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Contributed by David Constable, Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®


As we get closer to the 20th Annual GC&E, I’d like to think that the pace of activity would slow a bit and we would be in a more settled state.  I have to say that is definitely not the case!  There is so much going on with this conference and the activities around it that the ACS GCI staff is in constant motion.  That’s a good thing for those who will be attending, as this will be well worth your time to attend!  Just take a look at the various articles in this and next month’s Nexus and you’ll get a sense of why we’re very excited about the conference this year.


I’d also like to draw your attention to the Educational Roadmap that we’ve been working on for the past 18 months or so.  Next week there is an “Ask the Innovator’s” event that will be hosted on the Green Chemistry Innovation Forum.  We’ve posted some background material there and on our website for everyone with an interest in promoting the integration of sustainable and green chemistry into how chemistry is taught.  I can’t emphasize enough that this effort will require hard work by many, many people to effect the changes that will be necessary to achieve a different vision for chemistry education.  That vision is: “Chemistry education that equips and inspires chemists to help solve the grand challenges of sustainability.”  Please ask questions, contribute to the discussion, take the survey, be a part.  And when I say many, many people need to be involved, I really do mean it – students and educators, administrators, industry and business, government, textbook writers and researchers.  I’ll say it again because this is really important – we need people from all parts of the chemistry community to be involved, and we need to hear from you.  The Ask the Innovator’s event is not a “one-and-done” event; the forum was established to be a place for discussion, the contribution of ideas, a place to find answers.  For the Forum to achieve its potential, you have to participate, so please don’t convince yourself that your voice doesn’t matter, or that your contribution isn’t important.


I generally steer clear of politics and policy but I wanted to update you about Federal legislative efforts for Sustainable Chemistry.  Some of you may know that Senator Chris Coons spearheaded efforts to introduce legislation last year in the Senate.  In the legislative equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, the language from Senator Coon’s Bill was transferred to the Senate version of the TSCA Reauthorization Bill and once that was approved, the Bill moved into the House/Senate Conference Committee to resolve differences in the Senate and House versions of the TSCA Bill.  To make a long story short, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that language is going to survive the TSCA negotiations, and if I was a betting man, I would bet that it doesn’t.  That means any sustainable chemistry-related legislation will now have to take a different, slower, and probably harder legislative route.  Now you know one of the reasons why I generally steer clear of politics and policy, although in a world filled with uncertainty, it’s nice to know you can always count on certainly being disappointed with the U.S. Congress.


As always, please do let me know what you think.






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Session: Bridging Green Solvent Design, Impacts, and Application

Organizers: Lindsay Soh, Assistant Professor, Lafayette College and Aaron Scurto, Associate Professor, The University of Kansas


In regards to designing greener processes, the use of solvents comprises up to 85% of manufacturing waste streams. For the production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, this waste can contribute to large amounts of hazardous materials being produced with E-factors ranging from 5-50 to  25-100 respectively.  The need to find and implement green solvent alternatives is therefore highly pertinent and has the potential to have significant impact.


Current research in the field of green solvents ranges from design at the molecular scale to finding applications for emerging solvent alternatives such as CO2 and ionic liquids.  Further development of metrics on what actually makes a solvent or process green by both understanding the inherent hazard/toxicity and the full life cycle impacts is also necessary to ascertain the impacts that alternatives may have.  The intention of the proposed symposium will therefore be to bring together disciplines related to the development, impacts, or applications of green solvent research and application from a variety of perspectives in order to have progressive conversations regarding green solvent viability.  The session seeks to address the discrepancy between the solvent applications that are being developed with those that have the most potential from an environmental and applications perspective.  Further we seek create and interactive session that will open up dialogue between chemists, engineers, toxicologist, industry, etc in order to allow for conversation that can reveal gaps in the current knowledge and can also help to guide further research and collaboration.




NWGC.pngSession: Green Chemistry Design for a Rainbow of Colorants

Organizers: Amelia Nestler (Consulting Project Manager, Northwest Green Chemistry), Saskia van Bergen (Green Chemistry Scientist at Washington State Department of Ecology) and Lauren Heine (Executive Director, Northwest Green Chemistry)


Northwest Green Chemistry (NGC) is organizing a session at ACS GCI’s 2016 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, Green Chemistry Design for a Rainbow of Colorants.  Colors augment materials across all industries, from aerospace and electronics to the built environment, apparel, footwear and packaging.  Modern-day dyes and pigments are expected to adhere to exacting product standards such as color fastness, yet many of these same requirements lead to the production of hazardous byproducts at some point in their life cycle.  For example, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), generated as byproducts during the production of many pigments, are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.


Our eight excellent speakers represent a cross-section of industry, non-profit organizations, and academia, beginning with an introduction to pigments, dyes, and human & environmental health hazards, particularly PCBs.  A series of presentations and a discussion with industry experts follows, with a focus on clearly defining the innovation needs in order to achieve green and sustainable colorants with high performance standards.  Next, a toxicologist tackles the application of modern toxicological methods, including concepts such as a positives lists and utilization of GreenScreen and Design for the Environment.  We conclude with a series of presentations on new innovations in colorants, include colloidal structural color, the utilization of alternative feedstocks, and the intelligent design of safer synthetic pigments.


