Contributed by Cheng-Wei Lin, Ph.D. candidate; Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles; Bu Wang Ph.D.; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles; Richard Kaner, Distinguished Professor; University of California, Los Angeles; and Gaurav Sant, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles


Scientists and engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are developing an innovative way of embedding carbon dioxide (CO2) into concrete. Specifically, the process secures CO2 produced by power plants, cement plants, and other point-source emitters, and embeds it into 3D-printed building materials and components. The work seeks to mitigate the CO2 impact of cement production [N.B.: upon mixing with sand, stone and water, cement forms a “composite” referred to as ‘concrete’], which currently accounts for nearly 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In light of the ever-increasing demand for concrete worldwide (e.g., in China and India), it is crucial, now more than ever, to address the environmental impact of this ubiquitous building material.


fig-1.pngTo alleviate the CO2 emissions associated with cement production – the most CO2-intensive component in concrete – we designed a closed-loop process for manufacturing building materials as shown in Figure 1 [1]. First, quarried limestone (CaCO3) is calcined to produce lime (CaO) – a process that releases the mineralized CO2 embedded within it. Second, lime is reacted with water to form portlandite (Ca(OH)2), which is then mixed into slurry with sand, mineral aggregates, water, and performance modifying agents. The slurry can be formed into modular structural elements, such as beams and columns, using advanced shape stabilization methods like 3D printing. Finally, the shaped-stabilized structural elements are reacted with the CO2 released during calcination, or from other point-source emitters (e.g., coal and natural gas power plants) to produce the building components from CO2NCRETETM. This process of re-embedding mineralized CO2 within building materials not only reduces the effective CO2 emissions creating a cementing agent with greatly reduced CO2 impact, but also acts to reduce the impacts of electricity generation using fossil-fuels.


Though a related year-long approach has been attempted recently in Iceland, our team at UCLA was able to accelerate the carbonation process at near-ambient conditions in terms of temperature and pressure, thereby offering new, beneficial routes for the practical and economical use of CO2. In addition, by sourcing lime from industrial alkaline waste streams, a negative life-cycle carbon footprint can be achieved. This technology seeks to re-imagine how we perceive and address the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with process intensive industries today.


Beyond the realization of a new building material, the broader “Carbon Upcycling” effort emphasizes a vital need for technology integration and value creation. While membrane technologies are used for the capture and enrichment of CO2, 3D printing has proven an efficient method to fabricate building components like beams, columns and slabs. But 3D printing has not yet impacted the construction industry despite its aggressive adoption by various industries and even for personal use. Therefore, as a lab scale proof-of-concept, our team at UCLA has 3D-printed a beam several centimeters in length, composed of our new construction material. The Lego-like 3D-printed building blocks offer greater design flexibility and ease in on-site assembly, offering newfound efficiency for construction operations. The present challenge lies in scaling 3D printing building blocks up from centimeters to meters in size, and then to tens of meters as required for practical buildings, roads and bridges.


Our “Carbon Upcycling” team – comprised of an interdisciplinary group of UCLA researchers led by Gaurav Sant, Associate Professor; Henry Samueli, Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Richard Kaner, Distinguished Professor in Chemistry & Biochemistry and Materials Science & Engineering; Laurent Pilon, Professor in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Bioengineering; J. R. DeShazo, Professor of Public Policy at the Luskin School of Public Affairs; and Mathieu Bauchy, Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering – has recently advanced to the semi-finals of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition. This competition challenges and stimulates people to respond to the global issue of CO2 emission. As such, our team is in the midst of transitioning its technology from the laboratory-scale to the pilot-scale by demonstrating the ability to scale up: (1) CO2 separation and enrichment, (2) the carbonation of large volumes of portlandite, and (3) the size of the 3D printed CO2NCRETETM building blocks – all while minimizing the overall consumption of water and electricity.


Our team has made substantial progress so far, and seeks to make transformative contributions to how CO2 management is approached by the construction sector. Indeed, this style of breakthrough advancement can only be realized when a highly motivated team from different disciplines comes together to solve important problems of global and societal relevance. We look forward to bringing sustainable building materials like CO2NCRETETM to fruition, an outcome enabled and promoted by green chemistry at large.


[1] K. Vance, G. Falzone, I. Pignatelli, M. Bauchy, M. Balonis, G.Sant, “Direct Carbonation of Ca(OH)2 Using Liquid and Supercritical CO2: Implications for Carbon-Neutral Cementation,” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. 2015, 54(36), 8908-8918.



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Contributed by Joseph T. Grant, Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Ive Hermans, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry and Chemical & Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Chemical catalysis plays an important role in employing green chemistry principles, most notably by improving reaction efficiencies. Improvements to reaction efficiency can tangibly come in numerous forms, including reducing the amount of energy delivered to heat a reactor and reducing the energy required to separate a desired reaction product from a reaction’s product mixture.


