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news102816.jpgBio-based Cosmetic Start-up Amalie Beauty Inc Uses Natural Ingredients Grown in MIT Grad's Backyard Garden

October 27, 2016 | Indystar


MIT 2014 alumna Megan Cox created a line of “Farm to Face” products as a naturally-derived alternative to conventional cosmetics. Using ingredients grown in Cox’s grandparents’ Indiana backyard, Amalie Beauty Inc. plans to begin selling a line of face oils on November 1st, alongside the already successful Wink eyelash treatment which increases the body’s natural production of prostaglandins.


U.S. vs. EU: Chemicals Substitution Faceoff

October 27, 2016 | Green Biz


The European Union is far ahead of the United States in terms of legislative mandates that restrict the use or require substitution of highly hazardous chemicals. How well are EU governments and companies doing to develop safer substitutes, and how does their investment of resources and capacity building compare to the U.S.?


Alliance Launched to Support the Growth of the UK Bioeconomy

October 24, 2016 | Biomass Magazine


On Oct. 19, five established R&D centers across the U.K. announced a new alliance, BioPilotsUK. This alliance will seek to position Britain as a global leader in biorefining technology development and biobased product manufacture—two key elements of the bioeconomy.


Commercial CO2 Re-use Moves a Step Closer as Innovation Program Seeks Industrial Partners

October 24, 2016 | Business Green


The EnCO2re open innovation programme, formally launched at the K-Fair in Düsseldorf on Friday, is being led by cleantech incubator Climate-KIC and high tech polymer specialists Covestro. It aims use captured CO2 to replace fossil fuels as a feedstock in the manufacture of plastics.  The programme already has more than a dozen research partners in seven countries, however EnCO2re said is now ready to work with industrial partners deploy its CO2 re-use solutions at scale.  EnCO2re argues the CO2 re-use market has the potential to grow to up to 3.7 billion tonnes per year, 20 times its size today and equal to roughly 10 per cent of global emissions.

ISGC 2017, May 16th to May 19th, La Rochelle, FRANCE - is one of the worldwide leading events in the field of green chemistry and gathers more than 800 attendees either from academia or industry.


Apart from 24 invited lectures, ISGC 2017 will welcome 280 oral and flash communications. The most innovative and recent works will be selected for publication in a themed issue of the Green Chemistry journal. The call for abstract submission to the International Symposium on Green Chemistry is open for submission up to October 31st 2016.


Organized around multi-parallel sessions, ISGC 2017 will cover a broad range of topics such as renewable carbon, smart use of fossil, eco-efficient processes, alternative solvents, polymers, catalysis, biotechnologies, mechanism investigations, non-thermal technologies and environmental impact of chemicals/processes.


New in 2017:

ISGC-2017 has been thought as a cross-disciplinary platform and should offer to public and private scientists an ideal platform for sharing fundamental knowledge with industrial research and development stakeholders. In this context, ISGC creates the " Green Chemistry Challenge " : 1-to-1 meetings, exhibition area, innovation sessions and mentorship opportunities. Our objectives are to facilitate public-private and private-private partnerships, to present new challenges in R&D, to detect talented young researchers, etc. The "Green Chemistry Challenge" will be open very soon.


Information :

Contact :

Call for papers:

Researchers Identify Greater Environmental Risks in 'Green' Material

Oct 17, 2016 |


University of Sheffield Professors Ian Reaney, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Lenny Koh, Management School, undertook the first comparative life cycle analysis of piezoelectric materials as part of an EPSRC project. Their findings indicate that a replacement for lead zirconate titanate (PZN), recommended by global authorities due to its green credentials, is more dangerous to the environment.


4 Ways Green Chemistry is Helping Make the World a Better Place

Oct 17, 2016 | World Economic Forum


Now is the time to look at the circular economy on the micro-level. Much as fast expanding markets require us to look at the economy at the granular level, circular economy principles require consideration of resources on a molecular level. Chemistry is the study of matter, and “green chemistry” – or what we in the business world might call molecular technology – will be a key component in closing the overall consumption loop.


The Cost of Plastic Packaging

Oct 17, 2016 | Chemical and Engineering News


The growing use of plastic food packaging benefits consumers, but critics say industry isn’t doing enough to minimize the negative environmental impact.


How the Chemical Industry Joined the Fight Against Climate Change

Oct 16, 2016 | New York Times


It might seem surprising to find the world’s chemical companies on the front lines of preventing climate change, fighting to disrupt their own industries.  But in a sweeping accord reached on Saturday in Kigali, Rwanda, companies including Honeywell and Chemours, a DuPont spinoff, were among the most active backers of a move away from a profitable chemical that has long been the foundation for the fast-growing air-conditioning and refrigeration business. 