We at Northwest Green Chemistry are committed to enhancing human and environmental health by fostering innovation and economic opportunities through sustainable and green chemistry and engineering solutions.  As such, our session challenges chemists, including researchers from academia and industry as well as current students to design solutions that provide color using green chemistry and green engineering principles and practices. This includes challenging chemists to focus on manipulating chemical structure to enhance performance while reducing toxicity and bioavailability across the life cycle of products.  The student workshop is also focusing on pigments, and includes a workshop portion that some of our speakers are assisting with.  Please sign up for our newsletter for regular updates, and join us at GC&E 2016.


Session: Sustainable Strategies for Next Generation Biologics and Therapeutics

Organizer: Kristi Budzinski, Green BioPharma Program Manager, Genentech


The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable (GCIPR) is hosting a biopharmaceutical-focused session at the 2016 ACS Green Chemistry and Engineering conference to highlight efforts in biologics process research and development to incorporate green chemistry and engineering principles.


In the Sustainable Strategies for Next Generation Biologics and Therapeutics session, industry experts will discuss the current environmental impact of biologics production and methods and technologies that can reduce the impact. Typically manufactured by living cells, biologics present a very different set of environmental challenges from small molecule pharmaceuticals. Biologics generate less chemical waste but consume large quantities of water and energy and significant volumes of single-use plastics and filters. Sa Ho, Pfizer, will present initial Process Mass Intensity (PMI) results from a benchmarking study conducted by GCIPR. The PMI calculation takes into account the water, raw materials, and consumables used to produce a biologic. Life cycle assessment (LCA) has also been used to evaluate the environmental impact of biologics production. Bill Flanagan, GE, will discuss the results of LCA studies comparing the traditional stainless steel production train against newer single-use production trains. Phil Dahlin, Johnson and Johnson, will share the learnings from an LCA study on the biologics value chain which identified hot spots companies should be targeting to reduce environmental impact.


The session will also feature presentations on innovative engineering processes and technologies that can reduce energy and water usage, minimize waste generation, and reduce toxicity across the production chain. Rory Finn, Pfizer, will focus on improvements in bioconjugation techniques that shorten process times and increase yield while reducing material consumption. New environmental data on ancillary process substances will be presented by Russel Shearer, Genentech, which can be utilized by development scientists and engineers to choose greener alternatives. Participants in this session will take away a better understanding of the environmental impact of biologics and new technologies and methods that can reduce the impact of this growing sector of the pharmaceutical industry.


Leeanne.jpgDesign Strategies to Maximize the Net Environmental and Human Health Benefit of Emerging Approaches to Environmental Challenges

Organizer: Leanne Gilbertson, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference to be held in Portland, OR June 14-16.  The overarching theme of the conference is Advancing Sustainable Solutions by Design and promises an exciting line up of plenary lectures and concurrent sessions. Leanne Gilbertson, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is chairing a session aimed at inspiring and engaging in discussion on how we design chemicals, materials and processes in a way that i) provides an innovative solution to current environmental challenges while ii) ensuring realization of a net benefit to the environment and/or human health (E&HH).  Historically, the success of new technologies has been directly tied to an enhanced or novel functionality.



Design through the Principles of Green Chemistry & Engineering aims to harness the performance advancement in a way that precludes potential adverse E&HH consequences.  On Thursday June 16, there will be two sessions on Design Strategies to Maximize the Net Environmental and Human Health Benefit of Emerging Approaches to Environmental Challenges. The morning session will focus on progress in the design of chemicals, materials, and products, while the afternoon will focus on methods and strategies for quantifying tradeoffs across the life cycle. The presentations will provide diverse perspectives ranging from technical, at the bench, design to design inspired by nature, consumers, and evolving regulations.


phillip white.jpg

We are lucky to have three invited speakers participate in the session that will offer unique and thought provoking perspectives that place the work of scientists and engineers in the lab within a broader context. Kiersten Muenchinger, Associate Professor and Chair in Materials Studies and Product Design, and Director of the Product Design Program at the University of Oregon, will kickoff the morning session with her talk entitled, Sustainable Design Strategies that Consumers Recognize in Polymers.  The afternoon session will continue with a presentation entitled, Designing with Okala Metrics, from Philip White, Associate Professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.



Timothy Malloy, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Sustainable Technology and Policy Program at UCLA, will wrap up the session offering a regulatory perspective with his talk entitled, Difficult Choices: Evaluating Green Decision-Making in the Regulatory Domain.  Both sessions will include technical talks presented by representatives from within (UC Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, Clemson University, Northeastern University, Purdue University, Queens University, and the Center for Green Chemistry and Engineering at Yale University) and outside (Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and Biomimicry 3.8) of academic labs.





More information about the GC&E Conference program and the session described herein can be found at




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The sessions in this year’s 20th Annual GC&E Conference are packed with the latest research and discoveries in green chemistry and engineering. Take a look through the sessions – as described by the organizers themselves – to learn more about what real-world challenges will be addressed at the 20th anniversary event.


Session: Green Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry are Miscible!

Organizer: Dan Richter, Principle Scientist, Pfizer Global R&D       


Contrary to popular belief medicinal chemistry can be carried out in a much more sustainable manner than history would suggest.  The days of plowing through a synthesis to obtain enough material for screening are over.  The time to target is the most important factor in drug discovery and application of green chemistry to this process is imperative in order to expedite compound advancement.  From improving synthetic routes, to new technologies offering safer methodology and processing, all the way to using predictive tools to reduce the number of target molecules made, green chemistry fits right in!  This upcoming session at the 20th GC&E conference in Portland will highlight these aspects and more with presentations covering implementation of green chemistry within molecular design, flow chemistry and synthesis.


