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A Circular Economy Approach to Business Growth

April 28, 2017 | Business Live

 

Circular economy actors need to collaborate with governments, customers and industry chains to create joint value and to innovate using new business models and technologies.

 

Researchers Develop Green Materials for Industry

April 27, 2017 | Pravda Report

 

Researchers University of Coimbra, University of Aveiro and the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria develop biodegradable plastics from pine sawdust & cellulose fibers

 

How Worms Turn Trash into Nutrient-Rich Compost

April 27, 2017 | Washington Post

 

Here's the biology, physics and chemistry behind worms' ability to transform food scraps into nutrient-rich soil, as told by ACS Reactions.

 

Machine Learning Dramatically Streamlines Search for More Efficient Chemical Reactions

April 25, 2017 | Phys.org

 

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stand University used machine learning – a form of artificial intelligence – to prune away the least likely reaction paths, so they can concentrate their analysis on the few that remain and save a lot of time and effort.

 

“Wax Worms” Can Rapidly Biodegrade Polyethylene Bags

April 24, 2017 | Research Gate

 

[Conventional] methods for breaking down polyethylene, which use corrosives like nitric acid or certain bacteria, take months to work. By contrast, 100 wax worms can biodegrade 92 milligrams of polyethylene in a mere 12 hours.

 

 

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News Roundup Apr7-20.pngCVS to Remove Parabens, Phthalates & Formaldehyde from over 600 Products

April 20, 2017 | Drugstore News

CVS Pharmacy announced it will remove parabens, phthalates and the most prevalent formaldehyde donors across nearly 600 beauty and personal care products from its store brand CVS Health, Beauty 360, Essence of Beauty, and Blade product lines.  CVS Pharmacy will stop shipping store brand products that don’t meet these standards to distribution centers by the end of 2019.

 

Turning Ocean Plastic Pollution into Fuels

April 19, 2017 | The Plaid Zebra

A sailboat captain has teamed up with an organic chemist to combat plastic pollution

 

Industry Collaboration Leads to New Biobased Clear Coat Hardener for Automobiles

April 12, 2017 | Biobased World News

Manufacturers and suppliers in the car industry are working to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in production. This trend has prompted an all-German collaboration between the iconic car manufacturer Audi, the bio-based coating supplier BASF and material company Covestro.

 

European Parliament Bans Palm Oil-based Biofuels

April 11, 2017 | Sustainable Brands

To address the problem of unsustainable palm oil production, the European Parliament has approved a resolution to introduce a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the European Union, and phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation by 2020.

 

An Overview of Industrial Sustainable Polyurethanes

April 10, 2017 | Biofuels Digest

Sustainable polyurethanes are a fast growing segment of the polymer market and represent a success story for the investment by government and industry in products with a lower carbon footprint.

 

Major Companies Shifting Feedstocks Away From Oil

April 10, 2017 | Green Biz

Nearly one in five barrels of oil is used for advanced materials, specialty chemicals and other non-fuel purposes, and increasingly is being used to create new materials that substitute for those with higher greenhouse gas emissions, such as steel, aluminum and concrete.  There is a vast potential business opportunity in growing the percentage of oil used for such purposes.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

 

Greener Catalysts for Greener Processes: Application of Supercritical Antisolvent Precipitation for Catalyst Preparation

Cardiff University | The Nexus Blog

The supercritical antisolvent precipitation technique offers advantages for the preparation of catalysts by greener routes compared to some of the more traditional routes. Furthermore, it offers a powerful tool for catalyst discovery, as it enables researchers to access new materials with unique morphologies and microstructures that may not be readily accessible using more conventional synthesis routes.

 

Critical Elements Series: Iridium – An Amazingly Useful Element, but at What Cost?

Amanda Morris | The Nexus Blog

Despite its rarity, consumption of iridium in daily life continues to increase.  In the realm of chemistry, iridium has seen increased interest for its applicability in a wide range of catalytic reactions, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, but also in biomass conversion and many other applications.

 

University of Toronto and Trinity College, Dublin Students Win 2017 Breen Memorial Fellowship

ACS GCI | The Nexus Blog

Each year, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) awards one or more Breen Memorial Fellowships to undergraduate-through-early-career scientists who demonstrate outstanding research or educational interest in green chemistry. The 2017 Dr. Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship winners are Samantha Smith, from the University of Toronto, and Caitilín McManus of Trinity College, Dublin.

 

 

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Contributed by Jenna Jambeck, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, and Director, Center of Focus for Circular Materials Management, New Materials Institute, University of Georgia; Mackenzie Carter, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Georgia

 

You probably have noticed that nearly everything we purchase or ship is in packaging, and often plastic packaging. But do you ever wonder what happens to packaging after you place it in the bin? At the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia, research and business partners have come together to challenge the conventional idea that plastic products are manufactured to be used, then thrown away. The institute is a “melting pot” for ideas on materials research, manufacturing and management.

 

Picture1.pngWithin the New Materials Institute, the Center for Circular Materials Management aims to create a paradigm shift in how we think about plastic manufacture and disposal. Circular materials management is based on the idea that the disposal of a product should be accounted for in the initial design. This creates a proactive system where products are used, then reused, recycled, or disposed of purposefully. In contrast, current waste management systems are reactive solutions to the growing mass of plastics we carelessly dispose of each day.