Emerging “on-purpose” propylene technologies are a contemporary example of catalysis development for the implementation of energy-efficient chemical processes. The recent surge in shale-gas production altered the landscape for the production of small olefins, especially ethylene and propylene, the no.1 and no. 2 most-produced organic chemicals worldwide, respectively.[1] Substitution of oil-derived naphtha by shale gas as the feedstock to steam crackers translates as an economical method to produce ethylene, yet the overall production of propylene from steam crackers has flat-lined as a result. With the ever-increasing demand for propylene, methods to produce propylene “on-purpose” rather than as a byproduct of steam cracking must emerge: The current “on-purpose” propylene technique, non-oxidative propane dehydrogenation, has significant process inefficiencies, including 1) unfavorable thermodynamics (endothermicity), requiring high reaction temperatures and propylene yields limited by equilibrium; 2) reactor down-time to regenerate the catalyst due to carbon deposits constantly forming on the catalyst surface; and 3) use of precious metal (Pt-based) or toxic (Cr-based) catalysts.


The oxidative dehydrogen of propane (ODHP, Scheme 1), however, provides practical solutions to all the process inefficiencies noted above. The inclusion of oxygen in the feedstream makes the reaction exothermic, driving down required reaction temperatures, and additionally eliminates the need for catalyst regeneration. However, inclusion of oxygen also results in the formation of unwanted CO and CO2 (COx) products, lowering the selectivity of the desired propylene product. Despite decades of research dedicated to catalyst development for ODHP, selectivity to propylene remains too low to be implemented in industrial applications. This lack of product control identifies the need for the discovery of alternative materials with the ability to better control this partial oxidation.[2]


scheme-1.pngWhile our research team explored an interesting discovery regarding enhanced two-dimensional dispersion of vanadium oxide on SiO2 [3, 4], we simultaneously sought out an inert material with high thermal conductivity to use as a diluent material in the catalyst bed (the area inside a tube reactor where the catalyst is present). The heat generated by the catalyst during exothermic reactions (like ODHP) must be uniformly distributed throughout a catalyst bed. In such circumstances, it is essential that a reactive catalyst be mixed with an inert thermal conductor to ensure constant temperature throughout a reactor bed. After reading literature describing the thermal conductive properties and chemical resistance of hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) [5], we decided to use it as a diluent in our reactor setup for ODHP. When performing control experiments loading hBN in our reactor to examine its inertness, we were amazed to see that hBN was not only reactive for ODHP, but that it actually yielded high selectivity to propylene and low selectivity to COx, something that traditional catalysts for ODHP have consistently struggled to do.


Considering this unexpected yet exciting result, we followed up with many ensuing experiments to both verify these results and further explore hBN as a catalytic material.[6,7] The selectivity to propylene offered by use of this non-toxic, metal-free, and relatively inexpensive material is among the highest reported for ODHP when compared to other state-of-the-art catalysts (Figure 1). An equally exciting observation is that the main byproduct when using hBN is ethylene rather than COx – the main byproduct of all previously studied catalysts for ODHP. Use of boron nitride nanotubes (BNNT), best described as a hollow cylinder of hBN, results in almost identical product selectivities to hBN, yet is much more reactive. The increased reactivity of BNNT over hBN is at least partially due to the higher surface area exhibited by BNNT, resulting in an intrinsically higher amount of catalytic active sites.


fig-1.pngBy altering the concentrations of the propane and oxygen reactants and observing the response to the rate of propane consumption, we determined a rate law that suggested adsorbed oxygen sites on the hBN surface are responsible for propylene formation. Considering this insight, taken with previous literature suggesting stable oxygen sites on the armchair-termination edges of BN [8], we performed density functional theory (DFT) calculations on potential reaction intermediates that form during the ODHP reaction. Our current hypothesis is that following the initial H-atom abstraction by the O-terminated armchair site, the stabilization of the formed propyl radical (•C3H7) by an edge nitroxyl radical is the key to the observed high olefin selectivity (Figure 2). Traditional metal oxide catalysts may not as easily stabilize the highly reactive propyl radical and instead remain in the gas phase, free to react with O2 and contribute to the substantial production of unwanted COx.



Reactivity of hBN was confirmed across three separate reactor setups and with three separate gas-chromatographs to quantify reaction products. To be sure potential metal impurities of the hBN material were not responsible, reactivity was reproduced among various hBN batches acquired by different chemical suppliers. We used inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to search for potential metal impurities in each hBN sample, and revealed that it must be only the boron, nitrogen and oxygen atoms responsible for reactivity.


Efforts are ongoing between our lab and collaborators to perform a techno-economic analysis of ODHP on a large scale using selectivities currently offered when using hBN. This analysis will be used to determine thresholds that must be met in order to realize commercial implementation. Our lab is also in the process of broadening the substrate scope beyond propane and expanding use of hBN as a partial oxidation catalyst for other small alkanes. It is our hope that this discovery of hBN as a catalyst (and the further improvements that will surely follow) will help eventually lead to industrial-scale implementation of these efficient partial oxidation technologies.


