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Hey, undergrads! Looking for some green chemistry activities for your ACS Student Chapter? Great news, we’ve got boatloads full of great activities that can even be done virtually. In particular, the green chemistry activities from past ACS Program-in-a-Box or Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW) events are perfect options to do virtually with your Chapter mates. Take a look at the green chemistry activities available for the following past ACS events:

 

  • The Evolving Periodic Table and the Future of Energy Storage
  • Voyage to Mars: Red Planet Chemistry
  • Riding the Wave of Green Chemistry: How to Enhance Awareness of Plastics in the Ocean

 

Another great option would be to watch a past green chemistry webinar and host a discussion. Here are a few of the latest ACS Webinars focused on green and sustainable chemistry:

 

 

For more ideas, you can also check out activities submitted by your peers from across the U.S. on our resources page.

 

Remember, in order to qualify as a green chemistry event, you need to have at least six members of your chapter participate, and be sure to include the specifics of how your activity incorporated green chemistry in your Chapter Report. Please be specific!  

 

One of the most common pitfalls we see in Chapter Reports is not being able to differentiate between green chemistry, sustainability and environmental chemistry. Not sure how to tell the difference? Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Sustainability is the broadest of these concepts and incorporates ideas that impact people, the planet and prosperity (i.e., the triple bottom line). There might be efforts that your Chapter pursues that are great sustainability efforts, but don’t necessarily relate to green chemistry practices, like a campus composting or recycling program.
  • Environmental chemistry is the study of chemistry in natural systems. This could be understanding chemistry at work in land, air and water systems. Therefore, an activity focusing on water quality would be more of an environmental chemistry project.
  • Finally, green chemistry is based on a set of chemistry design principles that aim to eliminate or minimize hazards and pollution and maximize resource efficiency, while designing systems holistically and using a life cycle thinking approach. Therefore, educational and outreach events that focus on these concepts are considered green chemistry activities.

 

Keeping this in mind, the following activities do NOT count as green chemistry activities:

  • Park, stream, road or other clean-ups
  • Recycling drive
  • Water monitoring
  • Earth Day celebration without green chemistry component specified
  • Any activity with only one member involved
  • Attending three talks by home university professors
  • General sustainability practices, (e.g. using biodegradable coffee filters)
  • Most movie screenings (especially when only linked to climate change without a chemistry context)
  • Outreach activities or demos with no green chemistry component

 

If you have questions, please feel free to reach out at any time (gci@acs.org). We’re always happy to help with ideas and to serve as a sounding board for green chemistry activity planning.

By Jenny MacKellar, Program Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute, and Aurora Ginzburg, Education Specialist, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

 

Are you passionate about sustainability? Do you teach a foundational lower-division chemistry course? Are you looking for opportunities to network with other chemistry educators during this isolating time? What about a way to further engage your students and connect chemistry to important real-world issues? Well, now you have a chance!  ACS GCI has initiated a three-year project to develop chemistry education modules for undergraduate general and organic chemistry courses. We are looking for chemistry educators to help us develop and pilot these materials, and you will be compensated for your time and effort.

 

This year has made it more apparent than ever that there is a need for open-access, high-quality virtual teaching materials and a community of educators who can share their experience using such materials. In addition, these materials should be relevant and engaging to students, particularly if they are intended to be used exclusively in a virtual setting. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute is developing educational materials that connect fundamental chemistry concepts to sustainability issues, such as those articulated in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, while using a systems thinking approach. These materials will be developed by teams of educators convened virtually and will cover both general and organic chemistry courses. Over the next two years, the teams will develop modules around fundamental chemistry topics that include the knowledge and skills necessary to practice green and sustainable chemistry. Placing foundational chemistry concepts in their relevant societal and environmental contexts is designed to help all students, including those who are not chemistry majors, find lower-division chemistry courses practical and important.

 

An overarching driver for this project is to develop materials that help students to construct their knowledge of chemistry in tandem with systems thinking skills so that they can ultimately use chemistry to address real-world problems. In our experience, many students are interested in sustainability but lack the ability to draw connections between fundamental chemical concepts such as bond strength, ion solubility, kinetics, etc. and real-world phenomena like PFAS contamination, algal blooms, and precious metal mining.

 

This project will build upon recent education transformation efforts that focus on students developing an integrated understanding of underlying concepts. Further, we will utilize existing green chemistry education materials when possible. For more information on the vision for this project, and how sustainability, green chemistry, and systems thinking all connect, we encourage you to check out our project webpage. In addition, we have the module rubric and our introductory webinar posted.