 

Like plastics, ideas on materials management do not “appear out of thin air.” The intrinsic value of the New Materials Institute lies in the ability to build relationships between academia and industry. Researchers can provide insight into new materials and processes, while business leaders can turn innovations into real world solutions. A prime example is the partnership of Dr. Jenna Jambeck with Norton Point to use ocean plastics in manufacturing their products.

 

Each year, nearly 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced globally, about 8 million tons of which will end up in the ocean. Furthermore, 80 percent of the plastic that reaches the ocean will come from land-based sources – mainly uncollected litter and inefficient waste management. Plastics in the ocean present an enormous problem, not only to the environment, but to human health and prosperity as well.

 

Picture2.pngSome estimates say plastic trash amounts to $80 billion in lost revenue each year, but ocean plastic is difficult to process for a number of reasons: As plastic is exposed to sunlight, temperature variations, wave action, and saltwater, it is mechanically and chemically degraded. The more the plastic degrades, the less commercial value it has. Often, the plastic fractures into tiny particles that are difficult to collect and separate. Degraded and fractured plastics are largely un-recyclable due to the variability of their chemical and mechanical properties. The more time a piece of plastic spends in the ocean, the less feasible it is that it can be collected and reused.

 

To combat the deluge of plastic waste into the ocean, companies like Norton Point and Dell have made using ocean plastics in their products a crucial objective. Norton Point creates sustainable sunglasses, while Dell uses collected and recycled plastics in their personal computer packaging. Dr. Jambeck’s work on quantifying plastics in the ocean informed both companies’ choices on where and how to collect marine plastic. Factors such as material quantity, supply continuity, proximity to transportation, and availability of plastic pickers and sorters all influence the viability of using ocean plastics for new products.

 

The New Materials Institute is a valuable forum for leaders from academia and industry to examine how we use materials from manufacture through disposal. Members from both sides can provide valuable insights, and areas of expertise can be leveraged to create innovative solutions. Through partnerships made via the institute, significant problems like plastic waste can be addressed and remedied for the benefit of everyone.

 

 

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Contributed by Simon A. Kondrat, Postdoctoral Research Associate; Stuart H. Taylor, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Deputy Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute; and Graham J. Hutchings, Regius Professor of Physical Chemistry and Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, Cardiff University

 

From the Principles of Green Chemistry, it can be observed that catalysis plays an important role in establishing green and sustainable processes by replacing stoichiometric reagents and improving atom efficiency and energy efficiency. Research in the field focuses on the development and understanding of catalytic materials for both new process technologies and well-established existing commercial processes. The industrially important methanol synthesis and low-temperature water-gas shift (LTS) reactions represent such established processes, where significant research into heterogeneous catalyst design and the understanding of structure-activity relationships is being pursued by the scientific community.

 

Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 is the commercial catalyst of choice for methanol synthesis and LTS reactions. The preparation method of the catalyst is known to be highly influential on its performance, with the conventional preparation method being based around the co-precipitation of metal nitrate solutions with a basic solution, usually sodium or ammonium carbonate. This co-precipitation process, if performed under optimal conditions, produces a copper zinc hydroxycarbonate catalyst precursor analogous to the mineral zincian malachite. Treatment of this hydroxycarbonate by calcination and then reduction produces the final active catalyst: highly dispersed copper nanoparticles interspersed with small zinc oxide crystallites.

 

georgeite.pngWhile the co-precipitation method is well-established and commercially successful, it is not without a number of disadvantages. Firstly, the high concentration of metal nitrates and alkali salts results in a significant volume of water required to remove these impurities, which affects catalytic performance if not removed. The resulting waste water must then be processed at significant expense before it is discharged into the environment. A second consideration is that the aqueous co-precipitation technique does not exert ideal control of crystal growth or, more specifically, the recrystallization of the initial precipitates formed in the process. The initial precipitate in the co-precipitation process is an amorphous meta-stable phase that rapidly ages to malachite. Consequently, the instability of the amorphous phase formed initially by co-precipitation has prevented its investigation as an alternative catalyst precursor.

 

The team at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI) has recently developed a supercritical carbon dioxide anti-solvent (SAS) precipitation technique for catalyst synthesis. A supercritical fluid is a substance above its critical temperature and pressure, where distinct gas and liquid phases do not exist and the substance has intermediate properties between the two phases. The high solvating power combined with high diffusion rates and lack of surface tension results in the precipitation of high purity amorphous materials (for details, click here). This technology allowed the CCI to synthesize an amorphous copper zinc hydroxycarbonate phase, analogous to the extremely rare mineral georgeite, known to naturally exist in only three locations on Earth. It was proposed that this material is the same as that of the unstable initial precipitate formed by the conventional co-precipitation methodology.

 

As the SAS prepared material is dry from the point of precipitation, the CCI found that the zincian georgeite was highly stable, allowing our team to conduct in-depth characterization and use it as a precursor to make catalysts for methanol and water-gas shift for the first time. In addition, as carbon dioxide was used as the precipitating agent, no alkali metal salt is required, removing the necessity for post-preparation washing steps and potentially saving water. The SAS technique has the added benefit of easy recycling of precursor solvents as the simple depressurization of the carbon dioxide-solvent mixture allows for the separation of the two components.