[1] Sattler et. al.; Chem. Rev., 114, 2014, 114, 10613-10653.

[2] Cavani et. al.; Catal. Today, 2007, 127, 113-131.

[3] Grant et. al.; ACS Catal., 2015, 5, 5787-5793.

[4] Grant et. al.; US Patent Application #2016/0228851A1, 2016.

[5] Liu et. al.; Nat. Commun. 2013, 4, 2541.

[6] Grant et. al.; Science, 2016, 354, 1570-1573.

[7] Grant et. al.; US Patent Application #15/260,649, 2016.

[8] Lopez-Bezanilla et. al.; J. Phys. Chem. C, 2012, 116, 15675-15681.



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Contributed by Ed Brush, Professor of Chemistry, Bridgewater State University,, @GreenChemEd


Momentum is growing for the green chemistry education roadmap project (C&E News) and for the impact of systems thinking in chemistry education. As members of the chemistry enterprise continue to refine our future vision for chemistry education, we have a unique opportunity to make a contribution to these efforts in an exploration of the social and environmental justice issues that connect society with chemical exposure and the role of green chemistry in correcting unintended disparities.


As educators, many of us employ engaged learning as a high impact practice in our classes, where we guide students to explore topics on their own and take responsibility for their own learning. As educators, we can take advantage of conferences to challenge ourselves to explore new topics and share what we have learned with our colleagues. We investigate, share, accept feedback, and make revisions. We can then bring this back to our classes and generate new resources by collaborating with like-minded colleagues.


The idea of exploring green chemistry in the context of social and environmental justice (#GCSEJ) is new to many of us, but also provides a great opportunity to explore, learn, create and share (Open Education). Join the conversation and contribute!


  1. At the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco, Jane Wissinger and I are running a special session on #GCSEJ that is part of the “Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice” symposium on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
  2. The call for papers is now open for a multidisciplinary symposium on #GCSEJ at the 21st Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Reston, Va. in June 2017. Grace Lasker and I are looking for speakers from a variety of disciplines to collaborate in: (1) sharing knowledge and experiences across disciplines and fields; (2) discussing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT); and (3) learning about educational strategies and resources. A potential outcome of these conversations is to place green chemistry in a more meaningful, relevant and accessible context that better connects scientists, non-scientists, students, teachers, thought leaders, policy-makers, business leaders, and community organizers in transdisciplinary teams to help form solutions that correct social and environmental disparities. Should you have a question about contributing an abstract, please feel free to contact Grace Lasker at or Ed Brush at The submission deadline is February 13, 2017.
  3. If you cannot attend either of these conferences, you can still contribute your thoughts and opinions on green chemistry in relation to social and environmental justice at this Google Form. Your responses will help frame our discussions at upcoming conferences.
  4. Finally, a number of chemists and green chemists are on Twitter. If you are so inclined, please use the hashtag #GCSEJ.



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It is my pleasure to return to the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® as a result of the organizational realignment announced last month by ACS Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Tom Connelly. The ACS GCI is part of the newly formed Scientific Advancement Division, which also includes the Office of Research Grants, ACS technical divisions, and technical programming at ACS National Meetings. This new structure will enable the Society to address its mission “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people” by better coordinating and focusing its activities related to advancing the chemical sciences.


While much has changed since I served as Assistant Director of the Institute from 2001-2004, several key initiatives remain strong. The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards continue to recognize outstanding green chemistry technologies through the partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®. The Institute awards the Ciba Travel Awards in Green Chemistry, Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship and the Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award to students for their outstanding contributions to green chemistry. The annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, now in its 21st year, saw record attendance last year in Portland, Oregon. The call for papers for this year’s conference is open through Monday, February 13, and I encourage you to submit a paper aligned with the symposia themes.


A critical ACS GCI initiative in recent years has been the creation of Roundtables, which are designed to accelerate industrial adoption of green chemistry. Current Roundtables address five key areas of the chemistry enterprise: Pharmaceuticals, formulators, chemical manufacturers, hydraulic fracturing, and biochemical technology. The Roundtables have been very effective in identifying research needs within their respective sectors and developing tools and strategies to address these needs.


I am delighted that ongoing support from the ACS Petroleum Research Fund will enable the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy to be held once again at the Colorado School of Mines, from June 20-27, 2017. The Summer School is the highlight of my professional year thanks to the commitment to and passion for green chemistry and sustainability demonstrated by the graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who participate in this program. The future of chemistry is in good hands!


Another education initiative of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is the Green Chemistry Education Roadmap. Two workshops held in 2016 produced draft green chemistry core competencies, which have recently been revised in response to stakeholder input. These competencies will serve as the foundation for the roadmap, and we will be seeking additional input from the community in the coming months.


I have much to learn in my new role at ACS and I would encourage you to share your ideas regarding all aspects of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® with me at Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.