 

We have just opened up the online application for educators to fill out if they are interested in becoming module developers. Applications should only take 15 minutes to complete and are due by November 20, 2020. Module developers will work in small teams over the next two years to develop, pilot and revise a module on a general or organic chemistry topic. Module developers will be compensated and receive authorship credit for their contributions to the project. For more information about the module development teams, join us for a webinar on November 11 at 3 p.m. EST. We’ll be discussing the composition of the teams, the roles of the team members, timelines and how to use a systems thinking approach to the development of the modules.

 

We respect that everyone is very busy and these are incredibly challenging times, and we hope that the relatively long project-timeline and team layout will encourage educators to participate despite these challenges. We will always respect your time and other commitments and will do everything possible to work around busy schedules. In addition, we are going to intentionally incorporate activities and time to build a community with the group so that this can be a wonderful opportunity to form connections with other like-minded educators.

 

Feel free to reach out with any questions, suggestions or comments at gci@acs.org.

By David Constable, Ph.D., Scientific Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

 

12Say you’re in the market for a new article of clothing and you start searching on the internet for what’s available from retailers you have bought from in the past.  Maybe you want something that is classically stylish, maybe you don’t want it to go out of fashion quickly and want it to last more than one season, you think it will make you look great, the colors compliment you, and you think it will feel comfortable when you’re wearing it.   You decide to go ahead and purchase it.  If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought about where the clothing originated from, who put it together, or how the cloth was made.   Again, if you’re like most people, you don’t think about what you’re going to do with the clothing after you’ve worn it for a while and decide that perhaps it is no longer suitable for you to continue wearing it, although you may have a history of donating your clothing to charity.  For the most part, we consume things somewhat mindlessly, especially in modern western societies. 

 

SDG 12, if we think about it for any length of time, forces us to think differently about consumption.  Exactly what is sustainable consumption and what does production that supports sustainable consumption look like?  The box below contains a few of the goal’s targets that are most applicable to chemistry and chemical production, and these give us some ideas about what might be required. 

 

SDG 12: Selected Targets

 

  • By 2030, achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources.
  • By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.
  • By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
  • By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
  • Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.
  • By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.

 

 

Hopefully, you see a few ideas that are familiar to you, like resource efficiency, reduced food waste, chemicals management and reduced emissions associated with chemicals throughout their life cycle, elements of the circular economy, increased recycling and reuse, etc.  It’s interesting to me that for the most part, the burden for sustainable consumption in these targets lies with companies, not with the ultimate consumer.  But is this the only place that responsibility for sustainable consumption resides?  Ultimately, producers and manufacturers are responding to a demand signal from consumers for things they can sell.  They certainly have an enormous responsibility to produce things in an environmentally responsible fashion thanks to 40 years or more of environmental legislation.  Can the same be said about sustainability?  That is, are companies operating in as sustainable a fashion as possible? Despite steps in the right direction, the global chemistry enterprise is operating a great distance away from what would be considered sustainable.  Many of the materials (the mass) that move through our economies, and the energy that is used to supply, maintain, use and dispose of these materials, are overwhelmingly produced from non-renewable and unsustainable resources. 

 

So what might more sustainable consumption and production look like? 

 

  • The way in which energy is being produced and distributed is certainly undergoing a transition to greater amounts of solar, wind and other renewable forms of energy, and the potential for more distributed generation is increasing. This transition is shifting impacts from CO2 production related to energy generation, to a range of impacts beyond CO2 production, and renewable energy is far from sustainable when looked at from a resource depletion or environmental impact perspective.  
  • Transportation is being disrupted toward electricity and electric vehicles, which possess many challenges for sustainable consumption related to batteries, rare earth elements, precious metals, advanced materials, coatings, etc. Transportation is also being disrupted to shared models and automation, which changes the existing models of consumption, ownership, and end-of-useful-life issues. 
  • Chemicals production could also become increasingly characterized by precision fermentation and be much more distributed to make use of local biomass sources.
  • Extensive automation and robotics will also profoundly change the need for new materials but also the nature of work in society. Increased smart technology, while enabling greater energy efficiency, will require greater use of a range of elements that are not currently being sustainably extracted, processed, and re-used.  Robotics and additive manufacturing may enable more production to be distributed differently, but this will require greater use of materials. 
  • A more biobased and circular economy will also require extensive innovation in food and biomass production, which has profound implications on energy, nitrogen, and phosphorous consumption.

 

Implicit in all these transitions is the need to employ greener and more sustainable chemistry and chemical technologies.  The history of technology development has been, however, rarely focused on sustainable development and clearly, this needs to change if we have any hope of moving towards more sustainable consumption and production.  Chemistry remains a central driving force in most areas of sustainable development and green and sustainable chemistry should be the way in which the world does its chemistry.     