 

It was found that the disordered nature of the zincian georgeite catalyst precursor prepared by SAS could be retained in the final catalyst by controlled heat treatment and then reduction. The catalyst has small, stable copper crystallites, and importantly, a high degree of interaction between the copper nanoparticles and the nanocrystalline zinc oxide. Combined with extremely low levels of catalyst poisons, such as sodium species, the unique microstructure of zincian-georgeite-derived catalysts provides exceptional catalytic performance for the methanol synthesis reaction and the low-temperature water-gas shift.

 

The supercritical antisolvent precipitation technique offers advantages for the preparation of catalysts by greener routes compared to some of the more traditional routes. Furthermore, it offers a powerful tool for catalyst discovery, as it enables researchers to access new materials with unique morphologies and microstructures that may not be readily accessible using more conventional synthesis routes. Against this background, the scope to apply supercritical preparation methods to catalysts has largely been unexplored, and it will provide a fruitful area of research that yields many new discoveries.

 

 

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According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, iridium in the Earth’s crust is thought to have come from the same asteroid or comet believed to have caused the extinction of dinosaurs. While crustal abundance of iridium is estimated at 0.001ppm[1], the concentrations are much higher in asteroids. Normally, iridium rains down on Earth in meteorite dust at a fairly constant rate[2]. Iridium in the clay layer that created the boundary between the cretaceous and tertiary periods (KT boundary) was 30 times greater than the amount expected. This information was what allowed scientists to develop the hypothesis that an asteroid impact caused the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago (See Alvarez hypothesis).

 

Iridium is one of the rarest elements on Earth, but can be found in one of the most ubiquitous aspects of modern life – the car. Due to its high melting point and low reactivity, iridium is used as the contact in spark plugs. Another valuable physical property is iridium’s ability to resist corrosion, which is why the element is used to grow crystals for LED lights[3]. Interestingly, iridium was also used to create the standard meter bar used to measure the unit of distance from 1889 to 1960. The metal has several important uses in industrial chemistry, as industrial catalysts and in chlorine production.

 

Despite its rarity, consumption of iridium continues to increase. This is related to the demand for more energy-efficient electrical devices, in which iridium crucibles play a large role. In 2014, global iridium consumption only rose 5 percent from the previous year, however electrical applications rose by 17 percent, bringing global consumption of iridium in electrical devices to 30 percent. Demand, plus a drop in price per troy ounce, has allowed the iridium market to increase[4]. The U.S. Geological Survey expects this upward trend to continue in the electronics industry.

 

The problem with iridium is two-fold. First, mining and processing iridium is expensive, time-consuming, and results in significant environmental impacts. Although copper and zinc processing requires relatively low levels of energy, the additional steps to extract and refine iridium make it highly energy-intensive with large global warming potential[5] (Figures 1 and 2). Secondly, the majority of iridium is mined in South Africa, which is fraught with tension. Along with the socioeconomic, safety and environmental problems that plague mines and nearby towns, the past 10 years have seen more worker violence and strikes than any other time post-apartheid[6].

 

Most concerning, however, is the lack of awareness about “critical elements” like iridium. The world is likely to face shortages for many of these elements anywhere between the next five to100 years in most cases[7]. Despite this, demand for these elements is rising and will continue to do so as new applications are found. For example, in the realm of chemistry, iridium has seen increased interest for its applicability in a wide range of catalytic reactions, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, but also in biomass conversion and many other applications.  As much as possible, chemistry research should be tailored to finding sustainable alternatives not only for iridium, but for all of the critical elements. The ramifications of ignoring this problem will not just affect our children and their children, but will impact our lives as well. We are poised in the unique position to take action and make lasting changes to improve our lives and the lives of future generations.

 

fig-1-updated.png

fig-2-updated.png

(Click Figure 2 Image to Enlarge)

 

 


[1] https://www.britannica.com/science/iridium

[2] http://undsci.berkeley.edu/lessons/pdfs/alvarez_ms.pdf

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-02-19/iridium-climbs-to-3-month-hig h-amid-buying-after-annual-slump

[4] https://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/platinum/myb1-2014-plati.pdf

[5] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0101298

[6] http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/16/south-africas-marikana-massacre-prompting -the-longest-strike-in-the-countrys-mining-history/

[7] https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/greenchemistry/research-innovation/research-t opics/endangered-elements.html

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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.

The 2017 Dr. Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship winners are Samantha Smith, from the University of Toronto, and Caitilín McManus of Trinity College, Dublin. Each year, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) awards one or more Breen Memorial Fellowships to undergraduate-through-early-career scientists who demonstrate outstanding research or educational interest in green chemistry. The award sponsors the participation of a young, international green chemistry scholar in a green chemistry technical meeting, conference, or training program. The American Chemical Society (ACS) established the award through the ACS International Endowment Fund in 2000.This fund commemorates Dr. Joseph Breen’s commitment to and accomplishments for the advancement of green chemistry.

 

Smith.pngWinner Samantha Smith is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto. She is currently studying the design and application of new iron-based hydrogenation catalysts. Her research is focused on improving hydrogenation and dehydrogenation chemistry, specifically focusing on “developing catalysts that are able to either move or break molecular hydrogen.” The purpose of Smith’s research is the “direct applications [it has] in synthesis for flavor, fragrance, fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries, but could also be used in chemical hydrogen storage.”  As a first time attendee to the Green Chemistry and Engineering (GC&E) Conference, Smith hopes to learn about new topics in green chemistry and engineering. She believes it would be an unparalleled opportunity to “open [her] eyes to the expansive world of sustainable research.”

