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It was lovely to see so many of you at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego in August! Green chemistry symposia were presented across numerous divisions on a variety of topics. The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable organized a workshop, an organic symposium and two ACS Theatre presentations. Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold, who also received the 2019 Bower Award for Green and Sustainable Chemistry, gave a fantastic Kavli address on "Innovation by Evolution: Bringing new chemistry to life." We enjoyed catching up with many of you at the ACS GCI reception at the Dubliner on Tuesday evening, and look forward to seeing you at green chemistry receptions at future ACS National Meetings.


One outcome of the San Diego meeting that I am very pleased to report is the approval from the ACS Board of Directors to fund the development of green and sustainable chemistry education resources. These new resources will integrate green and sustainable chemistry, systems thinking, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will be targeted at undergraduate students studying general and organic chemistry. We hope to engage a number of you in developing these new classroom resources over the next three years. This initiative is part of the Green Chemistry Education Roadmap project, to which many of you have contributed over the years. If you want to catch up on these efforts, I recommend reading ACS GCI Advisory Board Chair Bill Carroll’s article in the August 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News where he mapped out ACS GCI’s education efforts.


In other news, I recently returned from the Federation of African Societies of Chemistry conference in Gaborone, Botswana. Our colleagues in Africa have a strong interest in green chemistry, and I was delighted that so many speakers referenced the SDGs during their presentations. The SDGs are proving to be a compelling framework to guide chemistry research and education going forward. ACS is currently mapping out how we can best contribute to achieving the ambitious goals articulated by the SDGs, and we will keep you apprised of our efforts and opportunities for you to join us in meeting these global challenges.


By Christiana Briddell, Sr. Communications Manager, ACS GCI; Jennifer MacKellar, Program Manager, ACS GCI; Marta Gmurczyk, Safety Portfolio Manager, ACS


Today’s environmental headlines are replete with sustainability topics from climate change to plastics to sustainable fashion. National and global sustainability priorities are becoming more integrated into corporate and organizational plans. On university campuses, general sustainability initiatives are widespread. Yet, sometimes, one can overlook the most obvious place for greener approaches to take root—the chemistry lab.

If you think about it, almost all of these challenges and trends relate back to chemistry on some level. Everything begins with chemistry and chemistry has a major role to play in driving a more sustainable future. As a professional organization for chemists, the American Chemical Society is interested in highlighting the role of chemists and chemistry in addressing grand sustainability challenges. By using green and sustainable chemistry and engineering principles, practices, metrics and tools, chemists are already having a significant impact. But this is not the only way chemists can improve sustainability outcomes. Safe and sustainable lab practices are also squarely in the realm of control—and are an important avenue for those working and learning in academic labs.

When I took undergraduate chemistry in the late 90’s, there was no talk of lab sustainability and safety was viewed as more of an inconvenience than an important and marketable knowledge base. The concept of “green chemistry” had only recently been conceived, and we certainly never heard of it in the classroom. Today, many colleges and universities have their own green labs program, and like at ACS, safety is listed as a core value of many institutions. While these programs and efforts are gaining traction, there is still a lot of work to do. Laboratories are typically the most resource-intensive places on campus—and one where students can be exposed to real safety hazards.

The good news is that there are many resources available to help students, faculty and staff improve lab sustainability, safety, and incorporate greener chemistry practices. The benefits are many: decreased energy costs, reduced hazardous waste disposal requirements, conservation of water, building a culture of safety and training the next generation to be able to choose greener materials and methods are just a few of them.

It is important to note that while these three topics (sustainability, chemical safety, and green chemistry) are interrelated and complementary, they have distinct implications and mechanisms for implementation.

  1. Sustainable laboratory practices deal with general management of resources such as energy, water and waste, and are often a good place to start.
  2. And of course, a sustainable lab must be a safe lab—since your well-being is key to sustainability.
  3. Green chemistry approaches help you actually do your chemistry in a way that reduces waste, eliminates hazards and includes considerations beyond the lab.