By William F. Carroll, Jr., Chair, ACS Green Chemistry Institute Advisory Board

 

For many readers, the name Nina McClelland will not be familiar. Nina passed away at the age of 90 on August 16.  She had been an American Chemical Society activist for about 50 years prior to her passing, holding numerous committee and chair positions, including nine years on the ACS Board of Directors, of which three were spent as Chair of the Board.  Nina recruited me into ACS governance, leading to my time on the Board of Directors, my term as Chair and my term as ACS President.  I owe her a great personal debt.

 

But Nina was also a loud and staunch advocate for green chemistry.  She came to that from an unusual place:  The organization originally known as the National Sanitation Foundation, and now as just NSF International.  Nina was NSF President for many years.

 

NSF is a standards organization; that is, it organizes technical panels and comes to a consensus on rules of the road for various aspects of modern technical life.  Fire codes and electrical codes are examples of industrial standards.  NSF’s expertise traditionally was in sanitation, and especially in drinking water, wastewater and plumbing.  Today, their standards extend to personal care, animal care, home products and sustainability, as well.

 

For as long as I have known Nina, she has been passionate about the ability of standards to raise the quality and efficiency of modern life.  At the same time, she was a passionate advocate for chemistry, and particularly safer, forward-looking chemistry as a means to enable modern life.

 

Let’s talk a little about the ancient history of the Green Chemistry Institute.  In the 1990s, a man named Joe Breen played a major role at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in creating Design for the Environment and green chemistry, including the establishment of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in 1996.  When Joe retired from EPA he established a not-for-profit known as the Green Chemistry Institute with support and sweat equity from colleagues in industry, government, academe and the national labs.  In 1999, Joe Breen died.  After Joe’s passing, the future of the Green Chemistry Institute was at risk.

 

Enter Daryle Busch: ACS President-Elect, 1999 and President, 2000.  Professor Busch was an advocate of catalysis as a means to greener chemistry.  He saw an opportunity to advance the field, put the Green Chemistry Institute on a solid footing, and involve ACS in a venture looking to the future of chemistry.  He proposed to the ACS Board of Directors an alliance between GCI and ACS.  Nina, also on the Board, agreed enthusiastically.

 

And thus, GCI became allied with ACS.  That alliance has evolved over the past twenty years to where we find ourselves now: GCI is a part of the Division of Scientific Advancement of ACS, doing groundbreaking work on behalf of the field.  But none of this would have happened without the prime movers, Daryle Busch and Nina McClelland.

 

As an inaugural member of the Governing Board for GCI in her role as Chair of the ACS Board of Directors, Nina played a crucial role in raising awareness of green chemistry among her Board colleagues and across the Society.  She, along with Daryle Busch, articulated the importance of GCI in advancing sustainability across the chemistry enterprise.  Early on, Nina recognized that a major opportunity for GCI was to bring the green chemistry message to ACS members.

 

Green chemistry lost a true champion and friend with the passing of Dr. Nina McClelland.  For nearly two decades, she provided expert advice to GCI staff and Governing Board members.  Her passion for achieving sustainability through the application of green chemistry helped advance ACS’ vision of “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”  Her wisdom and common sense will be missed by all those whose paths she crossed.  Her legacy of the Green Chemistry Institute as a part of ACS will continue to shape science and our Society well into the future.

 

 

 

By Prof. Jonas Baltrusaitis, Ph.D., Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Lehigh University, and Awardee of the 2020 ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship

 

Jonas BaltrusaitisIn spite of the pandemic, the world is experiencing unprecedented economic growth together with an increasing population, requiring relentless use of our natural resources, such as air, water, hydrocarbons and other common nutrients. For this reason, sustainable resource management and use, as well as the utilization of waste, are necessary in order to minimize significant negative environmental impacts. In an inextricably-linked landscape of energy and nutrients, one must weigh factors such as availability and price, as well as the effects of their extraction on the environment in general, and climate change in particular. Flexible fundamental, as well as engineering, solutions, currently not quite available, are needed in order to ensure our continuing prosperous existence. 

 

As a precautious boy growing up in an industrialized city in Lithuania, I was always wondering about the giant plume of white steam coming out of the large fertilizer-producing tower exhaust.  My childhood friends would often advise me that said fertilizers are made by utilizing air, which always made me wonder about the underlying basics of such a process.  Little did I know, I would have a chance to have first-hand experience in designing, controlling and, later, improving fertilizer production technologies. 

 

My journey in green and sustainable chemistry started when I joined the workforce, right after graduating with a Masters in Chemical Engineering degree. As a junior process engineer, I was tasked with relocating a large fertilizer production facility across Europe.  The success of the biggest project of my early career was largely based on my empirical understanding of exothermal reaction design and control, evaporation, distillation, granulation and other core chemical engineering principles acquired during my undergraduate years. 