All the best,





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Contributed by Mark Evans, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Camston Wrather


This three-part series will explore the task of implementing a green chemical reaction discovered and researched in the laboratory to an industrial scale, taking into consideration the economic, engineering, ecological and market conditions associated with that task. The goal of this series is to highlight the importance of taking a multi-disciplinary approach when implementing applied scientific discoveries and, in particular, the challenges faced when attempting to bring the larger concept of green chemistry to market in a circular economy.


Camston Wrather recovers precious metals and polymer plastics from electronic waste using proprietary micron thermal separation and green chemistry. The Twitter version might read: Camston transforms end-of-life bits into tomorrow’s atoms. The structure of this series will first touch on the consumption and disposal of electronic waste (e-waste) and its environmental and human health impacts (Part 1); followed by a technical overview of current resource recovery methods, both informal and formal (Part 2); and lastly, how implementing a green solution necessarily entails a multi-disciplinary approach (Part 3).


The Love Affair


The annual Computer Electronics Show (CES), an expo that showcases what is next in tech, recently wrapped up in Las Vegas, and to say we have an insatiable love for gadgets would be a gross understatement.


A Pew Research Center survey covered ownership of seven types of devices and found that roughly nine-in-ten American adults (92 percent) own a mobile phone, 73 percent own a desktop or laptop computer, 51 percent own tablets, 40 percent report having a game console; four-in-ten Americans own MP3 players; about a fifth (19 percent) of Americans have e-book readers; and 14 percent of adults own a portable gaming device, such as a PlayStation.


According to the Sustainability Consortium’s 2016 report, U.S. consumers were expected to purchase more than 1 billion devices in 2015, producing sales reaching $285 billion, which includes a 15 percent year-over-year increase in the number of mobile and wearable devices entering the market. This equates to approximately 24 devices per household, where at least four of those devices were connected to the Internet. In addition to recent sales figures, there were approximately 3.8 billion devices estimated to be already in use or stored in households in 2015, which equals approximately 30.5 devices per household for the 125 million households estimated in the U.S. (McCue, 2014).


There can be no doubt that our collective love affair for gadgets is real and growing; moreover, there are emerging categories to consider as well: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, autonomous car electronics, entertainment electronics, aerial drones, robots, app-enabled toys, musical instruments and wearable technologies. These categories indicate where the market is going as societies become more highly integrated in emerging technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).


There are more mobile phones in existence than there are number of people living on Earth. Based on the number of active SIM cards in use, there are more than 7.2 billion mobile devices being used, while there are less than 7.2 billion people on the planet. The growth rate of mobile devices compared to the population growth rate is five times greater.


Steve Jobs understood the intimate relationship between the product and the end-user, and no matter how close our relationship with our smartphones has become – how faithfully we keep them with us, how we store and share our digital lives and memories on them, or how we hold them to our faces and whisper into them – we rarely wonder where they go when they die.


The Breakup


According to the UN Environmental Programme (2015) and Solving the E-Waste Program (StEP, 2016), 85 percent of the world’s electronic waste, worth nearly $40.6 billion, is illegally traded or dumped each year. Americans throw out over 350,000 cellphones and 127,000 computers every day – and yes, this includes the old computer you dropped off at the local electronics recycling drive. This e-waste is the fastest-growing part of the municipal waste stream and accounts for over 70 percent of our toxic waste.


According to a CalRecycle statewide report, California diverted, via its sea ports, over 2.5 billion pounds (1.26 million tons) of non-ferrous e-waste to developing countries. CalRecycle is also forthcoming and intellectually honest about how it determines California’s recycling rate. By law, California is permitted to count its diversion activities towards the state’s recycling rate totals. Thus, when adjusted to exclude its diversion numbers, the state’s recycling rate dramatically drops. This is an important distinction and perhaps the most salient point of this article:


What is being counted as being recycled has never been truly recycled in the first place, but diverted.


There are many top Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who flood their social media posts with dazzling statistics on how much e-waste their company has “diverted,” yet it remains questionable as to what this actually entails. Is it greenwashing to report diversion rates if the reality is the consistent and illegal dumping of e-waste in developing countries?


The very technology that has enabled a standard of living far beyond that imagined by previous generations is currently being illegally dumped or legally diverted to developing countries, and its legacy will be one of lost opportunity, waste and environmental degradation. According to leading researchers, today’s technology revolution produces over 42 million metric tons of e-waste per year and directly causes environmental contamination and the escalation of human health and safety issues.


To better grasp the size of this e-waste stream: 42 million metric tons is equal to 92,568,000,000 pounds, or roughly 3.5 million fully loaded semi-tractor trailers. If you lined these trucks from end-to-end, they would stretch from San Diego to Boston and back 18 times. That’s the amount of e-waste already in the system and ready for end-of-life (EOL) processing each and every year.


In general, e-waste flows to disadvantaged and historically marginalized areas. A study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that it was 10 times cheaper to export e-waste to Asia than it was to process it in the United States. Recovered devices and materials flow to where the most value can be gained with the least cost, including locations that may not have facilities or processes to protect workers and the environment. The incentives for e-waste movement, both legally and illegally, are enormous.