Session: Data Uncertainty in Predictive Toxicology and Alternative Assessments

Organizer: Jakub Kostal, Faculty Research Scientist, The George Washington University


So, this year we would like to focus on data quality in the context of alternatives assessments and safer chemical design. Experimental (or predicted) values are rarely 'tagged' with error bars, which often leads to an exaggerated confidence or belief in the answer the model or experiment has yielded. Data-sharing, while extremely beneficial to the scientific community, has exacerbated this problem. The issue is particularly obvious when we face a series of incongruent data for the same observable, but it is equally important to consider whether we need to reconcile conflicting data or whether we have one value/answer to go on. Our session will showcase different strategies that we can use to tackle the problem of data uncertainty and make it work for us in a way that is meaningful from a regulatory perspective and model development.


Session: Sustainable Strategies for Organic Synthesis Using Biocatalysis

Organizer: Animesh Goswami, Research Fellow, Bristol-Myers Squibb


The synthetic chemicals enhanced and enriched human lives albeit with unintended adverse consequences. Many synthetic processes use highly toxic chemicals, generate large amounts of waste, are energy intensive, and are unsustainable. Chemical reactions in living organisms, on the other hand, avoid highly toxic chemicals, generate minimum waste, carried out under ambient conditions with minimum energy, and the net result is sustainability of natural systems. The key to the success of chemical reactions in living organisms is catalysis by a group of proteins called enzymes. Enzymes catalyze myriads of reactions in nature to build complex molecules from simple ones and vice versa. It has been known for more than a century that many enzymes can catalyze reactions of unnatural substrates in vitro. Increasing numbers of these biocatalytic reactions are being reported, e.g. hydrolysis and transesterification of esters, reduction of ketone, conversion of ketone to amine, and aliphatic or aromatic hydroxylation. In recent years, many biocatalysis based organic synthetic processes have been commercialized for the production of basic chemicals to pharmaceuticals, e.g. acrylamide, Atorvastatin, Saxagliptin, and Sitagliptin. Like their natural reaction counterparts, these enzyme catalyzed organic synthetic reactions are selective and ‘green” resulting in increased efficiency and reducing waste thus advancing sustainability. Lately, the power of natural enzymes have been greatly enhanced by modifying them using the so-called “directed evolution” techniques which greatly improved the productivity and selectivity of biocatalysts. The goal of this session is to cover all aspects of sustainable strategies for organic synthesis using biocatalysis, e.g. identification of novel biocatalytic reactions, development of biocatalytic processes, industrial application of biocatalysis, and directed evolution of enzymes for extending and improving biocatalysis.


Session: Alternative assessment and de novo design

Organizers: Hans Plugge, Senior Toxicologist, 3E Company and Longzhu Shen, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale University


The aim of this symposium is to accentuate the similarities between alternatives assessment and de novo green chemistry design while maintaining their essential distinctions. Both aim at selection of alternatives to existing chemicals with lesser toxicity while maintaining functionality. De novo design uses chemicophysical principles to design chemicals with reduced toxicity profiles while maintaining functionality.  Alternatives assessments instead explore the existing “library” of chemicals to identify greener alternatives.


Both de novo design and alternative assessment work off a multitude of databases used to derive their input data.  Databases range from classical in vivo data through in vitro data to toxicogenomics.   Incorporation of structure and physical chemistry data round out the input data.  Data gaps are filled using QSAR, Read-Across and molecular toxicology, among others.


In de novo design all of these data are incorporated using cheminformatics and computational chemistry into a probabilistic model which is used to derive the a priori characteristics of new chemicals.  Both alternative and de novo designed chemicals then undergo a screening hazard assessment, followed by a regulatory risk assessment incorporating exposure and toxicological information.  Regulatory risk analysis then possibly derives a SNUR (Significant New Use Rule) based on information submitted in a PMN (PreManufacture Notice) for new chemical (uses). A sustainability phase including economics and Life Cycle Assessment then follows.


Alternative assessment is a short term (10+ years) solution depending on existing chemicals, which de novo designed chemicals will gradually replace, until such time when nearly all chemicals will have been designed de novo, based on green chemistry principles.  The symposium will showcase the different elements of de novo design and alternative assessment of chemicals, which will be detailed in a continuum of presentations.  A proposed regulatory framework showing how de novo design and alternative assessment interact is appended as a flowchart.  The organizers can be reached at and


CO2 Utilization by Design: From Molecular Catalysis to Surface Chemistry

Organizers: Professor Gonghu Li, University of New Hampshire


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a renewable C1 feedstock for the production of chemicals, materials and fuels. Chemical reduction of CO2 has attracted extensive research interests from scientists and engineers from all over the world. This symposium will feature twelve talks by researchers working in the field of CO2 utilization. In particular, Drs. Aaron Appel, Jay Agarwal, Alfredo Angeles-Boza, and Jonathan Rochford will present their exciting research using molecular catalysts in photocatalytic and electrocatalytic CO2 reduction. These molecular catalysts are usually coordination compounds of transition metals, including Ru, Re, Mn, Fe, Co and Ni, that can efficiently reduce CO2 into CO and/or formic acid at modest energy cost. The four talks by Drs. N. Aaron Deskins, Neetu Kumari, Matthew Finn, and Gonghu Li will be focused on CO2 utilization by heterogeneous systems, with an emphasis on CO2 activation on metal oxide surfaces and single-site catalysts. Potential strategies for CO2 capture will be discussed by Drs. Qingzhao Shi and Chamila Gunathilake. In the broader context of solar fuel research, Dr. Matthew Pellow will present his research on life cycle emissions assessment of CO2 reduction, while Dr. Joel Haber will discuss his recent work on the development of innovative photoanodes for solar fuel production. This symposium will serve as an exciting educational platform to broadly disseminate knowledge and concepts of sustainability and green chemistry/engineering.