Finding Needles in Chemical Haystacks

Oct 15, 2016 |


A team of chemists including Daniel Weix from the University of Rochester has developed a process for identifying new catalysts that will help synthesize drugs more efficiently and more cheaply. The trick was to do something that has not been attempted before, to examine libraries of drugs to find the cure for bad chemistry: new catalysts.

Sharon Nolen, PE, CEM
Manager, Eastman’s Worldwide Energy Program


nolen.pngAt Eastman, we believe sustainability is about creating more value than the resources we consume, and we focus our efforts in three key areas - creating “productivity” value through more efficient use of resources, creating “innovative” value through our sustainable products, and creating “shared” value through corporate responsibility-focused stakeholder engagement. As a Responsible Care® company, we have focused on creating “productivity” value through continual improvement in the areas of environmental, health, safety and security for more than 25 years, but we really put structure around sustainability as a corporate initiative in 2010 with the establishment of our Sustainability Council. At that time, we published a variety of near-, mid- and long-term sustainability goals that encompassed all three commonly recognized aspects of sustainability – economic growth, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. As the company’s size, business structure and corporate strategy continue to evolve, our sustainability strategy and Council also continue to evolve, and we have streamlined our goals into a ‘scorecard’ of aspirational goals intended to drive continuous improvement.


A key environmental goal at Eastman is to reduce energy intensity 20 percent by 2020 compared to a 2008 baseline, and to date, we have moved the needle by nine percent. However, energy efficiency is nothing new to Eastman. We’ve operated a combined heat and power (CHP) plant at our largest site in Kingsport, Tenn., since the 1920s. Also known as cogeneration, CHP represents the concurrent production of electricity and heat emanating from a single source, recovering heat that would typically be wasted during electricity generation. Due to the integrated nature of our manufacturing facilities, waste heat from one chemical process can be used for heat within a different chemical process.


Currently, we convert more than 70% of the energy we obtain from fossil fuel into power and steam for our manufacturing processes. We are highly motivated to focus on energy efficiency for many reasons. Internal and external studies show that energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to address greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, energy efficiency supports several Eastman initiatives beyond sustainability. For example, improved lighting results in safer conditions in day-to-day operations; longer-life light bulbs reduce the amount of time that employees spend at elevated heights changing bulbs. Repairing steam leaks minimizes drips and icicles in the winter making walkways safer. Improved efficiency supports Eastman’s productivity initiatives to reduce costs.


Making the most of available resources
POY_SustainedExcellence_2016lg.pngSo while we’ve spent decades looking at energy efficiency, several changes resulted in improvements to our energy program over the past several years. Following the ENERGY STAR® Guidelines for Energy Management, we identified gaps in the existing program. ENERGY STAR supplies examples of how other companies have filled these gaps. Eastman also benchmarked with other companies and used other available ENERGY STAR tools, such as the Green Team Checklist and Portfolio Manager. Eastman’s energy intensity measure follows the Department of Energy guidelines. Oak Ridge National Lab engineers participated in a review of Eastman’s measure and found it to be sound. Networking among industry groups provides opportunities to learn best practices. All of these resources proved valuable as we revamped the program and have continued to implement new processes and best practices.


Gaining support from the top
Management support at the highest levels made a big difference in the energy program. For example, an executive team member leads the Design and Natural Resources Sustainability Sub-council, which serves as a liaison between the energy program and the Sustainability Council. As a Certified Energy Manager, I lead our worldwide energy team full time. The team drives initiatives and improvement opportunities at the site and company level. We’ve also increased employee engagement, expanded data analysis, standardized energy surveys, and incorporated energy efficiency into design, which have led to great results.


Engaging employees to drive change
To engage employees, we use the company newsletter, energy events, and internal Green Teams to provide information on how to save energy at home and at work. We believe that if our employees are thinking more about energy efficiency at home, that will carry over into the workplace. We’ve also successfully tackled building efficiency. Several of our office buildings are now enrolled in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and have become ENERGY STAR Certified. While office buildings are a small part of Eastman’s energy footprint, we find participating in programs such as the ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings and informing building occupants of their Portfolio Manager Score and improvements they can make pay dividends beyond the individual buildings. Since decision makers are often housed in these types of buildings, the monthly communications on building performance and improvements seen (>25% in most cases) build credibility for the energy program.