 

Caitilín McManus is a third year undergraduate student at Trinity College, Dublin. She has spent the last year participating in a one-year industrial placement with GlaxoSmithKline. Her research focuses on investigating “more sustainable alternatives for palladium in the context of Buchwald couplings.” McManus finds her work to be a part of “a continuing effort to promote new technology in medicinal chemistry, with a key emphasis on greener synthesis.” McManus is looking forward to attending GC&E and hopes to learn from the opportunity about new research in green chemistry.

 

In addition to presenting their research at the 21st Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Reston, Virginia, both Smith and McManus will be presented with their awards at the conference, before the morning Keynote Address on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

 

 

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

 

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Contributed by Longzhu Shen, Postdoctoral Associate, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

 

If one single factor has contributed most to the modernization of human lives, it would be chemicals because they are the building blocks of almost everything we eat, everything we wear, everything we use and everything that cures us. Without them, it is impossible to imagine the existence of civilization, humanity, and even life itself. However, these very same building blocks that ennoble us also gradually deteriorate our path toward sustainability.

 

The unintended biological activities or toxic effects associated with some commercial chemicals and chemical products pose risks to public health and the environment. For example, there have been well-known cases where certain chemicals caused the dramatic population decline of various wildlife species (e.g., DDT), and more recently, endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been shown to interrupt the developmental processes of aquatic species by acting as hormone mimics. These examples of adverse unintended consequences associated with chemicals have urged us to consider possible measures to better ensure human safety and ecological wellbeing.

 

One approach is to test for the potential toxic effects of chemicals on laboratory animals, such as rats, mice and dogs. However, these multi-tiered, multi-specie studies are expensive (millions of dollars per chemical) and generally require the sacrifice of a large numbers of animals. As a result, many chemicals are put on the market with minimal or no toxicity testing.

 

One important aspect of green chemistry is for researchers to implement a new approach where chemical products are designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity. Though this sounds like a foolproof solution, tremendous barriers will need to be overcome before it can be realized. The most obvious is the general lack of training in toxicology among chemists. Therefore, the need to fill the knowledge gap by designing scientifically robust and easy-to-use tools that guide chemists to deign chemicals with reduced toxicity potential becomes evident.

 

Towards this objective, I have focused my research on cytotoxicity (the quality of being toxic to cells) as the target point to develop a design algorithm. I obtained in vitro chemical toxicity data from the U.S. EPA Toxicity ForeCaster (ToxCast). Then, I integrated computational quantum chemistry and statistical learning algorithms to build a model that can be used to inform the design of chemicals to deliver a customized probability that the proposed chemical will not exert cytotoxic effects. That is, starting from a desired probability that a chemical will not exert a specific toxic effect, one can simultaneously explore multiple chemical properties in chemical property space to seek the complete solution for chemicals that can meet such a desired probability. I will use an example to illustrate how to design a chemical with a targeted probability where the molecule will not be cytotoxic. As shown in the figure below, a sample solution is represented by the dotted lines. The goal is to seek solutions in the chemical space constituted by the three black chemical property axes that satisfies an 82 percent probability (purple axis) that the compound will not be toxic.

 

Cytotox_diagram.pngTo start, we chose the nearest polarizability (PLRZ) axis.  For instance, polarizability needs to be around 12 to meet functional requirements in certain industries. We then connect the two points on the probability (82) and PLRZ (12) axes to arrive at a specific point on the auxiliary (R1) axis.

 

Now multiple options reveal the combination of logP (water-octanol partition coeffcient) and SOF (molecular softness). Assuming for certain industrial application needs, logP is required to be near 2.8. Then, we need to connect the dots from R1 to logP at 2.8, and the line naturally extends to SOF at 0.105. Alternatively, if we have information about SOF ahead of time, we can locate a specific point on the SOF axis and link the anchor point on R1 to SOF directly. The value of logP can be determined along the way.

 

The resulting molecule corresponds to propylparaben, a naturally occurring chemical that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cosmetics. Of course, other solutions are possible when one makes different choices at possible points on the black axes.

 

This plot allows the researcher to find all the possible solutions in the current design variable space that, at any desired probability, a proposed chemical is non-cytotoxic. This initial fruitful outcome in the molecular design study is expected lead to more comprehensive/complicated diagrams in the future.

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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.

Leading up to the GC&E Conference we will be posting interviews with our 2017 GC&E Conference organizers to learn a little more about them and the excellent sessions you can look forward to at this year’s conference!

 

Green-Chemistry-2015-Ingrid-Mergelsberg-3922.jpgIngrid Mergelsberg, Ph.D., Merck
Session: Sustainable Process Design – The Key to Minimize Environmental Impact, Maximize Cost Efficiency and Drive Innovation

 

Q: What motivates you to work in the green chemistry & engineering space?

A: The fact that green chemistry and engineering drives innovation and improved efficiency in the area of sustainability, which includes novel chemistry, better chemo-catalysts, biocatalysts, High Throughput Screening, and the application of predictive sciences

 

Q: In one sentence, describe the session you are organizing at GC&E.

A: Sustainable process design: the key to minimize environmental impact, maximize cost efficiency, and drive innovation

 

Q: What will attendees learn at your GC&E session? What makes it unique?