Action Area 1: Conserve, Reduce and Recycle
Laboratories are huge consumers of resources on campus. Activities such as running ventilation, maintaining deep-freezers, and washing loads of glassware contribute to significant energy and water use, while disposing of plastic pipettes and using toxic chemicals and rare metals create significant waste. A review of energy use at Harvard University revealed that labs account for about half of the energy use on campus — but only 20 to 25 percent of the square footage. Fume hoods are reputed to consume 3.5 times per day as much energy as an average house. These examples and others are why the first step to a more sustainable lab is to make sure that you have checked all the sustainability boxes.

Many green lab programs have published checklists on their websites (see resources below). One of these programs I recommend checking out is My Green Lab—an organization dedicated to creating a culture of lab sustainability. Their Green Lab Certification covers all the major areas you can assess and improve. For example, three such areas include:

Save Energy
Finding ways to save energy is crucial. Simple steps can make a big difference, such as:

  • Turning off equipment not in use
  • Using screen savers and outlet timers
  • Replace other types of lights with LED lights
  • Turning off lights when they are not needed
  • Employing best practices for freezer management
  • Using “Shut the Sash” stickers to remind people to close fume hoods to reduce energy use


Save Water
It can be easy to forget that clean water is also a precious resource—but some universities in areas with water shortages and droughts may already be working with restrictions. Practices to save water include:

  • Using low-flow water faucets
  • Wash labware efficiently
  • If using an autoclave to sterilize, make sure it’s run at full capacity


Reduce Waste

  • Recycle all the disposables you can, including gloves, batteries, and ink/toner cartridges
  • Consider using glass pipettes instead of plastic
  • Share resources with other labs when possible
  • Set printers to double-sided
  • Separate hazardous and non-hazardous waste


Action Area 2: Build Safety Awareness
The practice of chemistry from concept through research, development, manufacture, use, and disposal must be done safely so as to minimize adverse impacts on human health and/or the environment. The American Chemical Society (ACS) believes recognition of the obligations to the safety and health of both individuals and the environment is essential for those working with chemicals. ACS provides a wide variety of educational resources to support universities along their safety journey. One way to promote safety awareness is by knowing how to recognize hazards and assess risks from these hazards in your lab. The RAMP organizing principle supports the use of a risk-based approach to safety.

  1. Recognize Hazards by understanding how to read chemical Safety Data Sheets, review safety guidelines, and sign a safety contract.
  2. Assess the Risks of Hazards by thinking about how you could be exposed to the hazard and how.
  3. Minimize the Risks of Hazards through carefully thinking through the chemicals you will be using in your experiment and their safety considerations. Wear appropriate safety equipment.
  4. Prepare for Emergencies by knowing how to handle common accidents such as spills, cuts, burns, exposures and fires. Practice emergency drills and make sure emergency equipment is ready.


Chemists understand that working with chemicals and developing new materials and chemical processes involve some degree of risk. A thoughtful and educated approach to chemical safety must assess the overall life-cycle and risk/benefit analysis for each area of the chemistry enterprise. The process of minimizing risk while optimizing benefits should continue throughout the investigation, development, implementation, use, and appropriate recycling or ultimate disposal of products and byproducts.

Safe chemistry and green chemistry have a lot in common. They both focus on protecting people. RAMP and green chemistry are a winning combination.


Action Area 3: Apply Systems Thinking and Green Chemistry
The idea of preventing pollution rather than remediating pollution became the preferred response to environmental issues by the late 80s. The EPA established the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in 1988 and the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 marked a change in policy towards “upstream” solutions as the most effective. Green chemistry grew out of this idea—declaring that chemists could reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals and wasted resources by applying certain principles into the design of their chemistries.

A systems thinking approach to chemistry encourages chemists to think beyond their immediate reaction to consider the broader implications of their choices of chemicals, chemistries, and processes. Where did your reagents come from? Are they coming from or produced in conflict zones or areas with questionable labor practices? Are they earth abundant and renewable materials? Or are they scare? How much energy is needed to run the reaction? What will happen to your materials and products at the end of their useful life? Can they be readily reused, recycled, or remanufactured? Or will they end up in a landfill? What are the environmental implications of the waste or effluent? Are there persistence or bioaccumulation concerns? All of these questions encourage the chemist to consider the larger system in which their chemistry will occur.

Green chemistry tools and metrics can help chemists to answer these questions and make informed choices, better understand tradeoffs and ultimately practice chemistry in a more sustainable, ethical, and safer way. Today there are tools available to help students think about how to approach labs using the design principles of green chemistry & engineering.