In the U.S., industry moves, mines, extracts, shovels, burns, wastes, pumps and disposes of 4 million pounds of material in order to provide one average middle-class American family's needs for one year. For example, the mining industry needs to produce 48,000 pounds of minerals per person per year for all 320+ million Americans just so we can maintain our standard of living. That means the mining industry needs to produce 7.1 billion tons of minerals each year just to keep pace.


Each of us will consume and use 3.7 million pounds of minerals, metals and fuels in our lifetime. One ton of electronic waste contains, on average, 40-800 times the concentration of precious metals than one ton of mining ore. Case in point, one ton of smartphones, approximately 10,000 units (a tiny fraction of today’s 1 billion annual production) contains, on average, 10.9 ounces of gold. To produce 10.9 ounces of gold from mining activities would take processing over one million pounds of earth.


It is estimated that a total of 700,000 workers are employed in the informal e-waste collection and recycling industry in China. The majority of e-waste imported to China is deposited in rural “recycling villages” clustered along the southeastern coast of China near major shipping ports such as Hong Kong, Xiamen, Ningbo, and Tianjin.


The widespread dumping of toxic e-waste into waterways, as well as the release of chemicals into the atmosphere from the open combustion and smelting of e-waste materials, has led to significant ecological damage and the poisoning of surrounding villages. Soil samples taken from an open burning site for circuit boards revealed lead concentrations ranging from 856 mg/kg to 7038 mg/kg, far exceeding the environmental pollutant reference value of 190 mg/kg.


To close out this first installment, please watch the first minute of the investigative television broadcast 60 Minutes here.


Stay tuned next month for Part 2: A technical overview of current resource recovery methods, both informal and formal.




Mark Evans is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Camston Wrather and a University of California at Berkeley, Alumni.

Connect with author on LinkedIn.





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Contributed by Mats Linder, Ph.D., Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation


When Mr. McQuire told Dustin Hoffmann’s character Ben about the great future in plastics in the 1967 classic The Graduate, he didn’t know how right he was. In the 50 years since, total plastics production has seen a 20-fold increase, and today almost everyone everywhere encounters them every day. They have become the workhorse materials of the modern economy, combining unrivaled functionality with low cost.


While its products provide numerous benefits, the current plastics economy has drawbacks that become more apparent by the day. Packaging, the largest application with 26 percent of the market, leads to especially significant and sometimes starkly visual environmental, economic and social consequences. Last year, the World Economic Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Company published The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics. This report found that most plastic packaging is used only once and 95 percent of its value, estimated at $80-120 billion, is lost to the economy every year. Forty years after the launch of the first universal recycling symbol, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally, and one-third is leaked – inadvertently or not – into the environment.


Seen by many as the next big issue for societies to rally around after climate change, there has been a recent wave of regulatory and social action around plastic packaging. In 2016, several countries followed India and banned single-use plastic bags: France banned non-biodegradable, single-use food service ware, and California approved Proposition 67 to prohibit retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic bags – to name just a few examples. NGOs worldwide have also ramped up their efforts. The #breakfreefromplastic movement grew to over 500 member organizations in just a couple of weeks following its launch in Sept. 2016. With the EU Commission aiming to publish a strategy on plastics by the end of 2017 as part of its Circular Economy Action Plan, regulatory action is set to continue.


So is the “great future in plastics” coming to an end? The answer is likely “no, but…” While we are unlikely to back away from the benefits that plastics bring, we need to fundamentally rethink the global system through which they flow. In May 2016, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the New Plastics Economy initiative, a bold, three-year project intended to stimulate such a rethink and mobilize a transition towards a system based on circular economy principles. The initiative is unprecedented in its setup and in its attraction and involvement of leading philanthropic partners and front-running participant companies, cities and governments.


Radical innovation is an important enabler of a new plastics economy, and one of the initiative’s goals is to mobilize large-scale ‘innovation moonshots.’ A crucial finding of the recently published report Catalysing Action – in which the initiative’s targets are crystallized into recommended actions – is the need for a fundamental redesign of 30 percent (by volume) of all plastic packaging. The products in this segment would otherwise, by their very design, be destined to be land-filled, incinerated or leaked into the environment. Often, such leakage leads to the discharge of substances of concern to human health and ecosystem integrity. There is therefore an urgent need to develop new materials, new packaging design solutions, and new after-use recovery technologies. In other words, it is a good time to be an innovator in plastics.


Green chemistry provides an excellent framework to guide such innovation towards creating material systems consistent with a circular economy. Its principle to prevent waste is aligned with the central aim of the New Plastics Economy initiative to move towards a system in which packaging is not wasted after its single, short use. Its emphasis on moving away from hazardous substances and processes provides a rationale for designing out these components from plastics. And its aim to shift to renewable feedstocks for chemicals echoes the same need for plastics.