A: They will get ideas and inspiration from excellent presenters with industrial and academic experience and expertise on how they can build sustainability into their future processes.

 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of the GC&E Conference (or what are you looking forward to)?

A: Networking with people passionate to drive scientific excellence and innovation to the benefit of our environment

 

Q: What are you currently focused on in your work or research?

A: Organizing Merck’s annual Green and Sustainable Science symposium and poster session

 

Q: If you weren't a chemist, what would you be doing?

A: Being a medical doctor for internal medicine

 

Q: When you aren't at work, how do you spend your free time?

A: Cooking, hiking and reading books

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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.

Leading up to the GC&E Conference we will be posting interviews with our 2017 GC&E Conference organizers to learn a little more about them and the excellent sessions you can look forward to at this year’s conference!

 

Paul Thornton, Ph.D., GreenCentre Canada

Session: Bridging the Gap: The Diverse Paths from Academic Discovery to Industrial Implementation for Innovations in Green Chemistry

 

Q: What motivates you to work in the green chemistry & engineering space?

paul-thornton.jpgA: What really motivates me to work in the field of green chemistry is the opportunity to work on up-and-coming technologies that have a chance at immense commercial and environmental impact. In particular, I believe there is great unrealized potential for the commercialization of sustainable chemistry from diverse fields of academia (e.g., material science and polymers, catalysis, and novel chemical processes). Of course, this potential is unrealized, mostly due to the immense challenge of getting a technology out of the hands of academic inventors and into an industrial setting. It is hard work, and by its nature, demands diverse experience and expertise – especially in business development, intellectual property and patents, and in researching markets for potential applications. GreenCentre Canada has been active in the commercialization of sustainable chemistry technologies since 2009, and we have found that assembling a team that can work across the technical and business fields is critically important. I find it very satisfying to work as part of this team and make contributions that are technical, but important from an industrial and business development perspective. I find the results that come at each stage of a development project also highly motivational; successes are always nice, and perhaps an indication that you are moving in the right direction, but setbacks need to be taken in the context of being just other challenges to address in the process.

 

I believe now is also a very exciting time to be involved in green chemistry and engineering as, in the last decade, we have seen many corporations take real steps toward incorporating greener processes and producing greener products. Chemists from both industry and academia have an opportunity to contribute new technologies that can compete on the market and be much improved upon from a green chemistry perspective. For many academics, I think there is still a bit of a challenge to embrace collaboration with industry and the possible commercialization of their research, and many questions remain on how these collaborations can work best for both parties. I find being engaged in bringing both the academic and business sides of green chemistry together very motivating.

 

Q: In one sentence, describe the session you are organizing at GC&E.

A: The “Bridging the Gap” session will feature academics, industrial researchers, and business experts sharing their successes and strategies for the commercialization of green chemistry technologies from academia.

 

Q: What will attendees learn at your GC&E session? What makes it unique?

A: The session will have a great combination of speakers from academia and industry and include discussion on a wide range of chemical technologies, from new materials to sustainable processes. There will be a nice amount of technical discussion and straight chemistry, but this will be put in the context of commercial development stories.

 

Scott Allen will be talking about his work at Novomer, a company that he cofounded with Prof. Geoff Coates during his doctoral studies. Novomer has been very successful in using CO2 as a feedstock for the preparation of high-value materials. Scott will be talking about the conception and commercialization of this technology from its very early stages to its eventual industrial adoption.

 

Marty Mulvihill is going to be speaking about his work at Safer Made, a venture capital fund in which he is now a partner. He will talk about emerging trends for innovation in a variety of market sectors and highlight some strategies that researchers can use to scale their technologies from the bench to commercial application.

 

In addition to these and other great speakers, we will be hosting a 40-minute panel discussion toward the end of the session, the theme of which will be “when to consider a commercialization effort and how to get started.” We will have some of our speakers participating in the panel, and this should be an excellent opportunity for the audience to engage with them beyond a brief Q&A. By hosting this panel, we aim to demystify some of the approaches that have been taken to advance academic technologies commercially, and also inspire researchers to look at their own work as potential innovations with industrial potential.

 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of the GC&E Conference (or what are you looking forward to)?

A: The last GC&E Conference I attended was in 2013. I was really impressed by the mix of academics and industrial researchers and the small, inclusive atmosphere that facilitates a great exchange of ideas and chances to network with many people from across the U.S. and around the world. I always look forward to learning new chemistry and perspectives from the industry talks, as these discussions can be very illuminating about what challenges different companies are facing and what opportunities exist for collaborations.

 

Q: What are you currently focused on in your work or research?

A: At GreenCentre Canada, we are working on a wide variety of projects, and I am fortunate to be involved in a number of them. Catalysis remains a very important field to us, and we have a number of new and novel catalysts that we are working on. We have been working with Prof. Paul Chirik (Princeton University and keynote speaker at this year’s GC&E Conference) on the commercialization of several base-metal catalysts with different applications in the fine-chemicals sector. Last year, we successfully licensed a ruthenium ester hydrogenation catalyst invented by Prof. Dmitri Goussev (Wilfred Laurier University) to Johnson Matthey. We have several other great collaborations ongoing in the catalysis space, and we are excited by their potential for commercial adoption.

 

In addition to catalysis, GreenCentre has several projects ongoing in functional and advanced materials. These projects could have a huge impact on separations technologies and some electronic devices or sensors.

