles to plastics and car parts to be made bio-based. 


5-hydroxymethylfurfural (5-HMF) is a promising renewable platform chemical made by Swiss company AVA Biochem.  5-HMF has applications in a wide range of sectors, including chemicals, plastics, food, pharma and automotive, due to its functionality and stability.  The chemical is currently being used in the research and development of innovative new materials. 


Future bulk production of 5-HMF, made possible by the new production process developed by AVA Biochem, will allow for production of a range of bio-based products such as biopolymers, resins, coatings, paints, varnishes, artificial fibers and special additives. Recently, AVA Biochem began commercial production at its Biochem-1 facility in Muttenz, Switzerland.


As a renewable platform chemical, 5-HMF’s potential is vast. It is the basis of 175 downstream chemical substances.


There are two functional, reactive groups in 5-HMF, the hydroxyl group and formyl group.  The furan ring itself is also a reactive structure.  Thanks to these features, 5-HMF is able to undergo reduction, oxidation, esterification and many other reactions. These possible reactions contribute to 5-HMF’s versatile derivatives and applications.



The bio-based polymers market is probably the largest and most interesting market for 5-HMF today.  Packaging, fibers and bottling are some of the application segments driving the demand for bioplastics and the biopolymers market is expected to be almost 1.5 million tonnes by 2018.  Packaging, the biggest application for biopolymers, is predicted to be worth €1.2 billion by 2018.


Oxidising 5-HMF produces other interesting platform chemicals such as 2,5 furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA).  FDCA is used as the basis for polymers and can replace terephthalic acid in polyester, especially polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylate (mumefural, MF) is considered to be a potential anti-influenza chemical.  Another compound, 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) is one of the most valuable derivatives of levulinic acid and a commonly-used photosensitizing drug in photodynamic therapy for skin cancer treatment. 


On top of this, 5-ALA is not only a useful insecticide, but also a promising biodegradable herbicide.  Finally, reduction of 5-HMF’s formyl group results in 2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)furan, which is an important building block for the production of polymers and polyurethane foams.  These few examples show how versatile 5-HMF is.


5-HMF can only be made from biomass and is not available from petro-based sources.  Created through the dehydration of fructose, 5-HMF production used to be lengthy and highly manual.  For the first time, 5-HMF is now being produced commercially by AVA Biochem, using a modified hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) process, initially developed by its parent company AVA-CO2 to turn biomass waste into energy.


AVA Biochem's 5-HMF production process.

Currently, AVA Biochem is making 5-HMF with fructose sourced in Europe.  However, the modified HTC technology will also allow for the use of different biomass streams in the future. The biggest advantage of the new process is that it allows for easy scale-up and possible bulk production of 5-HMF in the near future.  AVA Biochem is currently in discussion with industry partners, with the objective of building large-scale 5-HMF facilities worldwide in order to supply industry with enough 5-HMF to enable the production of innovative bio-based products.


With brand owners from many sectors looking to increase the renewable percentage of their products, companies in the bio-based sector are working hard to facilitate the decarbonisation of society through green chemicals. Bio-based chemicals are becoming increasingly cost-competitive and their markets are growing.


Full-scale realisation of the bioeconomy will take time and continued investment.  Advances such as the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into sugars and the formation of key platform molecules are driving growth.


If the industry can ensure performance, delivery, competitive pricing and quality, the renewable chemical sector can take bio-based chemicals into the mainstream.  Application development is key, as is raising awareness of the benefits of bio, something which all players involved in the bioeconomy need to take responsibility for.


Nevertheless, with the bioeconomy being touted as a second industrial revolution, the future of versatile bio-based platform chemicals like 5-HMF looks bright.


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