 

The overall experience, however, increased my interest in the fundamentals of nitrogen and carbon surface chemistry and catalysis.  For this reason, I left the industry and obtained my Ph.D. in physical chemistry with Prof. Vicki Grassian at the University of Iowa.  Ever since I have worn two hats—one of the chemical engineer and one of the chemist—and I would not have it any other way.  While being an engineer helps me to conceptualize problems of societal significance and devise practical solutions, the skills of a chemist allow me to do this using scientific principles.  A case in point is my recent work on mechanochemical synthesis of urea cocrystals to create multifunctional nutrient containing fertilizer materials.  Milling, often utilized on a small scale in organic synthesis, proved to be an efficient and scalable process that afforded 100% urea conversion into complex ionic cocrystals, previously synthesized using solution crystallization methods.

 

My particular journey has made me a poster child of STEM—due to my lifelong practical and educational experience in both fundamental sciences, chemical engineering science, and as a practicing chemical engineer. However, it was not premeditated or systematically pursued, and was instead a result of personal exploration. In retrospect, I wish that I had been encouraged to this end at the beginning of my career. Needless to say, with my own students, I encourage them to engage in interdisciplinary research and practical hands-on experience.

 

As a capstone process design instructor at Lehigh University, I am often a mediator between the industry and academia, and I would not have it any other way.  My chemical engineering education experience revolves around the so-called Active Learning concept, where students are engaged in a controlled combination of reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analytical understanding of the class content.  Based on Edgar Dale (Audio-Visual Methods in Technology, Holt, Rinehart and Winston), we only remember 10% of what we read and 20% of what we hear. About 50% of visual information is retained after two weeks, compared to 70% of what we say and 90% of what we both say and do.  As such, I will always encourage meaningful and impactful ways of evolving chemical engineering education that includes the engagement of practicing engineers.

 

 

By Feng Wang, Ph.D., Professor of Physical Chemistry, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (CAS) and Awardee of 2020 ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship, and Ning Li, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (CAS)

 

Feng WangChemistry innovations have long offered us commodities and products that benefit our daily life tremendously. Nowadays, the design of a new chemical (engineering) process emphasizes not only the efficiency of inherent functions but also green performance, such as environmental benignness and sustainability. It is my great fortune to anchor my research career in the sustainable hydrocarbon world by implementing green catalysis for the sake of renewable chemicals, fuels, and materials. I am convinced that green chemistry and catalysis will bring us a brighter future. Of course, it is impossible to reach the ultimate goal in one stroke. As I look back to what I have gone through, it’s clear our understanding of green biorefinery keeps growing, but certain ambiguities remain. Continuous endeavors will be devoted to this promising area and I look forward to advancing technologies and knowledge of biomass valorization and biorefinery in a green manner.

 

I started to realize the negative environmental impacts instigated by the vast consumption of depleting fossil resources when I was a graduate student. My Ph.D. project was the efficient catalysis of fossil products using metal oxides and metal nanoparticles as catalysts. When I initiated my research group at Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP), I decided to step forward to the concept of biorefinery (i.e., utilizing the toolbox available in oil refining to solve the issues in renewable biomass valorization for fuels and value-added products). The great abundance and availability of biomass was fascinating, while I soon realized it was also quite challenging due to the complexity of biomass components (e.g., lignin, carbohydrates, bio-lipids), all of which bear distinct chemical structures.

 

I decided to narrow down my first target to lignin. It was stereotypically recognized as a waste from the pulp industry and was poorly destined for calcination. Instead of using homogenous acid or base catalysts in pulping processes which resulted in value-deficient lignin fractions, I adopted a recyclable catalyst (heterogeneous and non-precious nickel catalysts) to selectively break down the lignin fragments in methanol. Monophenols were harvested in high yields and the residual cellulose pulps (free of lignin) were ready for biochemical processing1. This study opens a new avenue to utilize lignin-based phenols as platform chemicals for fuels, aromatic chemicals, and pharmaceutical molecules, and has come into being a widely used lignin conversion strategy, i.e. lignin first.

 

While it was exciting to implement my preliminary green idea by recyclable and cheap catalysts, I knew greener improvements would be demanded in the value-addition of lignin fractions. Lignin depolymerization via a thermochemical process inevitably suffers from high-energy consumption. It would be desirable to depolymerize lignin under mild conditions. Since biomass moieties (including lignin) are derived from organic matter photosynthesized at ambient temperature under light illumination, what if catalytic biomass conversion occurs using light as an energy source?