Developing processes and standards
We firmly believe that our employees want to make the right decisions but cannot do so unless they have the right information. Since 2010, we have standardized our energy measure, shortened the frequency of reporting and developed models to normalize for production and weather. The latest improvement is the development of interactive tools available to anyone that allow the user to track energy trends for any site or area of interest for any time frame.  We continue to work toward greater frequency and availability of energy information to allow manufacturing to address issues as they arise. 


We have also developed a process to survey manufacturing areas for energy efficiency improvements. The survey primarily focuses on the utilities systems and manufacturing areas are continually identifying projects that can reduce energy use. For example, an energy assessment was performed on one of Eastman’s larger distillation units to determine the feasibility of doing additional heat integration with the unit. Savings would come from additional heat transferred to the column feed. It was determined that improving the feed heater design would allow operations to recover additional heat, improve reliability and increase capacity on the distillation unit. The project involved redesigning the interchanger to avoid large pressure drops and allow for more heat transfer capacity.


Because Eastman has had an energy program for many years, many of the current activities and initiatives are not completely new. Building energy efficiency into design is a good example. While there have always been engineers who did so, there was not a standardized approach for the process. Eastman now has a checklist that prompts every design engineer for specified projects over a certain dollar value to think about energy efficiency for all aspects of design throughout the project. 


Overcoming challenges
With any major program or initiative, there are always challenges. During the last six years, Eastman has grown through acquisition. When I became the energy manager in 2010, there were eight manufacturing sites in the program. There are now 22 of Eastman’s approximately 50 manufacturing sites in the program, and we are continually working to include new sites.


Finding the right balance between our large and small sites is also a challenge. Eastman’s energy footprint is dominated by our two largest facilities in Kingsport, Tenn., and Longview, Texas. It would be easy to focus all of our energy efficiency resources on those two sites. However, we understand the value of a company-wide program. Energy improvements at a small site may look minor when compared to Eastman’s total energy use but can be quite significant to the profitability and even longevity of a small site. Another layer to that is the fact that our two largest sites have been working on energy efficiency for many years. A lot of the low hanging fruit has already been addressed. So making improvements that significantly move the needle without significant costs can be a challenge. 


Staying energized
As you can see, we didn’t “flip a switch” and make energy efficiency happen overnight at Eastman. It has taken many years and a lot of hard work by many talented people to bring us to this point. My advice to other companies looking to make improvements is to get your employees involved. Encourage them to submit ideas and have a system for capturing those ideas. Even ideas that don’t look economically attractive now are worth saving for the future when energy costs might be greater and a carbon tax could affect economics. Take advantage of networking opportunities to learn what other companies are doing. Companies in very different industries can provide great ideas on employee engagement, project tracking, or reinforcement. Partner with internal organizations. Although it’s obvious that a good working relationship with manufacturing is imperative, others may not be so obvious. Engineering can incorporate energy efficiency into design, procurement can purchase energy efficient equipment and communications can publicize awards. Finally, link into existing company initiatives like safety and productivity. Show how energy efficiency can be integrated into and support existing programs.


Ultimately, we have to remember that sustainability and improving our energy efficiency is a continuous journey. It won’t happen overnight and the work is never complete, but with goal-setting, measurement, and engagement, industries and companies can make a positive difference.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Contributed by Ben Swanson, President, Trevor Tumiel, Treasurer, and Phil Sheridan, Faculty Advisor, SCACS, Canisius College


During this past spring, the Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society (SCACS) at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, organized several events related to green chemistry. 


First, we invited David Nalewajek, Ph.D., Research Fellow at Honeywell International’s Buffalo Research Laboratories, to present a seminar to our Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  Dr. Nalewajek is a 1974 graduate of our department and was elected an ACS Fellow in 2015.  His seminar, "A Successful Response to a Global Environment Issue: The Montreal and Kyoto Protocols and Non-Ozone Depleting, Low Greenhouse Warming CFC Replacements" focused on causes of ozone depletion and the chemistry that he helped develop to create ozone-friendly CFC replacement compounds with low global warming potentialAfter the seminar, one attendee remarked, “Many times chemical companies are portrayed as having little to no concern for the environment. Dr. Nalewajek’s seminar illustrated how Honeywell’s development of CFC replacements was a clear example of a chemical company protecting the environment through green chemistry.” Another commented, “It was interesting to hear that global responses to climate change, not just U.S. policy, can drive the standards which a global company such as Honeywell must take into account when developing and selling chemical products.”  One student summed up the event by saying, "It was great to learn about environmentally important and innovative chemistry being done in our own backyard.”