Solvent Selection
Solvents often contribute significantly to the waste in a given reaction, and can be quite hazardous materials. The good news is that there are numerous guides available to help you select more benign solvents. The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable recommends the Chem21 Solvent Selection Guide that assesses the safety, health and environmental score of 77 solvents.

Another tool to select solvents developed by the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable is the Solvent Selection Tool. It is an interactive tool that enables you to select solvents based upon a variety of key solvent properties such as physical properties, environmental, safety, and health data, etc. In this way, you can find an alternative solvent that meets your criteria.

Reagent Selection
Another component of chemical transformations are reagents. Chemists are able to use a number of different reagents for a given chemical transformation. The ACS GCIPR Reagent Guides help you select the most appropriate reagent based on its greenness, scalability and utility scores. The guides provide extensive research to illuminate different reagents presented.

Alternatives Assessment
One method used in industry to encourage greener choices is Alternatives Assessment. The objective of an alternatives assessment is to look for inherently safer alternatives to chemicals you are or might be using, thereby protecting and enhancing human health and the environment. It’s not as easy as it sounds because chemicals are not modular, drop-and-replace components. Different chemicals have different functions in a product, interact with the other chemicals involved in specific ways, and have different effects downstream on human and environmental health. That is why a whole science for assessing alternatives is growing around this method.

Simply put though, if you are working with a hazardous material, it would be a good idea to figure out if there is a way to achieve the same function with a more benign chemical. Ideally, chemists would be able to design inherently safer molecules buy understanding the molecular properties of chemicals in order to avoid toxic outcomes.

Life Cycle & Systems Thinking
Learning to think about the entire life cycle of a chemical product is important for many reasons. Without this context, it might be possible as a student to think that chemistry happens when you walk into a lab and ends when you walk out. In reality, all the elements that go into your reaction come from somewhere, and the product and waste coming out ends up somewhere.

For example, if you are using platinum as a catalyst in your reaction, the full environmental impact of your reaction includes considering that platinum comes from mining a precious metal from southern Africa that is expensive and endangered in supply. This reality has driven many researchers to seek ways to use base metals catalytic alternatives like iron. Understanding the life cycle implications of your chemistry will enable you to make better and greener choices in the lab.

There are many other ways of using green chemistry that help your lab become more sustainable. Share your ideas in the comments below!







Green Chemistry


Each year ACS Student Chapters incorporate green chemistry outreach and activities into their programming in order to receive the Green Chemistry Award. The Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award, created eighteen years ago through a collaboration between the ACS Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) and ACS Education Division, recognizes the efforts of chapters that have incorporated at least three green chemistry activities.

This becomes a challenging task for student chapters, as many of their chemistry courses do not integrate green chemistry into the curriculum. Therefore, many of the chapters learn about green chemistry by studying on their own—and it can be tricky understanding the difference between general sustainability, environmental chemistry, and green chemistry – three related but different subject areas. One way chapter members ensured they were performing a qualified green chemistry activity was by participating in ACS webinars and/or Program-in-a-Box activities prepared by ACS GCI.

Other green chemistry activities chapters did in the 2018-19 school year ranged from volunteering at local schools, holding symposium on emerging topics in green chemistry, creating trivia games, to helping rewrite the curriculum for general chemistry labs. Here are a few standout examples of green chemistry activities:


  • Volunteering at local schools was a popular activity. Student Chapters went to K-12 schools and demonstrated several activities ranging from an E-factor experiment with M&Ms that conveys the importance of limiting waste (and cleaning up the process) to a safety in chemistry lesson guiding Boy Scouts through the importance of using alternative materials.
  • Nine Student Chapters participated in the Program-in-a-Box (Mars: Red Planet Chemistry and The Evolving Periodic Table). Many of the students commented on how The Evolving Periodic Table activity opened up a dialogue on endangered elements and the challenges faced in designing greener alternatives.
  • Playing games was a fun and creative activity in which many chapters participated. Students created and developed jeopardy games, bingo game boards, trivia with Kahoot, and scavenger hunts to facilitate learning about green chemistry.
  • A few chapters applied their green chemistry knowledge by making changes to their chemistry course’s curriculum. One student chapter brainstormed innovative ways to make their chemistry lab experiments greener by reducing waste and replacing hazardous elements and solvents. Another chapter altered a traditional lab experiment in the organic chemistry lab and taught why these modifications to the lab were important.