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Contributed by Ashley Baker, Research Assistant, ACS GCI


Dr. Nathan Lewis is the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology where he has been a professor at since 1988. The CalTech Lewis Group focuses on photoelectrochemistry and chemical vapor sensing. Recently, Nate Lewis participated in an ACS Webinar, in partnership with the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI), where he discussed his work on transforming water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to make fuel. He will also be one of the esteemed keynote speakers at the 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference this June. ACS GCI had the opportunity to interview Lewis regarding his current research.



Q: Have you noticed changing attitudes towards green and sustainable chemistry over the past twenty or so years?


A: Oh absolutely. It wasn’t really a topic of conversation 20 or 30 years ago. Now there are symposia at American Chemical Society (ACS) meetings on it, there are special forums and sessions - not just with ACS and chemists professionally but with business people, the general public and environmental groups. I think there’s really been a sea-change in the attention given to and considerations for green and sustainable chemistry.


Q: How do you imagine the concept of “design” empowering chemists to make their research and products more benign?


A: We’re doing this, for instance, in our solar fuels effort. We could already convert sunlight indirectly into fuel by using a photovoltaic array and hooking it up to an electrolyzer. But that’s too costly, and there are barriers to scalability. At some level we won’t be able to mine enough iridium – the scarcest element in the periodic table – to be able to make electrolysis that uses iridium oxide as the only really catalytically active material for water oxidation under those conditions scalable and sustainable. So we’re working on substituting those catalysts with others that are much more abundant. We’re working on substituting scarce elements like tellurium and indium in the materials used to make the light absorbers with much more abundant ones like silicon and metal oxides that are found in minerals and ores. You could argue that if we didn’t have that first and foremost as a consideration we wouldn’t have anything to do because there are already materials that do many of these functions they’re just not sustainable and simultaneously cheap, efficient, robust and safe. You have to have all four at once to have a viable system. That’s where the “materials by design” challenge comes into the forefront.


Q: What do you think of all the solar panel scale-up that’s happening right now? Is it sustainable?


A: It’s been raised as a concern for cadmium telluride thin films. The scarcity of tellurium might well be a barrier in maybe a decade or a little more to continue scalability in the future. But silicon, that’s not an issue of course because it’s abundant in the earth’s crust as sand. There’s plenty of silicon. We might see issues with the indium used to make the film contacts, and we of course have big demands on indium for displays as well. We haven’t run out yet and it’s an issue that should be considered, but it’s not thought to be as stringent a concern as for instance iridium in electrolysis, which is obviously a big concern.


Q: Throughout your webinar talk, you mentioned being inspired by nature but not copying it. In what ways does nature/biomimicry inspire your research?


A: Artificial photosynthesis is completely, in our implementation, inspired by natural photosynthesis in that the blueprint of natural photosynthesis is two light absorbers, two chlorophylls hooked together like batteries in a series to give the voltage needed to make fuel. Plus, two catalysts: one to oxidize water and the other to reduce something to make the fuel that powers the cell. Or in our case, fuel that we can directly use in our infrastructure. Then, you need a membrane to separate the products and pass protons to neutralize the charge that passed across that membrane from the photo-generated event.


Those five components are a robust, we think, blueprint for how to build a photosynthetic system of any kind, natural or otherwise. So as our analogy said, birds fly but you don’t build aircraft to fly with feathers. You design them differently to be optimal for different functions and specificity. In our case, we want to use two absorbers that are different colors. They don’t fight for photons. We want to make catalysts that don’t have to be rebuilt every thirty minutes like the active site - the oxygen-evolving complex - of photosynthesis. We want to make a fuel not ATP and not use RuBisCo, a pretty inactive enzyme and thus one of most abundantly expressed proteins on earth. Instead we want to use a robust, inexpensive, scale-able catalyst to make the fuel. So, it’s stuff like in the analogy. Even if you have the Wright Brothers that doesn’t mean you have a 787 Dreamliner. We want to get to the ultimate cost-effective, scalable, functional system, not just to any system.


Q: Do you have advice for people who are starting up businesses that are facing the “valley of death” but want to sustainably scale their ideas?


A: This issue is related to setting a long term strategic vision of what needs to be done for scalability while also having the short-term tactical vision of building something that can address the marketplace. They’re both perfectly fine, but you need to do them both in parallel.


If we want to right now, we could use existing platinum and iridium-oxide based catalysts and PEM-based electrolysis and make hydrogen at some cost with solar or nuclear or other no-carbon or low-carbon electricity sources, and you could make a lot of hydrogen that way. Dow Chemical Corp. makes a lot of hydrogen that way through the chlor-alkali electrolysis process, where they also get value out of the chlorine they make as the primary product of commercial interest. They make a LOT of chlorine this way with a scarce element – ruthenium or sometimes even iridium. That doesn’t mean there’s not a good business to be had there. To the contrary, it does mean that if that’s the only end goal then along the way we won’t get to a clean fuels economy if we don’t consider the bigger picture of sustainability at the same time.


I like to say we don’t want to get to the Grand Canyon and not be able to cross it. We need to start with technology that can build a bridge over those key barriers by the time we get there so we’re not surprised. In the meantime, there are lots of other things we could and should be doing but we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the key major scalability barriers and worked on them while we still had the chance to do so.