Honeywell 8.PNGBuilding on the interest in green chemistry generated by Dr. Nalewajek’s seminar, we subsequently organized a tour of Honeywell International’s Buffalo Research Laboratories. Our goal was to learn more about their green chemistry initiatives and to explore chemical industry in the Buffalo area. Our group toured several laboratories at the facility, each of which was focused on developing greener and safer alternatives to a variety of important chemical products, including foams, aerosol propellants and air conditioning refrigerants.  We also visited the on-site large scale chemical production facility.  One student commented, "I really enjoyed seeing up close the green chemistry happening right here in Buffalo. The tour gave me a much deeper appreciation for how chemicals are developed and produced in industry. It was also great to recognize techniques and instrumentation that I have used in my undergraduate research."


As part of our chapter outreach, we included a green chemistry activity in a series of hands-on science experiments conducted with 3rd grade students at Windermere Boulevard Elementary School in Amherst, NY.  The 3rd grade students were divided into small groups, with two SCACS members leading each group.  Our experiments included coded messages with invisible (indicator) ink, exploring the hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties of regular sand and homemade magic sand, and creating a cloud in a jar. The visit concluded with making (and eating!) liquid nitrogen ice cream. Cloud-in-a-jar was meant to demonstrate environmental considerations. In this experiment, we gave each 3rd grade student a tall glass into which a small portion of boiling water was poured.  Next, they placed a watch glass over the opening and then put an ice cube on top. When asked what they observed, the students noticed that water vapor only condensed on the inside of the glass. 

Honeywell 9.PNGThe 3rd graders were then asked to repeat the experiment, but this time either a lit match or hairspray was added into the glass by a Canisius student before covering.  Again the 3rd graders were asked to observe what happened. In contrast to the first trial, they now noted that water vapor also condensed inside the glass, forming a white, wispy cloud. They were able to recognize that the soot or hairspray aerosols were necessary for cloud formation.  We then asked the students how pollutants from burning fossil fuels (i.e. smokestack emissions) could play a role in cloud formation1.  We concluded the experiment by discussing ways in which the 3rd grade students could help reduce pollution (i. e. walking or riding a bike instead of driving). Describing his experience working with the 3rd graders that day, one SCACS member commented, "It was amazing to see the enthusiasm generated by doing hands-on experiments. Plus, the cloud in a jar activity triggered many comments from the kids about environmental issues.”

Increasing our department’s awareness of green chemistry was an overall positive experience for everyone involved.  We encourage other chapters to seek out green chemistry speakers from local industries or universities.  Incorporating a green chemistry activity into a larger outreach effort is a great way to spread green chemistry ideas to a younger audience.


“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

[1]  Kaufman, J.; Koren, I. Science 2006, 313, 655-658.

Contributed by Karolina Mellor, Ph.D., Program Coordinator, Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering



The development of green chemistry was made possible because of the individuals in academia, industry, government and NGOs who dared to dream big and followed through by devoting their professional life to advancing and promoting the new discipline. Through their continuous work—from innovative research to awareness raising and advocacy—these individuals impacted and shaped green chemistry science and education.


Many of the early green chemistry innovators’ roots  trace  back to the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB). Four notable green chemistry leaders, Drs. John Warner, Amy Cannon, Nicholas Anastas and Buzz Cue were students at the University. UMB was not only place where they developed everlasting friendships, but more importantly, it was where they developed their passion for science.


awards-caption.jpgOn September 18, 2016, these green chemistry pioneers participated in an event at their Alma matter in celebration of 25 years since green chemistry emerged. The event was co-organized by Dr. Wei Zhang, director of the Center for Green Chemistry at UMB.


The event started with a warm welcome from Winston Langley, UMB Provost,  Zong-Guo Xia, UMB Vice Provost for Research & Strategic Initiatives, and Robert Carter, UMB Chemistry Department Chair. The welcome remarks were followed with talks by UMB distinguished alumni, who reflected on their career paths in green chemistry, and their recent work. John Warner talked about green chemistry and entropy relationships and how this concept drives his work at the Warner and Babcock Institute. Buzz Cue presented his work at Pfizer to develop greener processes to produce Zoloft  an antidepressant and selective serotonin inhibitor. Nick Anastas and Amy Cannon focused on a variety of educational opportunities to incorporate green chemistry and toxicology concepts into the modern school curriculum and chemistry community. This event appropriately acknowledged the work of the early green chemists who dared to be different and worked to advance green chemistry in its infant stages.