This year there were 55 student chapters’ winners (both U.S. and International) who have won the Green Chemistry Award. The full list of the 2018-2019 academic year Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award winners are:


Alvernia University

Angelo State University

Anne Arundel Community College

Augusta University

Belhaven University

College of William & Mary

Drury University

Duquesne University

Emory & Henry College

Erskine College

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Florida International University – Biscayne Bay Campus

Georgia Gwinnette College

Gordon College

Humboldt State University

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

Morehead State University

Pacific Lutheran University

Pasadena City College

Saint Francis University

Saint Vincent College

Salem State University

Salt Lake Community College

Santa Monica College

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

Stern College for Women – Yeshiva University

Swansea University

Tarleton State University

Tennessee Technological University

Texas Christian University

The Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico

Tuskegee University

Union University

Universidad de Costa Rica

University of Alabama, Birmingham

University of California, Los Angeles

University of California, San Diego

University of Central Arkansas

University of Cincinnati Main Campus

University of Detroit, Mercy

University of Dhaka

University of Houston

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

University of Michigan, Flint

University of New England

University of Pittsburgh

University of Puerto Rico, Bayamon Campus

University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

University of Tennessee at Martin

University of Toledo

West Virginia State University

Western Illinois University

Western Washington University

Wheaton College

Wilkes University



If your chapter needs ideas of green chemistry activities that will help you receive a green chemistry award, review the ACS GCI Student Chapter Guide.  We are excited to see what everyone does during the 2019-2020 academic year. Congratulations to all 55 chapters for reaching your green chemistry goals! 

Representing the largest body of chemists in the world, the American Chemical Society has an important role to play in supporting its members and working with partners committed to addressing global sustainability challenges. In part two of this series, we’ll explore four foundational challenges and proposed action areas for ACS (Read part one: The Moonshot of our Times).


Action Areas Call Out BoxEach of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represents a set of significant technical and/or social challenges. Without a doubt, awe-inspiring advances in chemical/engineering research, leaps in the sustainability of manufacturing and products, and true integration of sustainability concepts in chemistry education will be needed.


But that is not all...a challenge of this nature demands that we look beyond the specifics and identify what kind of mindset will enable us to meet these challenges.

As ACS develops a strategic response to the SDGs, the Division of Scientific Advancement, led by Dr. Mary Kirchhoff, has illuminated some “cross-cutting challenges” we will need to address as a community if we are to move the needle on sustainability. Likewise, four areas for action are proposed to help address these issues.


Challenge: A New Mindset
A quick study of social science tells us that by far the hardest thing to do is to change someone’s mind—convince them (or even harder, ourselves) of the primacy of a new way of thinking. It usually takes a strong emotional connection; reason typically only goes so far to change human behavior.


Fifty-one years ago, Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took the first color photo of the Earth rising from behind the moon. Anders said of the experience, “That was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.” The picture evoked a strong response worldwide and is credited with inspiring the environmental movement. To me, this image remains potent today as a reminder of the unity and fragility of life in the vast expanse of space.


Most likely, if you are reading this from the pages of The Nexus, you also have something that inspires you on an emotional level to connect to sustainable and green chemistry. But for the larger chemistry community, which has yet to fully embrace sustainability, what will it take to get there?


Action #1: Create a Sustainability Mindset across the Chemistry Community

At a recent Committee on Environmental Improvement meeting I attended as a guest at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego, I got to meet a group of passionate ACS members already working to spread the sustainability mindset within the chemistry community. Similarly, at the offices of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute in Washington, D.C., I’m constantly inspired by my colleagues who go above and beyond promoting and fostering the green chemistry approach both within the Society and among larger global audiences (e.g., ACS GCI staff have been in India, China and Botswana in the last month alone). Although change can take time, I believe ACS has an important role to play in motivating and unifying the chemistry community around a culture of sustainability.

Education is another area where ACS plays a strategic role in the community. By integrating concepts like systems thinking and green chemistry, and by using the SDGs as a framework, we can help equip students to contribute to solving the grand challenges of sustainability. ACS GCI has been partnering with many groups and individuals to move this effort forward over the past several years, and is about to embark on a three-year content creation project to further support educators in this area.