A short-term fix is not a substitute for the long term fix. But because you don’t have the long term fix doesn’t mean there aren’t things you shouldn’t also be doing in the short term, otherwise you never get to where you’re going.


Q: What would your advice be to researchers who are using critical materials (like platinum or rhodium) but don’t know how to get away from their use?


A: I think it’s been shown that you can get away from using these materials. We’ve gotten a lot of functionality out of earth abundant metal phosphide acid stable hydrogen evolution catalysts. We did that in collaboration with Raymond Schaak’s group at Penn State. It was inspired by an analogy with hydrodesulphurization catalysts and reactions.  It was also inspired by – in addition to some chemical intuition – a theoretical prediction by Jose Rodriguez at Brookhaven National Laboratory . And so we combine the ways that catalysts are discovered. You have to want to discover them, you get some guidance from theory and you also use some chemical intuition to tell you which spaces you might be looking in are more promising than others. You can’t build a better mouse trap unless you agree that mice are a threat. So we have to do discovery research if we’re going to discover new things.


Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges in the way chemistry is currently taught, practiced and implemented?


A: Well I don’t know that I know enough to talk about that because I don’t have a broad, necessarily hands-on exposure to the total breadth of how chemistry is taught and experimented. I do think that there’s a lot more visibility on sustainability considerations, on clean energy considerations. I hear these calls for doubling the budgets in these areas, and that certainly couldn’t hurt anything. It would probably be a much needed step toward helping research in this field, whether we’ll get that is another story and depends on, I’m sure, to some extent what happens in the upcoming elections. It’s almost a shame that it needs elections in order to just do good sound science policy planning for our energy future. But clearly it’s going to be a factor, which is fine, but I think we should get that behind us and get on with it.


Q: Where do you think we’ll be 20 years from now in terms of incorporating green chemistry and engineering into academia and industry?


A: I think we’re going to be a lot further down the road. Again, it depends on unfortunately what the global emphasis is and what the funding picture is and how much the public and funding and emphasis continues to pay attention. We’ve got a good start, but we lost two decades. We didn’t really pay attention to this in the 1980’s and 90’s because even though we had the Kyoto Protocol going, we had cheap oil. And we still have cheap oil now. When you have cheap, abundant fossil energy it’s pretty difficult to see the forest because of the trees and say that sustainability is going to be an important consideration in the long term that we have to take care of doing the R&D now. That’s going to be a challenge. In fact, cheap shale gas is arguably a challenge for renewable electricity because it’s got now such a highly competitive, now inexpensive, fossil based source to compete with in the market place. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing the R&D to make an affordable, scalable, clean, cheap energy system. It does mean it’s a little harder from the short-term, pure economic viewpoint to see the justification of doing it right now, although I think all the scientists could make a compelling case that we should be doing it.


Q: Do you have any particular thoughts or things you’re excited about for coming to the green chemistry and engineering conference?


A: We’re making a lot of progress. Not just me and my group, but the general community of researchers not only in solar fuels but in sustainable energy, and there’s no indication that we’re going to stop. I think this is all a very positive thing. We train students that are thinking the same way and we motivate people to think about the problem from many different perspectives. I’m excited to see engagement in the conversation at the national and international level and how it’s moving forward on both climate and energy policy, and observe that numerous very positive things that are happening. It’s our job just to keep the ball rolling and the momentum going and not screw it up. If we do that, then we’re in pretty good shape.




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Contributed by Adelina Voutchkova-Kostal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, The George Washington University and co-chair of the GC&E Advisory Committee


This year’s Green Chemistry and Engineering (GC&E) Conference celebrates its 20th anniversary, and for the first time the conference is taking place on the West coast – in breathtaking Portland. The conference is packed with an exciting series of technical tracks and events focused on the theme of Advancing Sustainable Solutions by Design.  “Design” is a concept that transcends all facets of green chemistry: it challenges us to strive for rational design of more sustainable processes and chemicals and to unleash creativity that is not constrained by what we consider possible today. Design inherently crosses disciplinary boundaries, and it is our hope that this GC&E will help soften some of these boundaries and inspire us to think outside our “box”, taking inspiration from creative design in nature, art and other disciplines. Here are some of the novel elements to this year’s conference that we are particularly excited about:



This year’s exceptional keynote speakers will help us pay tribute to this 20th anniversary meeting, and will provide inspirational look towards the challenges that will define the next decade of green chemistry. We are proud to host Prof. Nate Lewis (California Institute of Technology) and Prof. Paul Anastas (Yale University Center for Green Chemistry).


The technical sessions strike an excellent balance of fundamental and applied advances to the fields. In addition to sessions on green synthetic design, driving down waste in industry, green material design, catalysis (homogeneous, heterogeneous, photoredox and biocatalysis), conversion of renewables (CO2, lignin, other biomass feedstocks), curricular development in green chemistry and evaluation/design of safer commercial chemicals, some of the new sessions making an appearance this year are:


  • Challenges, Tools, & Innovation in the Apparel & Footwear Sector
  • Bridging Green Solvent Design, Impacts & Application
  • Advances in Continuous Chemistry: Back to the Future
  • Green Chemistry in Consumer Products: From Demand to Supply
  • Ensuring Commercial Success in Sustainable Technology Transfer By Design
  • Green Chemistry in the Semiconductor and Electronics Supply Chain
  • Green Chemistry Design for a Rainbow of Colorants


On Wednesday there is also a toxicology-themed workshop on “Data Uncertainty in Predictive Toxicology & Alternative Assessments,” which will engage the participants in ways to evaluate and use toxicological and predictive data in the design and evaluation of safer chemicals. This topic addresses one of our biggest obstacles in the selection of safer chemical alternatives, and we hope it will attract practitioners, academics and students.