The author would like to thank Drs. Wei Zhang, Buzz Cue, Phillip Coish and Paul Anastas for their contributions to this article.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


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Contributed by Karolina Mellor, Ph.D., Program Coordinator, Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering


Green chemistry offers solutions to difficult-to-tackle environmental problems. For example, the green chemistry framework has successfully been implemented in fields as diverse as agriculture, mining, transportation, communications and manufacturing.


To continue this success, it is imperative that we give the next generation of scientists the opportunities and training they need to implement green chemistry even further.  As educators, we must ask, are we are doing enough? Are we providing students with sufficient opportunities to learn about the newest advances in green chemistry and interact with the leaders in the industry? Are we attracting and retaining women and underrepresented groups?



With this in mind, on September 18, 2016, the Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering at Yale and the University of Massachusetts Boston co-hosted a workshop for New England students and faculty that highlighted the achievements in the field and engaged students in the wider green chemistry discussion.


The workshop consisted of several parts, where students had a chance not only to present their work to a diverse audience of scientists, business managers and industry leaders, but more importantly to interact with the early green chemistry innovators and learn about their career paths.  The event was attended by over a 75 people, from UMB, Yale, UMass Dartmouth, Hult Business School, Gordon College, UMass Lowell, Bridgewater State University, Northeastern University and Salem State University. Students attended multiple talks and participated in numerous networking breaks to learn about state of the art green technologies from the Warner & Babcock Institute, US EPA Region 1, Beyond Benign, Amgen and Pfizer. In addition to inspiring talks and networking opportunities, students also participated in the poster session.  Posters were assessed based on their merit and presentation. Winners received Yale and UMB themed prizes.


The event was certainly well received by students and faculty. Dr. Jason Lam, a postdoctoral student at the Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering at Yale said, “The conference was very educational and inspirational. Lectures delivered by well established green chemistry professors motivated me to think about how we can incorporate sustainable elements into our research projects”.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Contributed by David Constable, Director, ACS GCI


Some of you may have read a few recent publications about the future of chemistry1, 2. It’s always interesting to read articles like these to see the author’s vision of chemistry as it is now and for chemistry in the future. If you haven’t read these two publications, I would encourage you to do so. For about the past 18 months to two years, the ACS GCI has been working with key stakeholders in the chemistry education community to think about how sustainable and green chemistry concepts might be integrated into chemistry education at the undergraduate to graduate level. One idea, concept or way of thinking that is integral to truly understanding sustainable and green chemistry is getting your mind around systems and systems thinking. Systems-thinking is more readily identified with systems biology and many parts of engineering, but it is not something readily associated with chemistry and perhaps that is why discussions about sustainable and green chemistry in the chemistry community are so challenging.


If you haven’t been exposed to it before, you may be asking what systems thinking is? To me, in the context of chemistry, systems-thinking requires you to think about where elements, molecules, chemicals and materials come from, how they are made into the chemically useful forms we exploit, how they are transformed to build innovative products, where they end up in products, and where they end up after they have served their function or intended purpose. In addition, systems-thinking forces you to consider how elements, molecules, chemicals and materials interact with and affect people, the economy, and the environment over the course of their use, reuse or disposal. In other words, systems-thinking puts chemistry in a real world context, not just in a flask in the hood of your laboratory. It also asks you to think about how chemistry may be used to provide services and functions to other sciences and end uses as opposed to being an end all to itself to advance the science of chemistry. I realize this is a lot to ask, and I also realize that it is a very complex undertaking, especially when just learning chemistry and to apply it as it is now taught is hard enough as it is.


Now that the “what” has been explained, let’s turn to the “why”; i.e., why is systems-thinking important?  Systems thinking is crucial because we are currently operating as if there are no limits to the resources we are currently consuming at alarming rates, because we are operating as if the world can continue to assimilate the chemicals and wastes produced to make the products society desires without any adverse impacts to people or the environment, and because we are barely scratching the surface of the innovation space available to us. The first two are possibly well-accepted by most as the underpinnings for sustainable and green chemistry, but the third may not be something many associate with sustainable and green chemistry. However, I would challenge you to think about the many unmet needs and grand challenges of sustainability whose solutions, from a technological perspective, are heavily dependent on chemistry.  Innovation through the lens of sustainability and green chemistry is beginning to drive people to consider new kinds of chemistry that provide unique functions and amazing science while preserving people’s health and the environment.