There are many facets of creating a sustainability mindset in which ACS can provide leadership and support, and these are just a few.

Challenge: Efficient Translation of Research into Practice
As evidenced by the huge amount of research catalogued in scientific journals—over 3 million peer-reviewed articles per year—there is no shortage of research being conducted worldwide. Where things tend to break down is in how long it takes for research and innovations to be translated into commercial products and industrial practices. This is where the rubber hits the road if we are going to realize practical solutions for the SDGs before the 2030 deadline. A sustained focus on this issue by all sectors of the chemistry community could significantly improve the rate of translation. Improving the understanding and communication between industry and academia, as well as between industry and regulatory agencies, are just two areas to work on.

Challenge: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
An unprecedented amount of innovation and entrepreneurship will be essential to make the kind of scientific and technological breakthroughs needed for achieving the SDGs. The chemistry community can enable this by identifying and addressing innovation bottlenecks; developing new approaches to conducting research and multidisciplinary collaborations; looking for ways to speed up adoption of cutting-edge tools (e.g., data science) in research; and providing greater support for high-risk, high-reward research.


Action #2: Foster Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Translation in Chemistry

Frontiers in chemistry are increasingly spanning several fields, requiring researchers to form multidisciplinary groups. For example, Frances Arnold, 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, works with molecular biology, biochemistry, bioengineering and chemistry students in her research group. During a 2015 interview I did with her for The Nexus, she said, “I know chemists who feel that biology is the big frontier for them. They can apply their more traditional chemical knowledge to identifying new opportunities for biological synthesis.” ACS can create opportunities for information exchange and collaboration across sectors and disciplines that foster innovation, and efficient translation of research.


At the same time, ACS can help chemists develop the skills and knowledge they need to be entrepreneurs, and provide space to promote chemistry innovators. One recent example of this took place at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego where the ACS Industry Member Programs and ACS Small Chemical Businesses Division held a successful Entrepreneur Pitch Training and Competition. Other efforts have included an Entrepreneurial Summit at ACS; a Business Plan Competition at the GC&E Conference; and a student workshop fostering entrepreneurial skills such as networking, IP issues and chemical product design, also at the GC&E Conference.


Challenge: Policy Changes
Policy is an important tool to foster innovation in nascent and early-growth sectors. Whether we like it or not, the marketplace will not always drive innovation when it means competing with embedded technologies that have billions or trillions of dollars of sunk investment. Policies aligned with the SDGs must be considered. For example, the current low price of energy and carbon drives our industry toward fossil carbon-based feedstocks, making it extremely difficult for new approaches to take root. Only new policy can change this. The chemistry community can identify and be a strong voice for policy that moves the SDGs forward.


Action #3: Promote Sustainable Chemical Manufacturing
Many companies are moving towards more sustainable practices in response to the SDGs and other global challenges like plastic pollution and climate change. Partnering with industry to further their engagement with sustainable chemical and engineering approaches could be an area of increased ACS activity.

A recent example of this type of engagement is the AltSep project to advance sustainable separations. This project was led by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s Chemical Manufacturing Roundtable in partnership with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and supported by a $500,000 grant from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Over the past three years, ACS hosted a series of workshops with academic, industry and government scientists to map out a roadmap for less-energy intensive alternatives to separations. This kind of fundamental change to chemical processes, which represents a significant amount of fundamental research, cannot be tackled by any individual company. ACS holds a unique position as a non-profit in being able to partner with government, academia and industry, as well as other associations, to move sustainable chemical manufacturing forward.

Action #4: Promote Sustainability across the Globe
On July 8, ACS president-elect Luis Echegoyen participated in a forum of chemistry society presidents hosted by the Société Chimique de France at their Paris headquarters. The outcome of this meeting, was a joint agreement among the 15 societies present to collaborate on the SDGs—with an open invitation for others to join in the agreement. Creating and expanding these kinds of global partnerships that address the SDGs is an area that ACS can provide leadership.

In alignment with ACS’s strategic goal to communicate chemistry’s value, communicating progress towards the SDGs across the chemistry community and to the public is another area where ACS can act. I hope this article is one small step towards achieving that end…but there are many other efforts in this area. For example, at the upcoming ACS National Meeting in Philly and next year’s Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Seattle sessions are being planned that highlight chemistry’s role in the SDGs.