This year we have also developed a very exciting student workshop unlike anything that has been offered in previous years. The workshop centers on a chemical design challenge, themed around dyes and colorants. Students will hear from industry experts about the challenges in the dyes industry and will work in cross-disciplinary teams to come up with solutions that are “out of the box,” pitching their solutions to industry experts. We are very excited to make this workshop a reality and hope it will inspire students to think beyond their disciplines in tackling sustainability challenges in their future careers.


On Monday evening the 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award ceremony will take place, held for the first time outside of Washington, DC. On Tuesday evening there will be a welcome reception, followed by yet another new event at the conference – a series of TedX-type talks from designers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. These inspirational speakers will bring new perspective to our thinking and we are particularly excited to incorporate this event into this year’s conference. On Wednesday we will have our poster sessions after the technical talks, and the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable will hold its reception. Finally, Thursday will be informal thematic social events to allow participants to network with colleagues from their fields.


We have really tried to take the GC&E conference to the next level this year, and to take advantage of everything that Portland has to offer! I hope to see you all in Portland in June!




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The Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship is awarded to undergraduates through early career scientists who demonstrate outstanding research or educational interest in green chemistry. The 2016 Breen winners are Sarah Kwan, Yale University, and John-Hanson Machado, George Washington University.


Each year, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) awards one or more Dr. Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowships. The award sponsors the participation of a young international green chemistry scholar in a green chemistry technical meeting, conference or training program. The ACS established award through the ACS International Endowment Fund in 2000. This fund commemorates Dr. Joe Breen’s commitment and accomplishments for the advancement of green chemistry.

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Sarah Kwan’s research is to determine how cleaning influenced the bacterial and fungal microbial communities on desk surfaces in schools. “My research merges biotechnology, engineering, and public health," says Kwan. "By investigating ways of mitigating adverse health effects associated with indoors environments, namely asthma and allergies, applying a rational engineering approach to my findings, and applying the principles green engineering I hope to design inherently safe, culturally sensitive, economically feasible, and sustainable solutions for healthy indoor microbial environments to live and work in."


Kwan stated, “For me this is an invaluable opportunity to share my knowledge with and learn from a cross section of disciplines in the green chemistry/engineering field. This fellowship and conference also provide me the opportunity to form potential collaborations that would otherwise be unobtainable”.


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John-Hanson Machado's research involves computational modeling of skin permeability. "We are designing a completely systematic approach to address the issue of data quality in building predictive models for skin permeation on more reliable training sets”, according to Machado. He started working on carbon sequestration in his sophomore year, “I realized that “green chemistry” is more than a field, but a practice every chemist can and should adopt as part of their training. Even now that I am developing my professional skills theoretically in computational chemistry, the highlight is still focused around this central theme - I can limit my chemical utilization in the lab using in silico approaches to direct my future research, reduce waste, and contribute to a greener lab space.”


Machado stated, “The Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship gives me exposure to others in the field advancing my professional “street-cred.” Even though I am the same chemist without this award, the external validation allows me to speak with a sense of authority among colleagues in the green chemistry community despite my age as a young scholar”.


Both Kwan and Machado will be attending the 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, June 14-16, 2016 in Portland, Oregon, where they will be presented with their award.



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Contributed by Kai Zhang Wood Technology and Wood Chemistry, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 4


Nature provides a huge source of sustainable biopolymers, such as cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin from plant. Their use in human history has a long tradition. However, they were and are still being widely used in their original, less or non-modified forms. On the molecular levels, they have similar polymeric chain structures and backbones as the synthetic polymers. In comparison, many framework molecules that are used in high-technology field in the last centuries are derived from petroleum, which has limited amount on earth. In contrary, the biopolymers, such as cellulose, are biosynthesized with an amount of millions of tonnes annually worldwide. In order to advance the application of biopolymers in high-technology fields, a promising strategy is to provide them special functions through chemical modifications.


Thanks to numerous hydroxyl groups at cellulose backbone, chemical reactions that can be carried out on hydroxyl groups, the feasibility to regioselectivelly control the derivatization of the hydroxyl groups within the building blocks of cellulose (the primary or secondary hydroxyl groups within anhydroglucose units that are the building blocks), and the contents of modified hydroxyl groups, a much bigger world of more diverse molecules is conceivable compared to the compounds derived from petroleum. In my group, we attempt to synthesize various novel polymeric compounds with particular functions from cellulose and then transform them into functional materials with various forms, including nanoparticles, flower-like particles, thin films and surface coatings. In particular, the materials should maintain the functions that have been pre-designed on the molecular level.