 

Photocatalytic reactions, which are non-toxic and energy-efficient, fulfill multiple green chemistry principles, with the added benefit of being inexpensive. Incorporating photocatalysis into biomass conversion is a milestone in my research journey toward a sustainable biorefinery. I am lucky because the catalysts I played with in my Ph.D. projects (such as metal oxides and metal sulfides) exhibit certain photocatalytic performance. After screening and tuning the defects and surface structures of heterogeneous catalysts, a couple of efficient candidates (such as ZnIn2S4, CuOx/ceria/TiO2) emerged to be effective in catalytic cleavage of C−C and C−O bonds between lignin units, once exposed to visible or UV lights2-3.

 

Tackling carbohydrate photocatalysis is on my bucket list for a sustainable biorefinery. Carbohydrates (such as cellulose and hemicellulose) embody the most abundant renewable resources, co-existing with lignin in lignocellulosic biomass. In our journey toward a sustainable biorefinery, it is imperative to validate the efficient conversion of carbohydrates and their derivatives to green fuels and chemicals. Inspired by the solar-driven water-splitting reactions for H2 production, we developed a Ru-doped ZnIn2S4 catalyst for the coproduction of H2 and diesel fuel precursors from carbohydrate-derived methylfurans via acceptorless dehydrogenative C−C coupling4. Subsequent hydrodeoxygenation reactions yielded the diesel fuels comprising straight- and branched-chain alkanes. To integrate the biorefinery processes into the existing petrochemical-fuel chain, bio-methanol is designed as a clean liquid energy carrier and a pivotal chemical for the synthesis of olefins and aromatics. In contrast to thermochemical reforming at harsh conditions (over 300 °C), we discovered the Cu-dispersed titanium oxide nanorods were effective for photo-splitting of sugars and bio-derived polyols to methanol at room temperature5.

 

As we strive to knock down the complexity in biomass compositions, my interest extends to the photocatalytic bio-lipid conversion for sustainable fuels. Capturing the subtle changes of radical intermediates on the photocatalyst surface, we found a photocatalytic decarboxylation route to efficiently upgrade bio-derived fatty acids into long-chain alkanes by Pt/TiO2 as a robust and recyclable catalyst under mild conditions (ambient temperature with hydrogen gas pressure no more than 2 atm)6. Compared to the traditional hydrodeoxygenation and hydrodecarboxylation processes, the photocatalytic decarboxylation is highlighted for its low energy and H2 consumption. 

 

On my journey towards sustainable valorization of biomass, emphases have been given to validating various renewable feedstocks and digging into the fundamental mechanism of green catalysis. However, new challenges keep emerging as our awareness in this field grows. For example, our photocatalytic decarboxylation process for biodiesel turned out to be less competitive than the current fossil-based process in the life-cycle assessment. Continuous research efforts will be needed for process optimization and catalyst design. To build a sustainable world, block polymers and functional materials must be developed from biomass. This underexplored domain will be of great interest to venture on. 

 

I am an optimist in green chemistry and catalysis. Green is the color of the natural environment, but also signifies the youth and prosperity of this research area. Compared to the traditional chemical (engineering) processes, there are enormous opportunities in this green area. Aiming at a bright future of sustainable biorefinery, I am in. And you are more than welcome to join us.

 

References

  1. Qi Song, Feng Wang, Jiaying Cai, Yehong Wang, Junjie Zhang, Weiqiang Yu, Jie Xu. Lignin depolymerization (LDP) in alcohol over nickel-based catalysts via a fragmentation-hydrogenolysis process. Energy Environ. Sci., 2013, 6 (3), 994-1007. https://doi.org/10.1039/c2ee23741e
  2. Tingting Hou, Nengchao Luo, Hongji Li, Marc Heggen, Jianmin Lu, Yehong Wang, Feng Wang. Yin and yang dual characters of cuox clusters for c–c bond oxidation driven by visible light. ACS Catalysis, 2017, 7 (6), 3850-3859. https://doi.org/10.1021/acscatal.7b00629
  3. Nengchao Luo, Min Wang, Hongji Li, Jian Zhang, Tingting Hou, Haijun Chen, Xiaochen Zhang, Jianmin Lu, Feng Wang. Visible-light-driven self-hydrogen transfer hydrogenolysis of lignin models and extracts into phenolic products. ACS Catalysis, 2017, 7 (7), 4571-4580. https://doi.org/10.1021/acscatal.7b01043
  4. Nengchao Luo, Tiziano Montini, Jian Zhang, Paolo Fornasiero, Emiliano Fonda, Tingting Hou, Wei Nie, Jianmin Lu, Junxue Liu, Marc Heggen, Long Lin, Changtong Ma, Min Wang, Fengtao Fan, Shengye Jin, Feng Wang. Visible-light-driven coproduction of diesel precursors and hydrogen from lignocellulose-derived methylfurans. Nat. Energy, 2019, 4 (7), 575-584. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0403-5
  5. Min Wang, Meijiang Liu, Jianmin Lu, Feng Wang, Min Wang, Meijiang Liu. Photo splitting of bio-polyols and sugars to methanol and syngas. Nat Commun, 2020, 11 (1), 1083. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14915-8
  6. Zhipeng Huang, Zhitong Zhao, Chaofeng Zhang, Jianmin Lu, Huifang Liu, Nengchao Luo, Jian Zhang, Feng Wang. Enhanced photocatalytic alkane production from fatty acid decarboxylation via inhibition of radical oligomerization. Nat. Catal., 2020, 3 (2), 170-178. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-020-0423-3