 

Q: If you weren't a chemist, what would you be doing?

A: If I were not busy with chemistry, I would be a full time dad! I have two young daughters (aged five years and 18 months) who I adore and love spending time with. If I were not spending time with them, I would likely be doing some sort of sustainable farming.

 

Q: When you aren't at work, how do you spend your free time?

A: Spending time with my girls and doing things with them is my main activity outside of work. I enjoy photography and star-gazing (astronomy) as hobbies. I enjoy running and love to be outdoors and go camping.

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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 Adam Rondinone, Senior Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences

 

Motor-vehicle transportation presents a special challenge in the fight against climate change. In all its forms, transportation accounts for about 26 percent of the U.S. CO2 emissions according to the U.S. EPA.[i] But unlike other major sources of CO2 emissions, transportation may be the most difficult to address due to the technical requirements of mobility and the high economic value placed on the activity. Alternative transportation energy carriers (e.g., battery, fuel, etc.) must be small, light, tolerate vibration and temperature excursions, and last for the lifetime of an average consumer automobile with minimal maintenance. Most importantly, transportation energy carriers must refuel quickly and store enormous amounts of energy in as little weight as possible. That is easy for a metal fuel tank, but it is much more difficult for a battery or fuel cell.

 

So what are the options for CO2-free transportation? Two major pathways have been demonstrated to date: biofuels and electrification via batteries. Biofuels represent an appealing choice to the consumer in the sense that the cars look and act familiar. They can be fueled quickly, they drive the same and the ownership experience is the same. Miles per gallon are lower, but that is a matter of engine design choices and can be addressed. Although the carbon in biofuels originates in the atmosphere, there is controversy regarding the actual carbon balance for North American biofuels due to the need for fertilizers, the transportation of the biomass, and other impacts on the soil and groundwater. But if we assume that the carbon balance is beneficial, we still have to dedicate large areas of arable land to growing the biomass, and that puts a limit on our supply.

 

Electric automobiles are the second major pathway. I believe that electric cars and light trucks will be the mainstay of commuter and family transportation in the future, as the charge cycles are well-matched to the driving requirements, with cars parked for recharging during the evening and driven limited miles during the day. The energy efficiency of electric automobiles is unmatched by internal combustion, and the total efficiency can exceed 60 percent for the entire drivetrain.[ii] The flexibility for charging off hours makes electric automobiles particularly well suited for renewable electricity generation, which often doesn’t match up with normal electricity demands on the grid.

 

But as good as electric automobiles have become, it is hard to envision how to electrify all parts of the transportation sector. Commercial transportation — such as airplanes, trains, and heavy trucks — operates on much more aggressive duty cycles, sometimes continuously, with downtime only for repairs, which may preclude the long charging times necessary for today’s batteries. The size and weight of current battery technologies makes them generally inappropriate for heavy trucks and airplanes.

 

This is where electrochemical fuels can play a role. With electrochemical fuels, we use electrical energy to electrochemically synthesize a liquid fuel (e.g., ethanol) from a carbon source (e.g., carbon dioxide). The ethanol is identical (fungible) to ethanol produced by fermentation – it drops into the fuel distribution and supply infrastructure that we already have and powers internal combustion engines that we already use. Ethanol can be up-converted to diesel and jet fuel; other electrochemical fuels are also a possibility. Depending on the source of the electricity, the electrochemical fuel can be completely carbon neutral. The carbon dioxide can be sourced from the myriad existing point sources, such as power plants and CO2 that gets intercepted and used a second time, preventing the emission of an equivalent amount from a fossil source.

 

In essence, this process takes the electrochemistry (the battery) out of the vehicle and centralizes it at a factory (electrochemical fuel). Electrical energy, which used to be stored in a battery, instead becomes stored as a liquid readily moved or dispensed.

 

If successful, this would achieve several things: It would relieve the vehicle manufacturer of the need to make a battery that can tolerate years of heavy use with little or no maintenance, and it would render moot the concerns of battery weight and size, as the electrochemical part of the system becomes stationary. By moving the capital expense and risk out of the vehicle and centralizing it, one might realize significant improvements in economy of scale and maintainability. It would also render moot the need to have time dedicated to charging, as the electrochemical process that generates the fuel operates continuously and independently of the vehicle.

 

The technologies to achieve this goal are all still very early stage. Research groups all over the world, including ours, are working on the problem of electrochemical CO2 conversion to useful products. Several technical hurdles must still be overcome, including the activity and selectivity of the catalysts and improved energy efficiency. But if this endpoint can be achieved, it offers another possible strategy to minimize CO2 emissions without disruptions to economic activities.

 

Adam Rondinone is a senior scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory or UT-Battelle, LLC. Copyright 2017, UT-Battelle, LLC.

 


[i] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

[ii] https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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.

Leading up to the GC&E Conference we will be posting interviews with our 2017 GC&E Conference organizers to learn a little more about them and the excellent sessions you can look forward to at this year’s conference!

 

ShenPluggeMaertens.pngHans Plugge, 3E Company; Longzhu Shen, Yale University; and Alexandra Maertens, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Session: Sustainable chemicals: techniques for modeling hazard/risk assessment

 

Q: What motivates you to work in the green chemistry & engineering space? 

A: Hans Plugge: Using big data to make a difference and build a more sustainable economy. I am interested in the analysis of existing data to predict toxicology with more accuracy than we have at the moment. Eventually, I would like to see "data not available" replaced with an accurate estimated value.