Final Thoughts
There are likely a myriad of ways we could approach responding to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, but hopefully these four broad areas proposed resonate with you. Feedback from the community is important--How do you envision ACS supporting you in the context of these goals?


In next month’s installment we will start to dig into the specific SDGs and how they tie into chemistry.

Dr. Bryony Core, Senior Technology Analyst at IDTechEx

We live in the age of plastic. Our lives have become so enmeshed with it that it is becoming impossible to avoid in day to day life. Its uses are myriad: saving lives in medical devices, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by light-weighting vehicles, and packaging food to prevent it from spoiling. But it wasn’t always this way: mass production started to ramp up in the 1950s, and ever since supply has grown exponentially to reach 348 MT produced in 2017 alone.[1] This wouldn’t be a problem, were it not for the fact that the lifespan of plastic typically far exceeds the time spent using it, as well as its synthesis from non-renewable hydrocarbon feedstocks.

One of the central issues with plastic is that it won’t readily decompose, instead being ground into ever smaller fragments, or “microplastics”. Academic investigation into the prevalence of contamination has revealed that plastic is indeed everywhere: microplastics have been found in tap water, in the air and in soil. Following an onslaught of recent news coverage depicting the scale of the problem, plastic pollution now occupies a very prominent position in public consciousness. One proposed solution is to incinerate waste plastic to avoid its longevity in the environment. However, burning these carbon-rich sinks only serves to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to greenhouse gas emissions.

Considering the significant downsides of plastics produced on the current scale, what are the options? Recycling at their end of life is one route to managing waste; however, recycling infrastructure is far from perfect and mechanical recovery methods output ever poorer materials until incineration or landfill are the only options left. Alternatively, another potential solution lies in replacing petroleum-based polymers with biobased polymers, which have been partially or completely derived from a renewable biomass feedstock.

Biobased polymers can be chemically identical to petroleum-based polymers, and therefore act as “drop-in” replacements, or they can have entirely new chemistries. They can both directly substitute incumbent materials and offer the potential for improved performance. Furthermore, they partly answer the complications raised above: produced via photosynthesis, biomass locks in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is a carbon sink. As a result, biobased polymers represent a means to substantially reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle compared to current polymers.

In addition, their unique chemistries present novel properties: several biobased polymers are also biodegradable or compostable and can be metabolised by microorganisms in the correct conditions. NatureWorks and Corbion have developed poly(lactide) (PLA), a compostable polyester, with a combined global production of over 225 kT annually. Challenging to produce economically from petrochemicals, biobased PLA is used in emerging applications such as biocompatible drug delivery systems, cell scaffolding and 3D printing, as well as displacing materials in consumer goods packaging.

Despite the opportunity presented by biobased polymers, and customer demand for greener products, production has been slow to get off the mark. Transitioning proof of concepts out of the laboratory and into an industrial fermentation facility is fraught with technical complexity and high CAPEX. Coupled with a chronic shortage of investment, production at scale has been hindered to date; innovators are exposed to volatility in the price of crude oil, resulting in many ventures ceasing operations in recent years.

Is there a future for biobased polymers? Biobased or not, these polymers still require robust waste management processes, but they do offer a partial solution to the issues of curbing carbon dioxide emissions as well as avoiding waste leaking into the environment. Addressing the funding shortages which have stifled growth, the EU has made €80 billion available under the Horizon 2020 project as part of its updated Bioeconomy Strategy which promotes circular economy initiatives. Based on these factors, IDTechEx projects that biobased polymers will play an increasingly important role in the plastics industry, and that the market size for biobased polymers will grow to 2.7 Mt by 2023, as barriers are addressed and demand for more sustainable materials grows.[2]

[1] “Plastics- The Facts 2018”, Plastics Europe,
[2] “Biobased Polymers 2018-2023: A Technology and Market Perspective”, IDTechEx,

The Peter J. Dunn Award for Green Chemistry & Engineering Impact in the Pharmaceutical Industry will be presented October 25, 2019 to Prof. B. Frank Gupton at the NESACS Process Chemistry Symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The award, established in 2016 by the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable, recognizes excellence in the research, development and execution of pharmaceutical green chemistry that demonstrates compelling environmental, safety and efficiency improvements over current technologies.