 

By Nakisha Mark Ph.D. candidate, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus

 

Often when we think of green chemistry, focus is placed on the results, such as greater sustainability, safer processes or creating environmentally-friendly products. However, what about the strategy to achieve these results? I believe that strategic placement of research goals and/or projects to create value from green chemistry is as important as the specific green outcomes we desire. This is even more important in small island developing states (SIDS), where issues of climate change, social sustainability, economic prosperity and food security represent current and real challenges. Due to the unique challenges in our region, implementation of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) principles and approaches are critical to achieving research goals and have been used for focusing research in support of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Green chemistry has been gaining momentum in the Caribbean region in many sectors, especially in academia. Caribbean chemists are cognizant of the unique and supportive role of green chemistry research and innovation to the SDGs, and are developing actors in research across the regional university, The University of the West Indies (UWI). Therefore, to meet the SDGs through green chemistry, the strategies utilized must be SMART, which can lead to more opportunities for the fulfilment of the targeted SDGs.

 

What is interesting is that even with depressed economies, non-ideal research infrastructure and relatively low numbers of researchers currently in the field of green chemistry, more and more chemists are leaning towards green chemistry. For instance, materials science has a high minimum investment threshold due to the high cost of specialist instrumentation, which puts SIDS at a significant disadvantage in terms of supporting infrastructure. Many in this area of research have been pushed to alter synthesis techniques to meet specific research goals due to limited access to resources. These challenges have afforded groups such as Dr. Forde’s research group at UWI, St. Augustine Campus to become creative in their research activities, which has resulted in the adaptation of convergent research.

 

            

Convergent research is about closely matching research projects around a central theme so that projects are built from each other to develop a deeper overall understanding. It is very advantageous as it alleviates societal problems, which aids in achieving the SDGs. The research students of the Forde research group specialize in green heterogeneous catalysis, and the main focus of the group’s research is valorization of biomass as an enabler of sustainable and high-value agriculture in support of regional food-energy-security goals. More specifically, topics such as aqueous phase hydrogenation and oxidation of bio-derived compounds are being explored using highly selective recyclable solid nanoparticle catalysts that are created in-house. Of course, all of the starting materials can be easily derived from waste and non-food biomass, but they are going a step further to implement photocatalytic protocols for their reactions in efforts to create truly sustainable chemical processes. Hence, the focal point is built on SDGs 7, 9, 11 and 13 directly but also intersects SDGs 1, 2, 8, 12 and 15 (see figure 1).

Sus_Goals

Figure 1: U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

 

These synergies and intersections add real value to research and also ease the transition to actionable outcomes for varying sectors. What’s even more important is that the graduate researchers understand, from the onset, the impact of their laboratory experiments and therefore become influencers for green chemistry.  This last asset is critical to the mission of green chemists, i.e., to popularize the method of thinking and the outcomes of green chemistry to diverse audiences. This helps those external to the green chemistry catalysis sphere to get a better understanding of green chemistry to the extent where they want to apply the 12 principles of green chemistry in their own activities.

 

Recognizing that green chemistry is multi-disciplinary, many other researchers are very invested in creating changes and contributing to the SDGs. At UWI, Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Holder and his team are investigating, understanding and utilizing microbial biochemistry for the sustainable production of fuel, and other biological resources, to meet our energy needs. Their research plays a huge role in managing sustainable ecosystems as well as developing and maintaining the bio-economy, therefore contributing to SDGs 2, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 (see figure 1).

 

 

Dr. Nikolai Holder alongside his team of research students.

 

The Anaerobic Digester System at Cave Hill campus, which is utilized by Dr. Holder and his team. The system uses grass and leaves from the landscaping waste on campus to produce biogas, which powers the bunsen burners in the laboratories.

