By David Constable, Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

 

It’s been an incredibly eventful summer for Green Chemistry starting with the 18th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference that I wrote about in my June column. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy (Colorado), the Gordon Conference on Green Chemistry (Hong Kong), the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco, and as I write this article, I am at the 5th International IUPAC Conference on Green Chemistry (Durban, South Africa). Next week I will be meeting with members of the Global Green Chemistry Centresfor their second annual meeting to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

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The ACS Summer School is a bona fide green chemistry institution that Dr. Mary Kirchhoff, the ACS Education Director has been running since 2003. About 60 students from the U.S., Canada and Latin America attend each year and it’s always very gratifying to see how many lifelong relationships are established there each year. For many of the students, it is the very first time they experience an in-depth look at energy and what is being done to develop more sustainable forms of energy. It’s also an opportunity to see what green chemistry is about and students are encouraged to consider how they might integrate it into their research.  Mary does a great job shepherding the students through the challenging week and constructs a well-rounded and memorable program.

 

For those of you who have not been to a Gordon Conference before, they are small, intimate conferences that provide a considerable amount of time for extended conversations. This year’s organizers were Professor Ken Seddon from Queen’s University, Belfast, and Dr. Mark Harmer of DuPont and they put together a truly diverse, interesting, international conference. While most who attend these conferences are academics, the conference itself was geared towards the industrial implementation of green chemistry. And because it was held in Hong Kong, it was a great privilege to hear how green chemistry is being implemented in China and other parts of Asia. There are many green chemistry challenges and even more opportunities to effect positive green chemistry changes in the rapidly expanding chemical enterprise throughout Asia.

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Because I was in the region, I joined an ACS delegation to the Chinese Chemical Society National Congress in Beijing. The last time the CCS National Congress was held in 2012, there were 3,000 attendees; this time, there were 8,000. During this meeting I had the privilege to meet with Professor Buxing Han of the Institute of Chemistry, the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is the CCS lead for Green Chemistry. Professor Han has a large and very active program in several areas of green chemistry including greener solvents. There is a considerable amount of fundamental research in energy and green chemistry being done in China, and it’s somewhat breathtaking to see. Professor Han is joined by many colleagues throughout China investigating most areas of chemistry and seeking to implement greener approaches in the growing chemical enterprise. From China I flew to San Francisco to participate in the 248th ACS National Meeting. There is always a lot of green chemistry-related sessions at National Meetings.  Since the environmental division was celebrating its 100 year anniversary, they were sponsoring more than the usual number of green chemistry sessions. There were also a lot of green chemistry and closely related sessions in many of the divisions with high quality content. It’s always a challenge to decide which sessions and which papers to attend – a good problem to have.

 

As I mentioned, I’m currently in Durban at the 5th International IUPAC conference on Green Chemistry. As you may know, IUPAC has had an effort in Green Chemistry that goes back many years, largely through the efforts of Professor Pietro Tundo of Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia. This is another more intimate international conference that has drawn just under 200 people from across Africa, Europe, Latin America, India, the U.S. and Asia. It is great to see that green chemistry and good science are being accomplished in Africa despite there not being the same level of resources for research as may be the case in other parts of the world.  It’s tough to gain access to equipment and materials in many places and the degree of commitment and dedication of the students to making a difference in Africa is quite compelling. I would hope that there might be opportunities for more collaborations with institutions in other parts of the world where there are fewer constraints and greater access to equipment and supplies. Africa faces a great many challenges and the practice of green chemistry and engineering can make a big difference here.

 

So I’ve been on three different continents in as many weeks, and I’ve heard people from almost every continent in the world talk about green chemistry and engineering at four and soon to be five conferences and meetings. When you pause to consider that fact, it’s a pretty amazing thing. There are people on almost every continent (I’m not sure about Antarctica) working to implement green chemistry and engineering, and that’s something we can all get excited about!

 

As always, let me know what you think.

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