B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D.Professor Gupton holds the Floyd D. Gottwald Jr. Chair in Pharmaceutical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is being honored for his achievements “Increasing Access to Global Health Care through Process Intensification”. Gupton helped to create the Medicines for All Institute, with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates, to address access to affordable medications in developing countries. By developing innovative new manufacturing processes for drugs that treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, the Institute has been able to significantly lower the cost of manufacturing medicines leading to reduced cost and greater availability for patients.

Prof. Gupton’s work exploits catalysis and flow chemistry to maximize process efficiency and decrease the environmental impact of drug manufacture. Early results have been impressive. For example, Gupton and his team were able to use increase the yield of manufacturing an HIV drug from 53% to 91%, reducing waste and saving 30-40% in raw material costs. Gupton also recently developed a novel approach to producing Fluconazole, an antifungal medication, using a flow Grignard process. The new process mitigates the safety risks of standard Grignards, reduces material use, and is a more efficient route that could be broadly applied to other drugs.

Before his work at VCU, Gupton had a distinguished industrial career at Celanese and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.

Nominations are now open for the 2020 Peter J. Dunn Award, recognizing the best of pharmaceutical Green Chemistry. Submissions should highlight impact relative to the principles of green chemistry. The 2020 award will be presented at the 24th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Seattle, Washington June 16-18, 2020 and the winner will be invited to present their green chemistry innovation during the conference. The award reimburses expenses up to $2,500 for conference attendance. Industrial chemists are encouraged to apply.

For more information on eligibility and to download the nomination form go to

Grant winners pictures

Left to right: Fernando Albericio, Beatriz G. de la Torre, Mark Mason, Aaron Vannucci, Arnaud Voituriez, Susan Olesik, and Ryan Shenvi.


Researchers from four U.S. institutions as well as South Africa and France received a total of almost $200,000 in funding from the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable (GCIPR) to advance green chemistry research in the pharmaceutical sciences.

“Providing grants to support advanced research represents a cornerstone of the ACS GCIPR strategy,” says Paul Richardson, Ph.D., director of oncology chemistry at Pfizer, and co-chair of the Roundtable. “The broad range of research initiatives funded by this current round of grant awards serves to highlight the diversity of the Roundtable’s activities.”

The Ignition Grant Program for Green Chemistry & Engineering Research funds novel and innovative ideas that have the potential to provide sustainable solutions to chemistry and engineering problems relevant to the pharmaceutical industry from discovery to manufacturing. The four winners will receive $25,000 each for a 6-month research timeline. The winners are:


Professor Fernando Albericio and professor Beatriz G. de la Torre from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa for their proposal, “Baroc, a Green α-Amino Protecting Group for Solid-Phase Peptide Synthesis.”


Professor Mark Mason, director of the School of Green Chemistry and Engineering at The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio for “Iron-Catalyzed Cross-Coupling of Heterocycles.”


Assistant professor Aaron Vannucci from the University of South Carolina for his proposal, “A New Approach to Catalyst Immobilization Research: Designing Molecular Catalysts for Heterogeneous Catalysis.”


Arnaud Voituriez, research director at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles, France for his proposal, “Towards an Electro-Catalytic Wittig Reaction.”


The Roundtable’s analytical chemistry team sought a proposal to clearly define sustainable chromatographic, analytical and purification methodologies in the pharmaceutical industry. Professor Susan Olesik of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio was awarded $46,996 for her proposal, “A Study of the Environmental Impact of Analytical and Preparative Scale Supercritical Fluid Chromatographic Processes.”


The Roundtable’s greener medicinal chemistry grant seeks to advance the development of precious metal-free cross-coupling methodology applicable to substrates such as heterocycles that are widely used in the industry. The $50,000 award goes to associate professor Ryan Shenvi from the department of chemistry at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California for his proposal, “C–N attached-ring synthesis by Markovnikov hydroamination.”

“We strongly believe that through these research collaborations, significant scientific breakthroughs will be realized to further the application of green chemistry within the pharmaceutical industry and beyond,” adds Richardson.

The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has awarded over $2.25 million in funding since their grant program began in 2007. You can learn more about the program at

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