 

At the St. Augustine Campus, the students of Dr. Taylor’s research group explore novel advanced functional materials towards utilization in a range of modern technologically important applications. Some of the applications are improving the efficiency of solar cells and thermo/chemosensors for the sensing of dangerous or unwanted metal ions implicated in environmental contamination, thus fulfilling SDGs 7 and 9 (see figure 1).

Dr. Richard Taylor (left) alongside graduate researcher Reco Phillips and Dr. Wilson Sue Chee Ming (PhD. graduate of Dr. Taylor) analyzing data from synchrotron X-ray diffraction at the National Synchrotron Light Source-II.

 

The students on the research team of Drs. Beckles and Wyse-Mason are focused on the characterization of environmental contamination in the local environment, as well as the application of alternative fuels, in particular biodiesel, produced from waste cooking oil feedstock. Their studies on local contamination aim to reduce pollution in the air as well as in the soil of impacted areas including those connecting to landfills and other polluted areas, thereby fulfilling SDGs 6 and 7 (see figure 1).    

                                                       

Another researcher, Ms. Aiken, who is affiliated with the Mona Campus of the UWI and the Scientific Research Council, is actively addressing SDG 2 (see figure 1) through her research of the capitalization of post-harvest losses of cassava leaves as a protein source for human diets

 

The diverse approaches to meeting the U.N. SDGs demonstrated in the region indicate the need for collaboration. There have been multidisciplinary collaborations across sectors, such as agriculture, and across international institutions, such as with Brookhaven National Laboratory. These collaborations have been instrumental in overcoming some of the challenges in research infrastructure such as in the area of material science. Such collaborations can be viewed as the fulfillment of SDG17-partnerships for the goals.

 

Acknowledging the goal of green chemistry is to sustain life, the highlighted challenges of the Caribbean region have only served to allow researchers to seek the hidden opportunities within these challenges. This mindset allows us to implement SMART green chemistry to contribute to the fulfilment of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

By Carl Maxwell, Manager, Government Affairs, Office of External Affairs and Communication

 

In July, both the House of Representatives and the Senate each passed the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act, bringing it much closer to becoming law.  The measure was added to a major defense measure.  The National Defense Authorization Act (S.1790/H.R.2500) is a massive bill which provides guidance to our nation’s military and Pentagon in ways large and small.  It is passed by Congress annually, and is considered one of the only “must pass” bills each year, along with keeping the government funded.  

 

The Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act (S.999/H.R.2051) is comprehensive legislation creating an interagency taskforce to oversee and direct investment in sustainable chemistry across the federal government. It would include leading agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, as well as other agencies.  In addition to creating a national roadmap for boosting research and development in sustainable chemistry, it would authorize public-private partnerships to assist bringing innovative technologies to market. Congress has also asked federal agencies to look at their current research portfolios to help identify where lawmakers should invest in the future.

 

The House separately passed similar chemistry legislation in 2019, following hearings by Congress, and a major Senate Committee also passed a version in December of 2019, but this represents the first time this legislation has passed both houses of Congress.  The two different versions of the aforementioned defense bill will need to go to conference, where a final version must be negotiated, but ACS staff have received indications from Congressional sources that the sustainable chemistry provisions are likely to remain in the bill.

 

In concert with this legislation, ACS worked closely with allies in the House of Representatives to boost sustainable chemistry in a wide array of other legislation.  ACS included language sponsored by key members of Congress in the Solar Energy Research and Development Act, the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act, and the Clean Industrial Technology Act directing agencies to focus research efforts on boosting sustainable and green chemistry.  All three passed the House of Representatives in September 2020, and ACS staff are pushing the Senate to take up their consideration. Moreover, ACS worked with industry partners to include a pilot program at the Department of Energy to facilitate technology transfer of late stage sustainable chemistry research, which was ultimately included in House appropriations report language.

 

The ACS promotes public policies that advance the chemistry enterprise and its practitioners. One of our four focus areas is Sustainability and the Environment. To find out more about advocacy at the ACS and how you can get involved visit: www.acs.org/policy.