It has perhaps become trite to say that the world has become smaller, but it is hard to argue with the fact that news and information travels internationally at rapid rates. We also generally accept that there are a greater number of things in our lives that connect us around the world and we see and understand these connections. For example, we understand at some level that when there is a financial crisis in Europe, or Asia, or the U.S., this has international ramifications of some kind, but may not affect us immediately, or prevent us from withdrawing some money from our local ATM. In the same way, we should see that using an element in catalysis, let’s just say, Iridium, connects us to a group of miners in South Africa who work in conditions we are unlikely to want to work in, that the separation and purification of Iridium from the ore that is mined comes with enormous, long-lasting adverse environmental impacts, and dispersing that homogeneous, unrecoverable Iridium catalyst as a waste may have impacts we don’t quite understand, but we know are there. So maybe we might find another way to catalyze our reaction that doesn’t have that adverse systemic effect? It’s an enormous challenge to think about all the connections that attend the chemistry we do in our laboratories, but it isn’t an insurmountable one. For me, it’s a compelling reason to become a chemist, and now, we only need to convince more people of just how rewarding and compelling a career in chemistry can be. I have every confidence that we can make progress in getting chemists to consider systems in their work, but it will take time. My hope is that we might sometime soon start the journey together.


1. Matlin, S.A.;  Mehta, G.; Hopf, H.; Krief, A.  One-World Chemistry and Systems Thinking. Nat. Chem. 2016, 8, 393-398.

2. Whitesides, G. M.  Reinventing Chemistry. Angew. Chem. Intl .Ed. 2015, 54, 3196-3209.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

By Aaron Smith and Morgan Bright, Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) at WVSU; and Micheal Fultz, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, West Virginia State University


The importance of the role of chemistry throughout a sustainable society is easily identified as we progress through our collegiate education. Whether your goal upon graduation is working in the chemical industry, going to graduate school for polymer engineering or pursuing a medical career, a solid foundation of green chemistry is the key to the overall understanding of many disciplines. Knowing green chemistry’s role in a sustainable society, we can do no less as students than acknowledge our responsibility to learn about chemistry through class participation and research, and to have insight into how our education in chemistry can affect the world as a whole. Green chemistry is taking into consideration the environmental impact we make as chemists, and striving to limit any negative impact by being knowledgeable of what happens to our products and research waste following the completion of our chemistry projects.


kids.jpgIt is imperative to know the 12 principles of green chemistry developed by Paul Anastas and John Warner.  However, it is important to note that memorizing these principles is not enough. In order to create a safer and more progressive chemistry education curriculum, we must practice what we preach. A successful way to incorporate the ideals of green chemistry into undergraduate education is to begin learning the ideals in lecture and practice them in the lab. The incorporation of green chemistry techniques will not only instruct students how to be aware of potential impact, but also inspire them to continue looking for greener methods of conducting reactions as they progress through graduate programs and into the workforce. A solid foundation of green chemistry can create a cleaner, more efficient future for the scientific community as a whole.


Just as important as understanding what green chemistry is, it is important to understand what green chemistry is not. Green chemistry is not simply running a campus recycling drive or trash cleanup effort. While these activities are a positive community service and are great activities for American Chemical Society (ACS) chapters, they do not incorporate any of the ideals of green chemistry. Green chemistry attempts to create renewable and sustainable practices in order to limit the impact upon the environment. As a chapter, we believe additional  effective ways to promote green chemistry are: to incorporate it in the curriculum by performing green activities in the laboratory, encouraging faculty to lecture about the concepts of green chemistry within the classroom, hosting extracurricular seminars from university faculty or other regional institutions, and encouraging ACS chapters to creatively incorporate green chemistry into their outreach activities.


There have been many efforts at West Virginia State University (WVSU), through the Student Member of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) to educate the community on the importance of green chemistry. This has been done through science days at local elementary schools, booths around campus and other community events. The main principle being introduced to young minds is the acknowledgment that there should always be an attempt to further limit the amount of waste and environmental hazards produced in chemistry.


The principles of green chemistry can begin to be passed to a new generation of chemists. A non-exhaustive way is hosting seminars and incorporating brief, hands-on chemistry projects. Some of the most popular activities that have been completed by WVSU SMACS have been seminars on sustainability. Two activities in particular include:

  1. The use of biodegradable packing peanuts to teach the difference between cellulose and polystyrene based packing peanuts. The activity involves mixing both types of peanuts with water to create a visual reminder of how polystyrene does not break down just breaks up to create environmental hazard. This is comparison to the biodegradable packing peanuts that break down to either potato or corn starch. Oregon State University and the USDA have a fantastic handout that groups can use to incorporate the peanuts into their outreach work.
  2. The use of polylactic acid (PLA) during snack time. While the students are on break, we use this as a teachable moment. The students degrade the “plastic” cups made of PLA back into lactic acid. Creating memorable visual activities like these are key to helping future chemists and society to appreciate green chemistry’s role in our future. The University of Oregon has a fantastic laboratory written out for those who would like to know more.