 

Longzhu Shen: With human civilization’s increasing dependence on commercial chemicals and chemical products, the evidence of undesired biological and environmental consequences associated with them has been causing growing concerns within the scientific community and among the general public. These concerns have reached a point that requires paradigm-shifting strategies to put us onto a sustainable development track. The fourth principle of green chemistry answers this call by proposing the idea of safer, alternative molecular design, and this motivates many chemists, including myself, to pursue innovative algorithms that guide safer chemical design.

 

Alexandra Maertens: After working in regulatory toxicology, I realized that there are very few tools available for R&D chemists looking to design safer chemicals – there was no “green toxicology” to work with green chemistry. Many of the existing tools of toxicology use black box animal models that tell you if a chemical has a high hazard, but provide almost no information for chemists to design less hazardous alternatives. Toxicology has to provide chemists with better tools for hazard assessment.

 

Q: In one sentence, describe the session you are organizing at GC&E. 

A: Hans Plugge, Longzhu Shen and Alexandra Maertens: This full day session will explore the existing tools used to assess hazard, discuss tools that are in development and next steps, and hopefully leave everyone optimistic about developing a 21st century hazard assessment.

 

Q: What will attendees learn at your GC&E session? What makes it unique? 

A: Hans Plugge, Longzhu Shen and Alexandra Maertens: Attendees should walk away with a clear idea of what existing tools for hazard assessment can guide molecular design, what the limits are of existing tools, and what techniques and approaches are being developed to allow chemists to screen compounds efficiently for hazard. Regulatory toxicology may be slow to change, but the methods that are being developed can be adopted quickly by companies looking to design less hazardous compounds.

 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of the GC&E Conference (or what are you looking forward to)? 

A: Hans Plugge: Visiting the posters, engaging one-on-one with researchers, and seeing new applications of existing methodologies. It is a relatively small conference, but it draws great crowd participation and actually too many tracks to follow everything of interest! Learning here always surprises me: I went to a session on shoe wear made from recycled materials last year and found it fascinating. 3E Company's product made significant changes as a result of GC&E interactions.

 

Longzhu Shen: I love the social networking breaks and would love to have more of them in future meetings.

 

Alexandra Maertens: I enjoy the chance to work with chemists and find out what they find useful and what they find frustrating about hazard assessment, as well as the fact that it is a great conference for social networking.

 

Q: What are you currently focused on in your work or research?

A: Hans Plugge: I build hazard and risk assessment software to further enhance chemists’ ability to inexpensively screen commercial mixtures and/or products. Though there are several manual versions, a beta version is now available as a software subscription that includes insurance, industrial hygiene, R&D and alternative assessments applications.

 

Longzhu Shen: My research focuses on developing algorithms to guide safer chemical design.

 

Alexandra Maertens: I focus on using machine-learning techniques to leverage large-scale data sets, such as Toxcast and ECHA, in order to provide an understanding on how chemicals can cause adverse effects at the molecular level.

 

Q: If you weren't a chemist, what would you be doing?

A: Hans Plugge: I would probably pick up a degree in the history of science, most likely in relation to railroads.

 

Longzhu Shen: I would probably major in physics.

 

Alexandra Maertens: I would probably be in computer science.

 

Q: When you aren't at work, how do you spend your free time?

A: Hans Plugge: Playing with (full-size) trains. I belong to a club that owns a 1923 Pullman train car, which we rent out on private charter or run organized trips on. I do not have enough vacation time presently for my favorite hobby – cooking in a miniature kitchen – but it is also a good way to peek behind-the-scenes at what Amtrak does. Ninety percent of the trips we organize feature our train car as the tail-end “charlie” on an Amtrak. Wherever they, go we go. I also try to save one week of vacation every year for a long trip down to cities like Miami and New Orleans. Otherwise, weekend trips will have to do.

 

Longzhu Shen: I enjoy deep thinking during my hikes in my spare time.

 

Alexandra Maertens: I like to travel – last year, I went to Japan with my son; this year, we are off to England for the summer.

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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.

News Roundup Mar31-Apr6.png

Launch Circular Innovation Summit Gathers Sustainable Industry Leaders

April 4, 2017 | Huffington Post

At the LAUNCH Circular Innovation Summit at Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon, LAUNCH innovators and industry leaders from companies like Nike, IKEA, eBay and Novozymes teamed up for a series of conversations about innovation and the future of circular economy conducted by former NASA astronaut Cady Coleman.

 

University of Nottingham Chemistry Lab Meets Highest Green Building Standards

April 4, 2017 | Edie News

A carbon-neutral laboratory built from natural materials has become one of the first buildings globally to achieve the highest certifications under BREEAM Outstanding and LEED Platinum standards systems for green buildings.

 

EcoFuel Technologies Creates Diesel from Plastic Waste

April 3, 2017 | ACS Pressroom

Researchers developed a metallocene catalyst deposited on a porous support material that, coupled with a controlled pyrolysis reaction, yields diesel fuels directly without further refining. It is also cost-effective on a small scale, runs at lower temperatures and is mobile.

 

Graphene-oxide Membranes Could Turn Polluted Seawater into Clean Drinking Water

April 3, 2017 | Yahoo News

Scientists at the University of Manchester have shown how graphene-oxide membranes can be used as an efficient filtration system. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers were building on previous work showing how these membranes could be used to filter nanoparticles, organic molecules and salts.