Eight research groups benefited from the latest round of funding from the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable (ACS GCIPR), including two international groups.  Funded research projects cover a variety of topics, including membrane separations, greener peptides and oligonucleotides synthesis, chemistry in water, electrochemistry, photochemistry and biocatalysis. The ACS GCIPR has given more than $2 million in green chemistry research funding since its inception. New requests for proposals are announced each spring. To find out more about the program, please visit: https://www.acsgcipr.org/advancing-research/

 

The 2020 ACS GCIPR research grantees are:

 

Sirkar

Kamalesh K. Sirkar, Ph.D., (pictured left) Distinguished Professor of Chemical & Materials Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, was awarded $50,000 for his research titled, “Develop membranes for pressure-driven separation of solutes and solvents in the 50-600 Da range from API synthesis mixtures”. This research was selected to further the goals of the Roundtable in advancing membrane technologies as an alternative to separations in continuous manufacturing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profs. Tristan Lambert, Ph.D., (pictured left) and Phillip Milner, Ph.D., (pictured right) of Cornell University’s chemistry & chemical biology department have been awarded $50,000 for their research titled, “Bioinspired Metal-Organic Frameworks as Heterogeneous Catalysts for Peptide Synthesis”. This research supports the Roundtable’s medium-size molecules team in developing strategies to enhance the greenness of peptide and peptide conjugate synthesis.

 

 

 

Pasi Virta, Ph.D., (pictured left) professor of bio-organics at the University of Turku, Finland has been awarded $50,000 for his research titled, “Improved synthesis of nucleotide blockmers using a precipitative soluble”. This research addresses the Roundtable’s goal to optimize oligonucleotide technology and address the environmental challenge of current oligonucleotide manufacturing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin AnderssonDaniel J. WeixThe Roundtable has recently identified chemistry in water as a topic of interest and is targeting grants to advance this area of research. More specifically, the Roundtable seeks to increase the utility of surfactant-based chemistry in water by overcoming practical and engineering barriers. Responding to this call, Prof. Daniel J. Weix, Ph.D., (pictured right) University of Wisconsin-Madison, was awarded $50,000 for his research titled, “Metal-Mediated Electrochemistry: A new frontier for surfactants”. Additionally, Prof. Martin Andersson, Ph.D., (pictured left) from the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), has been awarded $25,000 for his research titled, “Developing New Surfactants for Easy Separation”.

 

Ignition Grant Winners

 

Every year the Roundtable awards “ignition” grants to spur 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. Each grantee receives $25,000 in seed funding to obtain preliminary results that may then be used by the researchers to help apply for funding from traditional funding agencies. From a large field of nominations, the winners are:

 

 

Matt HostetlerProf. Matthew A. Hostetler, Ph.D., (pictured left) an assistant professor of chemistry at Marshall University has been awarded $25,000 for his research titled, “Cups: An Atom efficient and low-waste producing method of inverse solid-phase peptide synthesis”.

 

Tehshik P. Yoon, Ph.D., (pictured right) professor of chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been awarded $25,000 for his research titled, “Oxidative C–N Cross-Coupling Enabled by Iron Photochemistry”.             

 

 

 

                        

Soumitra Athavale, Ph.D., (pictured left) post-doctoral scholar, and Frances H. Arnold, Ph.D., (pictured right) Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, have been awarded $25,000 for their research titled, “Biocatalytic C-H bond Functionalization for the Synthesis of Enantioenriched Amines and Amides”.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary on December 2. Established during the Nixon administration, the Agency has a simple, yet powerful, mission, “To protect human health and the environment.” Over the past half century, EPA has taken numerous actions that have helped improve human health and the environment, such as setting air quality standards, reducing the amount of lead in gasoline, and phasing out chlorofluorocarbons.

 

In 1990, the Pollution Prevention Act was signed into law by President George Bush. In enacting this law, Congress declared that it was “the National policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible…” This Act shifted the focus from waste management and pollution control to source reduction. The Pollution Prevention Act laid the groundwork for EPA to establish its Green Chemistry Program in the mid-1990s.

 

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has collaborated with the EPA on its green chemistry initiatives almost from the beginning. Cooperative agreements between the two organizations supported the development of educational resources, including a lab manual, case studies, and a video. Most notably, EPA and ACS work together to recognize advances in green chemistry through the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, which were first awarded in 1996. More than 120 academic researchers, large corporations, small businesses, and government labs have been honored since the inception of the awards. These award-winning technologies have eliminated the use or generation of millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals and conserved billions of gallons of water and trillions of BTUs of energy. Applications for the 2021 awards are due by December 4, and the nomination package is available on the EPA website.   

 

EPA’s green chemistry activities go beyond the awards program. The annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021, was first organized by EPA in 1997. EPA convened the nascent community at the conference during the early years of green chemistry, helping to build momentum for practicing chemistry in a greener, more sustainable way. EPA continues to be actively engaged with the conference, sharing information on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) with attendees and highlighting the Pollution Prevention (P2) search tool within TRI.

 

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute congratulates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on this milestone anniversary. While much has been accomplished over the past 50 years, applying science to solve global sustainability challenges lies ahead in the next 50 years. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with EPA to ensure a more sustainable society.

 

Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D.
Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute
EVP, Scientific Advancement

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