The move to more sustainable methods in chemistry education has prompted former undergraduate students to help incorporate greener experiments in our organic chemistry curriculum. This was for both pedagogical, as well as, financial reasons. The incorporation of the “Solventless Aldol”  experiment at WVSU is one successful example of how students and faculty can work together to improve the curriculum at their school. The senior SMACS members helped with the original experimentation by developing a laboratory introduction and protocol that best communicates the instructions to students. This included the theory, mechanism, and introduction to what green chemistry is for all undergraduates, who may have never been introduced to green chemistry topics before. The experiment instilled the value of atom economy, less hazardous chemicals and safer solvents as compared to the traditional aldol that was in the laboratory protocol. This lab was included in the organic sequence as a comparison to a traditional aldol due to the persistence of the SMACS group helping to unite the lab protocol and background. This is an example of how green chemistry will affect generations of undergraduate students to come through the continuation of this experiment in future lab courses. This will expose many future students to the ACS, green chemistry, and give the students an idea that they can make a difference in their education and school. The “Solventless Aldol” proved to be a successful example of how ACS groups can work with their faculty to help modernize curriculum.


john-warner-text.jpgOne of the most popular ways to promote and educate on green chemistry can also be one the best, if done correctly. Hosting a green chemistry expert can have strengths and benefits if the speaker can make the need for the promotion of green chemistry education a priority for all, not just the speaker. Over the last couple of years, we have had the opportunity to host national and regional leaders in green chemistry who have all made the same appeal: building a sustainable society through chemistry is a necessity for everyone, chemists and non-chemists alike, to work on. One challenge and pitfall is the possibility that these seminars will become a one and done event. Each group needs to insure students stay engaged and continue their education and not forget what they learned at the seminar.


Our challenge to other ACS institutions is to increase the prevalence of green chemistry principles within the chemistry curriculum through lectures, labs and ACS activities. Whether it is having a group discussion in class, setting up an awareness booth on campus, or doing fun activities at local K-12 schools, increasing the awareness of green chemistry is paramount to building a cleaner future for us the world. As these ideals are instilled into a younger generation; green chemistry will become the standard in chemical techniques. This is a goal we all should work toward.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

Contributed by Professor James Mack, Associate Professor and Assistant Head, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Cincinnati


It is amazing that it has been about 20 years since I was first introduced to both green chemistry and mechanochemistry.  I will admit when I first learned about mechanochemistry it wasn’t under the best of circumstances.


machine.jpgTo put this in context, I was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire studying the Diels-Alder reaction of linear acenes and fullerenes. I wanted to synthesize a novel molecule consisting of two fullerenes attached to a pentacene backbone. I worked really hard to try to make this molecule but failed each time. In my third year as a graduate student, I saw an article by Koichi Komatsu and Guan-Wu Wang where they synthesized the aforementioned molecule I spent a lot of effort trying to make.  As I was reading the article, my stomach churning the whole time, I saw that they used something called “High Speed Vibrational Milling.” I remember saying “What the **** is that? You mean they did chemistry in a ‘Wig-L-Bug’?” That just seemed so wrong (for those that don’t know, a Wig-L-Bug was sometimes used to make KBr pellets for IR samples. I used it in college—who knew that it would be the focal point of my current research? Funny how that works). I was confused and skeptical, but intrigued and inspired all at the same time.


In 2002, I saw an article on the Wittig reaction using mechanochemistry. After reading that article, I knew this was an area of research I wanted to pursue further. At that time as I was thinking about starting my academic career, I thought back to a seminar visit from Mary Kirchhoff (who is now director of education at the ACS) while I was in graduate school.  I first learned about green chemistry from Mary at this seminar. She talked about the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and how we need to change the way we do chemistry in order to preserve the environment. Fortunately, I was one of the students that had a chance to meet Mary that afternoon and started asking more questions about green chemistry. Mary probably doesn’t quite remember, but my stance at the time was, “great idea, but who is going to re-learn chemistry?” I spent my undergraduate and graduate school years memorizing all of these organic reactions, how can I abandon them now? That day Mary challenged me to think about new ways that green chemistry can be part of my future. I never forgot her seminar and as I was thinking about my academic career, I thought mechanochemistry could be the key ingredient. My rationale was not to focus on changing chemical reactions, but changing the way we conduct these reactions.