 

Researchers at Harvard Create "Bionic" Leaf

April 3, 2017 | EurekAlert

To help spur the next agricultural revolution, researchers have invented a "bionic" leaf that uses bacteria, sunlight, water and air to make fertilizer in the very soil where crops are grown.

 

New Zeolite Catalyst Leads to 97% Selectivity to Renewable Butadiene

April 2, 2017 | ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Journal

Dehydra-decyclization of biomass-derived tetrahydrofuran (THF) provides a chemical process to manufacture butadiene—used to make rubber—from renewable resources.

 

Creating Sustainable Textiles through Fashion Upcycling

April 2, 2017 | ACS Pressroom

A team of researchers from Aalto University have discovered an ionic liquid that dissolves cotton-polyester blends and allows the fabrics to be separated into usable fibers that can be re-spun.

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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.

Leading up to the GC&E Conference we will be posting interviews with our 2017 GC&E Conference organizers to learn a little more about them and the excellent sessions you can look forward to at this year’s conference!

 

Philip.jpgPhilip Jessop, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, Queen's University

Session: CO2 Utilization

 

Q: What motivates you to work in the green chemistry & engineering space?

A: Nature! Nothing relaxes me better than a walk in the woods, a hike in the mountains, or a canoe trip in the lakes of Ontario, preferably with my wife. I do not, however, want my life, or my species, to destroy the beauty around us

 

Q: In one sentence, describe the session you are organizing at GC&E.

A:The world has excess CO2, so let us put it to good use.

 

Q: What will attendees learn at your GC&E session? What makes it unique?

A: What is the world’s most abundant renewable feedstock? It is CO2 (not cellulose). Despite its infamy for global warming, it is wonderfully green. It is nonflammable, nontoxic, not ecotoxic, and it is not smog-forming or ozone-depleting. As long as we use waste CO2 rather than making new CO2, it does not contribute to global warming either. Researchers continue to find so many creative ways in which waste CO2 can be used. From making renewable fuels or greener solvents to controlling the properties and behavior of polymers, CO2 is a remarkably versatile reagent. Come and see some of the most recently discovered uses for CO2 at my session.

 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of the GC&E Conference (or what are you looking forward to)?

A: Talking with people: Green chemistry cannot progress nearly as rapidly if we do not communicate with each other. It is not only a question of communicating the latest results; communicating best practices is just as important. What is the best way to design a molecule or a process to be as green as possible? What is the best way to evaluate whether a newly-discovered process is actually green? How can green chemists identify the environmental problems most in need of green solutions? None of us have enough time or skills to answer all of these questions by ourselves; we need to discuss these issues with others to benefit from their insights. I have learned so much from green chemists and engineers at conferences like GC&E, and I hope to do so again this year.

 

Q: What are you currently focused on in your work or research?

A: “CO2 is the answer to everything.” That is the running gag in my research group. How many applications can we find for one molecule? Our work is incredibly focused in terms of the molecule we choose to play with, but very unfocused in our goals. Recently, we showed that CO2 can improve the selectivity of asymmetric hydrogenations of allylamines. Now we are making paints that are greener because they contain CO2. Another student is working on using CO2 in water purification for making potable water. We are creating CO2-switchable packing materials for HPLC columns and solid phase extraction columns to reduce use of organic solvents. Several students are developing methods for algae biomass processing, in which we use liquid CO2 to extract the lipids for biodiesel, and then use dissolved CO2 as a catalyst to convert the remaining polysaccharides into jet fuel precursors. Another student has shown that CO2-switchable solvents can be used to increase the yield of the world’s annual natural rubber crop by 50 percent without requiring any increase in the land area under cultivation. So, I am not sure that my research is focused in terms of application, but my group has a laser-like focus in terms of which molecule we like to play with.

 

Q: If you weren't a chemist, what would you be doing?

A: Geology. The earth is a fascinating subject to study. My office is filled with mineral samples. My father was a geophysicist, so I guess that interest rubbed off onto me. So much of our lives and our society is controlled by geological forces. Where have we chosen to build our cities? In locations that were favorable for transportation due to geological forces that control our waterways. Where do we find our resources? Their location is always controlled by geology, even for resources like forests or fresh water. Geological forces even affect international politics – there is a whole field of study called geopolitics. So many topics are exciting to learn about; I wish I could have several lifetimes so I could try several careers!

 

Q: When you aren't at work, how do you spend your free time?

A: Working! Well, sometimes it feels that way.

 

But when I choose to take free time, my preference is wildlife photography. What image can I capture? What species or mood or moment can I capture? Wildlife is so unpredictable and it is an exciting challenge to try to get the perfect photo. The setting is beautiful, the subject appealing, and the stress is zero – nobody cares if I do not get a good shot, so it is much more relaxing than writing proposals. But if I do get a striking photo, it is so satisfying. Some nature photographers go for a clear representation of the bird or animal or tree. I prefer to go for the mood, the setting or the action: a photo that portrays a feeling rather than a species.

 

Most importantly, I am taking a break from work, so that afterwards I can come back refreshed.

 

fencebird.jpgsunsetbird.jpg

 

 

“The Nexus Blog” is a sister publication of “The Nexus” newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, please email gci@acs.org, 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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