The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has been on this journey for a few years now, but it is still very brief compared to the thousands of years of collective experience within the green chemistry community. To join the journey and continue to accelerate its momentum, we encourage the community to share its expertise and innovative ideas on how to rethink the future of plastics – its origins, its relationship to the user, and its destiny once used – with us.


As part the ‘innovation moonshots’ program, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will launch two innovation challenges in the first half of 2017, aiming to address the identified need for fundamental redesign and innovation. We invite researchers, engineers and innovators across all disciplines to contribute to these challenges. But we also recognize that they are only a start – many similar efforts will be required. Innovation is unavoidably a bottom-up business, requiring a vibrant and diverse platform of research from which solutions for the future can emerge. This requires more researchers and engineers to participate in the innovation journey and more funders to finance their efforts.


While research funding is notoriously hard to come by, and competition for academic recognition fierce, momentum for a systemic rethink of plastics is growing. So perhaps stars are beginning to align for a virtuous circle of increasing research activities and funding which, provided firm and broad commitment, could lead to radical new innovation in coming years. At any rate, given the current increasing interest and sense of urgency for a systemic rethink to plastics production, it is safe to say that there is a great future in plastics – if you are a disruptive innovator.



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Contributed by K. E. Hernandez, Ph.D. candidate working for Professor Frances Arnold, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology


Catalysts are important tools in green chemistry because they enable reduced-waste manufacturing methods by accelerating reactions where every reactant is incorporated into the product. Many catalysts that facilitate enantioselective bond formation are made from rare and non-renewable materials, such as palladium or rhodium; replacing these catalysts with renewable alternatives would allow for the more environmentally-friendly production of key chemicals. We believe that enzymes can meet this acute need for new, low-cost, sustainable catalysts, and in doing so, further advance and expand green chemistry.


In Frances Arnold’s lab, we start from natural proteins to develop new enzymes. Though a major drawback to enzymes is their limited reaction scope, expanding the range of reactions that can be catalyzed enzymatically will facilitate the widespread adoption of biocatalysis. Our team of chemists, biologists and engineers has expanded the reactions catalyzed by naturally-occurring proteins to include reactions unknown in the biological world using a process called ‘directed evolution.’


The powerful algorithm of evolution allows organisms to continuously update their catalytic repertoires with useful, new capabilities — think antibiotic resistance, or the ability to degrade many manmade compounds. Humans have been capitalizing on evolution to engineer desirable traits into biological systems for thousands of years: Everything from corn to cats has had its genomes altered through artificial selection and breeding to produce favorable phenotypes. Our innovation in Frances Arnold’s lab is that we do it with molecules. In the lab, we evolve enzymes by putting pressure on them to perform non-native functions that may not be useful to a bacterium, but are useful to us. Directed evolution mimics evolution through artificial selection accelerated in the laboratory setting by focusing on individual genes expressed in fast-growing microorganisms. We introduce mutations to parent proteins sourced from nature and screen the daughter proteins for increased activity for a desired reaction. We then use the ones with increased activity as parents for the next round of mutation and selection, and continue until we reach the desired activity and selectivity.


Although we can greatly enhance activity with directed evolution, a new enzyme activity has to come from somewhere. Thus, our starting proteins have to have at least small levels of the new activity in order to act as a starting point for the evolution of a novel enzyme. This is how nature creates new enzymes – we just follow the same recipe.


We have found that cytochrome P450s, whose native functions include monooxygenation, are a wonderful source of non-natural activities. We have engineered these proteins to carry out carbene and nitrene transfer reactions known to chemistry (e.g., olefin cyclopropanation, aziridination), but not found in biology. In recent projects, we have used a wider range of heme proteins as starting points to further expand the reactions catalyzed by biocatalysts.


Picture1.pngOur lab has made a cyclopropanating enzyme that produces the chiral precursor to the antidepressant medication levomilnacipran (1), and we have pushed these industrially relevant biocatalysts to synthesize pharmaceutical precursors at larger scales. One recent project focused on making a chiral cyclopropane intermediate used in the synthesis of ticagrelor, a medication used to prevent the reoccurrence of heart attacks. We identified a truncated globin from Bacillus subtilis that catalyzes this reaction (Figure 1) at low levels and also showed some selectivity for producing the desired diastereomer of the ticagrelor cyclopropane precursor from ethyl diazoacetate and 3,4-difluorostyrene (2).


This enzyme variant underwent evolution through the mutagenesis of many residues within its heme-binding pocket. Screening libraries of mutant enzymes identified beneficial mutations Y25L, T45A and Q49A, which improved the activity and selectivity of the catalyst so that it yields the desired ticagrelor cyclopropane almost exclusively. The catalyst does not even have to be purified because the reaction proceeds well in whole bacterial cells that express the evolved enzyme. After testing a range of reaction conditions, we found that the slow addition of the whole-cell catalyst and ethyl diazoacetate solutions to 3,4-difluorostyrene gave virtually a single isomer (>99 percent dr, 98 percent ee) of the ticagrelor precursor in 79 percent yield in preparative scale reactions. This work demonstrates how directed evolution can rapidly optimize a newly discovered biocatalytic activity, olefin cyclopropanation, to synthesize useful products in high selectivity and yield.