Over the years, we have learned so much about mechanochemistry.  Studying this area has led to fruitful collaborations with other scientists who have also embraced this new methodology and share a passion for green chemistry. Since the union between mechanochemistry and green chemistry seem like a perfect match, what prevents scientists from embracing these areas? The answer is quite simple: change. Change is hard for people, especially change in thought. Typically, when we encounter something different, our first response is skepticism and fear and my first response was not very different. In 1912, Alfred Wegener proposed that the land masses of the continents were all connected together at one point and over time they drifted apart. This was a very controversial hypothesis at the time. It took until the 1960’s for scientists to believe that continental drift actually occurs, something that I learned in the eighth grade.


There are many stories like this in chemistry and one specifically about solvent use, but I will leave that story for another time.  Since chemists have been doing things a certain way for a long period of time with a lot of success, one could ask, why change? Change is not only good, but it is inevitable.  The development of new research areas allows us to discover challenges and take chemistry to new heights.  Going back to Alfred Wegener who passed away in 1930, it took more than 30 years after his death before his theory went mainstream, but it did go mainstream. I am very excited about the future of green chemistry and mechanochemistry. Just like you can’t teach geology without discussing plate tectonics, I look forward to the day where you can’t teach chemistry without discussing green chemistry or mechanochemistry.  Maybe my grandchildren will learn about it when they are in the eighth grade.



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Contributed by Kendra Leahy, Graduate Student and Ph.D. Candidate, University of Cincinnati


If you asked my research adviser, Professor James Mack, why chemistry is done in solution, you would most likely get a response that started like this: “Well, there was a man named Aristotle, and he said... In the Mack group, graduate students quickly learn: don’t ask questions like that if you don’t have time to hear the answer. But to summarize: chemists got it into their heads early on that we needed a liquid, or solvent, in order to do chemical reactions.


But maybe we should have stepped back a long time ago and asked ourselves, what is the role of this mysterious liquid? Is solvent really necessary to do a chemical reaction?


As long as your definition of a chemical reaction is the same as mine (and Merriam-Webster’s), we’re on the same page. A chemical reaction is a chemical change that occurs when two or more substances combine to form a new substance.  From my research group’s experience with mechanochemistry, you often don’t need the solvent to do the chemical reaction.


Ball_milling_sm.jpgIf we don’t use solvent, then what do we use? How do we mix reactants? How do we provide energy? In mechanochemistry, yes, you guessed it: we use mechanical energy to cause chemical change. In my group specifically, we use a Spex8000M mixer mill, which we lovingly refer to simply as a ball mill. We take our reactants, solid or liquid, and measure them out into a metal vial. Next, we add a metal ball. Place the cap on the vial, clamp it into the ball mill, let it shake for a while, and voila! A plus B goes to C (or whatever reaction you like).


Each of Prof. Mack’s students has studied a different area of organic chemistry using the ball mill. We study enolates, Diels-Alder reactions, Wittig reactions, oxidations, reductions, cross-coupling reactions, etc.  In all of these reactions, we avoid using solvent to produce chemical change, and this is important.  Many organic solvents, especially nonpolar ones, have human health and environmental concerns that come with their use.  There’s also inherent waste produced in solution chemistry, since the solvent doesn’t end up in the final product.


Stainless_steel_vial_sm.jpgWhat’s the next step for greening mechanochemistry? There are many, but one that I specifically study is the isolation of our products. The current state-of-the-art is column chromatography, which is great for separation but terrible for green chemistry. We run reactions without solvent to avoid the drawbacks of solvent, but then we run a column. Column chromatography involves a mixture of solvents, which is more difficult to recycle than a single-solvent system. Furthermore, the choice of solvents is usually dictated by polarity, giving the researcher less freedom to make the greenest choice. Each of these solvents has its own list of human and environmental health issues.  Addressing the problem of chromatography has been a big part of my research for the last four years.


I design reactions so that chromatography is not necessary to obtain pure products. I use only one isolation step: simple gravity filtration. This is made possible by functionalized polymer resins. These functionalized polymer resins stay in the filter paper, separating that functional group from the desired product. I choose a solvent in which my desired product is soluble, and it is easily separated from the rest of the reaction components. That choice is the key: I only need one solvent, and I can choose the greenest option available.


Even though people have been grinding materials together for centuries, the study of using that grinding to cause chemical reactions emerged fairly recently. While no one in the mechanochemical community would argue that mechanochemistry is universally applicable, we would argue that it is a valuable tool to keep in our green chemistry toolbox, and one that needs further exploration.



“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email, or if you have an ACS ID, login to your email preferences and select “The Nexus” to subscribe.


To read other posts, go to Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog home.

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