Among others, the pH-responsive nanoparticles with switchable sizes can be prepared using a modified nanoprecipitation method with the solution of cellulose derivatives containing terminal tertiary amine groups, more precisely, cellulose 11-(2-(dimethylamino)ethylthio)undecanoate and cellulose 11-(2-(diethylamino)ethylthio)undecanoate (Figure 1). As further steps, it is possible to introduce fluorescence compounds onto the terminal double bonds before or after the introduction of the pH-responsive tertiary amine groups, to endow the nanoparticles more functions. These stimuli-responsive nanoparticles are of great interest for future applications as drug-delivery systems or for biomedical imaging. In particular, the polysaccharides have further intrinsic advantages, such as excellent biocompatibilities, simple degradability and non-toxicity. By carefully choosing the groups that are introduced for the acquisition of functions, we could maintain these advantages of polysaccharides. However, the exact effect of the nanoparticles derived from cellulose derivatives or derivatives from other polysaccharides on human still needs more investigations due to the presence of dimethylaminoethyl or diethylaminoethyl groups. The investigations can be performed e.g. on cells and living organs. In comparison, their impact on environment should be much less considerable due to sensitive ester bonds as well as glycosidic bonds of polysaccharides, which can be simply degraded into mono sugars.


Although the chemical syntheses of cellulose provide a straightforward strategy for the preparation of novel compounds, their realizations still need improvements in the framework of green chemistry for less environmental impacts. Lots of challenges still remain, although some attempts have already been performed. For instance, green and renewable solvents including ionic liquids have been used as reaction medium. Mild reactions parameters and efficient reaction techniques are preferentially applied for the modifications. In the near future, solid-state reactions, catalyzed chemical reactions, one-pot synthesis strategy and further new synthetic strategies will gain their positions in this field. With all these optimized conditions for green and sustainable modifications on cellulose as well as many other polysaccharides, a broad library of novel compounds is not only achievable, but also are their syntheses on a bioeconomic and bioefficient basis.



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Each year the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable awards targeted grants to fund key research priorities. These grants spur impactful and highly relevant green chemistry research in alignment with the critical needs of the industry. Green research grants of $50,000 each have been awarded by the roundtable to professor Blacker at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, professor Dobereiner at Temple University in Philadelphia, and professor Evans at California State University in Fullerton, California.

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A. John Blacker, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. His winning grant proposal is titled, “Process Development of Continuous Flow Oxidative Biotransformations.” With this award Blacker will research the use of continuous flow processing methods for biological catalysts that employ the clean oxidant, oxygen. “


A key aspect of the research is to increase the reaction rates of these multi-phasic systems through a variety of techniques including engineered enzymes, design of appropriate reactors and processes,” says Blacker. Working with a cross-disciplinary team, consisting of a biologist, chemist and engineer, Blacker hopes their research “will contribute towards greener methods for manufacturing complex organic chemicals.”


Graham Dobereiner, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Temple University in Philadelphia. He received the award for his submission, “Tandem catalytic process in flow: synthesis of amides via mild photochemical carbonylation using CO2 as a carbonyl source.”


“Carbon dioxide, abundant and renewable, is in many ways the ideal feedstock for fine chemicals production,” says Dobereiner. “We aim to use carbon dioxide to make tiny amounts of carbon monoxide, and simultaneously use that carbon monoxide to make value-added products.” By doing so, his research aims to demonstrate a safer process with reduced toxicity and flammability.


Amanda C. Evans, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at California State University in Fullerton, Ca. She received the award for her submission titled, “Enz-Flow/Continuous Bioprocessing: Towards a green continuous flow synthesis of levomilnacipran.”


“I am synergistically combining the technologies of engineered enzymes and flow chemistry in order to more rapidly, safely and sustainably make molecules,” says Evans. “Our current pharmaceutical target of focus is levomilnacipran, which is a selective serotonin-norepinephrine inhibitor prescribed to treat major depressive disorder.”


The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable identified priority green engineering research areas for pharmaceutical and fine chemical companies in 2011. The focus of this year’s grant awards is to catalyze research in continuous flow chemistry and engineering using photo redox chemistry, photochemistry, and biocatalysis.


"Flow chemistry / continuous processing have shown great promise in modernizing pharmaceutical production methods,” says Stefan Koenig, Ph.D., ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable co-chair and scientist at Genentech in South San Francisco, Ca. “With these three grants, the GCIPR is funding cutting-edge methods, including (a) oxidative biotransformations, (b) photochemical carbonylations with CO2, and (c) multi-step processes to active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) utilizing a combination of chemical synthesis and biocatalysis. The GCIPR is advancing chemistry within the pharmaceutical industry to make it sustainable for the long-term.”


Since 2005, the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has given $1.78 million dollars in research grants to advance the sustainability profile of pharmaceutical processes using green chemistry techniques.


The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable brings global industry leaders together to catalyze the implementation of green chemistry and engineering. Current members include Amgen, AstraZeneca, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Codexis, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Novartis, Pfizer Inc, Roche, Sanofi and ACS GCI.




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How a Competitor's Data can Help your Company Cut Pollution

April 14, 2016 | GreenBiz

Companies looking for ways to reduce pollution need look no further than the Environmental Protection Agency.


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Companies Get Serious About Water Use

April 13, 2016 | BBC News

Water is unlike any other commodity on Earth. For a start, we can't live without it, for very obvious reasons.


Waterproof Clothing and Fluorocarbons: What you need to know about your beloved jacket

April 13, 2016 | Grough

Campaign group Greenpeace recently turned its sights on the outdoor industry for its use of controversial chemicals used in many of the outdoor clothing brands we use.


Southeast Professor Receives Fulbright Award to Teach Green Chemistry

April 12, 2016 | Southeast Missouri State University

Dr. Mohammed Ali, professor of organic chemistry at Southeast Missouri State University, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant to teach green chemistry and help incorporate green chemistry into the undergraduate curriculum at the International University of Business, Agriculture, and Technology (IUBAT) in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Vegetables Grown with Treated Wastewater Boost Human Exposure to Pharmaceutical Contaminants

April 11, 2016 | C&EN

Consuming produce watered with reclaimed wastewater increased detectable levels of the drug carbamazepine in people’s urine.