Another recent project has focused on engineering a biocatalyst with a novel carbon-silicon bond forming activity that has also never been found in nature. C-Si bonds are seen in medicinal chemistry, imaging agents, elastomers, and high tech consumer products, such as televisions screens. Until now, the only methods used to create these bonds enantioselectively have relied on multistep chemical syntheses to prepare chiral reagents or chiral transition metal complexes. An iron-based catalyst had never been reported for this carbene insertion reaction. Then, postdoctoral researcher Jennifer Kan and her team discovered that cytochrome c from Rhodothermus marinus could catalyze the reaction between ethyl 2-diazopropanoate and phenyldimethylsilane to form the chiral organosilicon product with high enantioselectivity (Figure 2A, 3). They performed saturation mutagenesis on three residues within the active site that they thought were likely to influence enzyme activity, and through this, discovered the triple mutant V75T M100D M103E, which allowed the catalyst to form the C-Si bond with very high turnover numbers and enantioselectivity (>1500 turnovers, >99 percent ee).


Testing the engineered enzyme against a panel of silane and diazo reagents, Kan’s team discovered that the mutations in the triple mutant were broadly activating. The engineered enzyme was shown to catalyze the formation of 20 organosilicon products, most of which were obtained as a single enantiomer (Figure 2B). The triple mutant was also shown to have high selectivity for carbon-silicon bond formation over the formation of carbon-nitrogen bonds in the same substrates.


It is fascinating to see that at least some of nature’s vast catalog of proteins can be evolved — with only a few mutations — to efficiently create chemical bonds not known in biology and that the new biocatalysts can access areas of the chemical space that biology has not explored.


The future for biocatalysis is bright – companies embrace the technology to replace wasteful stoichiometric processes and catalytic processes that rely on costly and unsustainable rare metals (4,5). As the community continues to discover and develop new enzymes, the applications of biocatalysts for sustainable chemical production will grow. This year, our lab has explored a wide range of natural protein diversity to develop useful enzymes with wide-reaching applications. Through this, we have demonstrated that nature has the capacity to quickly produce and optimize catalysts for novel reactions — all we have to do is ask the right question and then evolve.



  • (1) Wang, Z. J.; Renata, H.; Peck, N. E.; Farwell, C. C.; Coelho, P. S.; Arnold, F. H. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 2014, 53, 6810-6813.
  • (2) Hernandez, K. E.; Renata, H.; Lewis, R. D.; Kan, S. B. J.; Zhang, C.; Forte, J.; Rozzell, D.; McIntosh, J. A.; Arnold, F. H. ACS Catalysis. 2016, 6, 7810-7813.
  • (3) Kan, S. B.; Lewis, R. D.; Chen, K.; Arnold, F. H. Science. 2016, 354, 1048-1051.
  • (4) Savile, C. K.; Janey, J. M.; Mundorff, E. C.; Moore, J. C.; Tam, S.; Jarvis, W. R.; Colbeck, J. C.; Krebber, A.; Fleitz, F. J.; Brands, J.; Devine, P. N.; Huisman, G. W.; Hughes, G. J. Science. 2010, 329, 305-309
  • (5) Bornscheuer, U. T.; Huisman, G. W.; Kazlauskas, R. J.; Lutz, S.; Moore, J. C.; Robins, K. Nature. 2012, 485, 185-194.
  • (6) Stelter, M.; Melo, A. M. P.; Pereira, M. M.; Gomes, C. M.; Hreggvidsson, G. O.; Hjorleifsdottir, S.; Saraiva, L. M.; Teixeira, M.; Archer, M. Biochemistry. 2008, 47, 11953-11963.



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News Roundup Dec31-Jan13.jpg

The Importance of the Circular Economy in Business

January 9, 2017 | Green Biz

Rather than solely using a bottom line (even a triple bottom line) and largely linear approach to growth and development, we must imagine, analyze and quantify how circular growth augments our conventional business models.


Using Biomimicry to Make Artificial Spider Silk

January 9, 2017 | Forbes

An international team of scientists has devised artificial silk that becomes a slim yet tough fiber, with help from a machine designed to mimic the spinning spiders do naturally. The silk isn’t quite as strong as the real thing, but the researchers have a few ideas for fine-tuning the technology so it can move a step closer to the market.


New Tech from Carbon Clean Solutions Cuts the Cost of CO2 Capture and Utilization

January 8, 2017 | Quartz India

Carbon Clean Solutions built a plant in Tuticorin in southern India that captures carbon dioxide from its coal-fired boiler and converts it into soda ash. The commercial-scale plant, set to capture 60,000 tons of CO2 annually, does it so cheaply that it did not need any government subsidies.