This EPA Label IDs ‘Safer Choice’ Cleaning Products

April 11, 2016 | Care2

Like millions of Americans, you might have wondered what chemicals are in those cleaning bottles under the kitchen sink.


The Greenhouse that Acts like a Beetle and Other Inventions Inspired by Nature

April 10, 2016 | The Guardian

For a new generation of innovators, biomimicry – the imitation of nature’s ecosystems – may help solve some of humanity’s toughest resource problems.




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Tesla’s Model 3 orders are through the roof. Here’s what that means for the planet.

April 6, 2016 | Washington Post

Tesla Motors unveiled its latest electric car, the Model 3, on March 31, with a lower price tag and 2017 delivery date. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk heralded the Model 3 as a way to accelerate the world's "transition to sustainable transport."


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QD Vision and Hisense Announce Joint Initiative to Make TVs and Displays More Energy Efficient

April 6, 2016 | Business Wire

The collaboration is intended to underscore the role of quantum dot technology in making China’s rapidly growing display industry more “green.”


Can a Bottle Made From Algae End the World's Plastic Addiction?

April 6, 2016 | TakePart

The all-natural container is biodegradable.


Do Pineapple Trimmings have a place in Aquafeed?

April 6, 2016 | Feed Navigator

A feed product made using pineapple peelings may boost growth, health and production of farmed prawns.


Solar And Wind Energy May Be Nice, But How Can We Store It?

April 5, 2016 | NPR

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down.


Edible film: The future of eco-friendly packaging?

April 4, 2016 | DW

Food packaging is a major source of plastic waste. Developing wrapping that is edible could help - not just the environment, but maybe even taste, too. A scientist at a green chemistry conference in Berlin tells DW how.


Global Concerns Promoting Growth of “Green” Chemistry Markets, Reports BCC Research

April 4, 2016 | Cleantech

BCC Research estimates in its new report the global chemical industry will grow to over $1.5 trillion per year when bio-based and renewable products replace existing products and provide new revenue sources to companies and regional economies.




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Contributed by Thomas P. Umile, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Gwynedd Mercy University


“I am pleased to announce that you have been selected to receive an NSF Student Scholarship to attend the 2007 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, June 26-29, in Washington, DC.” Those words simultaneously evoked excitement and fright in a naïve first-year graduate student, caught in the whirlwind of taking challenging classes, joining a research group, and trying simply to fit into the rigorous academic culture on a storied, ivy-draped campus. In retrospect, the experience of attending the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (CG&E) and ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s (ACS GCI) student workshop would help that student (i.e., me) to mature as a graduate student and greatly impact his future development as a scientist and scholar.


tomumile_1.jpgMy interests in Green Chemistry began with my undergraduate mentor, Michael Cann, who wove the topic into many lively, 9:00am organic chemistry lectures at the University of Scranton. I would go on to coauthor a second volume of Real-World Cases in Green Chemistry educational materials with him. However, beyond that, I had little connection to the larger Green Chemistry community. Simply put, Green Chemistry was merely a concept for me (and one which, at the time, was barely a footnote in most textbooks).


Attending the 2007 GC&E showed me that Green Chemistry was less an abstract idea and much more a community. At the ACS GCI student workshop, I met, for the first time, other young and enthusiastic scientists who shared my interests in Green Chemistry. Later that evening, I attended the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony and sat amongst scholars and entrepreneurs who believed in the transformative power of Green Chemistry and brought it into successful practice. Seeing the Green Chemistry community “in action” for the first time (at such prestigious locations as the American Chemical Society’s headquarters and the National Academy of Sciences) emphasized the broad significance and importance of the field to my then-inexperienced eyes. When I worked on the Real-World Cases project as an undergraduate, a part of me perhaps thought of my Green Chemistry interests as noble but not widely shared. That notion quickly evaporated upon seeing and meeting so many undergraduates, fellow graduate students, faculty, and field leaders over the next week at GC&E. The excitement and energy of the Green Chemistry community provided unexpected solidarity.


At the same time that GC&E impacted my views of the Green Chemistry community, it also provided a number of “firsts” for my career. GC&E was my first conference and my first professional, oral presentation. For this first-generation college graduate trying out being a scientist, attending (and presenting at) such a significant event provided a sense of encouragement and approval. Orally presenting the Real-World Cases project (and the subsequent “debriefing” with my former advisor) taught me a lot of presentation lessons and fundamentals I would carry with me and now pass on to my own students: the audience is overwhelmingly on your side, being asked questions is an indication that people are interested (and not looking for mistakes), and one must always graciously accept criticism.


In the nine years since that first GC&E, Green Chemistry has continued to influence my career. My doctoral dissertation, although not focused on Green Chemistry, took on green overtones as I explored the application of my catalyst system as a cleaner and safer alternative in water treatment. In my classroom, Green Chemistry finds its way into all of my courses, from discussions on biodegradable plastics in non-major lectures to the use of greener solvents and reagents in major-level chemistry labs. In 2015, I attended the ACS GCI student workshop, not as an attendee, but as a speaker and breakout session leader. Of course, myriad other events have influenced my academic career. However, I consciously trace roots to that 2007 GC&E. The sense of community reinforced my interests in applying green thinking to my research and teaching, and the welcoming and collegial nature of that community provided a young, trepidatious chemist with many “firsts” that would lead to continued career successes.




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