The E factor 25 Years On: The Rise of Green Chemistry and Sustainability

January 7, 2017 | Royal Society of Chemistry Journal

Following an introduction to the origins of green chemistry and the E factor concept, the various metrics for measuring greenness are discussed. It is emphasized that mass-based metrics such as atom economy, E factors and process mass intensity (PMI) need to be supplemented by metrics, in particular life cycle assessment, which measure the environmental impact of waste and, in order to assess sustainability, by metrics which measure economic viability.


Nanowires Offer Low-Cost Printed Electronics

January 5, 2017 | IEEE Spectrum

Researchers at Duke University have discovered that silver nanowires are able to achieve the desired level of conductivity for printed circuits without needing to be heated to the point where they would harm the less expensive substrates.


Hairprint is Nontoxic by Nature, and by Design

January 5, 2017 | San Francisco Chronicle
Hairprint is the first hair care company to receive the Made Safe certification — an independent third-party nontoxic certification program that puts products through a rigorous screening to test for potentially harmful ingredients.


Natural Catalyst Mimics Nature to Break Tenacious Carbon-Hydrogen Bond

January 4, 2017 |

A new catalyst for breaking the tough molecular bond between carbon and hydrogen holds the promise of a cleaner, easier and cheaper way to derive products from petroleum, says a researcher at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.



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News_2016_2.jpgCan Bio-Based Chemicals Improve Products’ Performance and Sustainability?

January 4, 2016 | Environmental Leader

Driven largely by increasing concerns, government support for environmentally responsible sources and processes, and technological innovations, market participants see the need to shift focus from petrochemical feedstock to renewable feedstock.


Renewable Fuels from Algae Boosted by NREL Refinery Process

February 9, 2016 | Environmental Expert

A new biorefinery process developed by scientists at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has proven to be significantly more effective at producing ethanol from algae than previous research.


Sustainable Chemistry: Putting carbon dioxide to work

March 9, 2016 | Nature

Carbon dioxide is an abundant resource, but difficult for industry to use effectively. A simple reaction might allow it to be used to make commercial products more sustainably than with current processes.


Researchers Seek Ways to Extract Rare Earth Minerals from Coal

March 15, 2016 |

With supplies growing scarce of essential materials needed to make products ranging from smart phones to windmills, Virginia Tech researchers are working with academic and industry partners in a $1 million pilot project to recover rare earth elements from coal.


Chemists Devise Safer, Cheaper, 'Greener,' More Efficient System for the Synthesis of Organic Compounds

March 28, 2016 |

Chemists at The University of Texas at Arlington have devised a safer, more environmentally friendly, less expensive and more efficient water-based system for the synthesis of organic compounds typically used in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, cosmetics, plastics, textiles and household chemicals.


Edible film: The future of eco-friendly packaging?

April 4, 2016 | DW

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


The Future of Low-Cost Solar Cells

May 2, 2016 | C&EN

Perovskite solar cells can be deconstructed using solvents and could be the solution to PV end-of life recycling. These cells and other emerging photovoltaic technologies grab headlines. But will they ever come to market?


TSCA Reform: EPA Publishes First Year Implementation Plan

June 30, 2016 | JD Supra

On June 29, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted an Implementation Plan that outlines EPA's plans for early activities and actions under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, legislation that significantly amends many of the provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).


Bio-based Hydrocarbons: Starch and Sugar to be Used as Commodity Chemical Feedstocks

July 18, 2016 | ChemSusChem

Sources of fossil-based hydrocarbons, such as heavy oil, shale gas, and oil sands, have helped address the decline of global fossil fuels production. However, these are finite resources and the continued development of sustainable and renewable alternatives to petrochemicals production must not be neglected. Renewable, non-food-based biomass is considered to be one of the most promising alternatives for the production of fuels and chemicals.


Researchers Study Whether Renewable Is Always Better

July 19, 2016 | 4 Traders

Making plastics from plants is a growing trend. It's renewable, but is it better? A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers examines the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of three plant-based plastics at each stage of production compared with that of their common fossil fuel-based counterparts.


The Plastics Revolution: How Chemists are Pushing Polymers to New Limits

August 17, 2016 | Nature

Polymers have infiltrated almost every aspect of modern life. Now researchers are working on next-generation forms.


How the Chemical Industry Joined the Fight Against Climate Change

Oct 16, 2016 | New York Times

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


What Election 2016 Means for the Chemistry Enterprise

November 9, 2016 | C&EN

The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and a Republican-controlled Congress portend significant impacts to the chemistry enterprise. Given Republicans' campaign statements, academic researchers are likely to feel a federal research funding pinch while the chemical industry could benefit from new energy policies and relaxed regulation.


6 Bio-based Plastics Made from Unconventional Feedstocks

November 17, 2016 | Design News

As bio-based and renewable plastics become more common the raw materials used for feedstock are also getting more varied, including used chewing gum, tires and carbon dioxide.


Protein Provides New Route to Carbon-Silicon Bonds

November 24, 2016 | C&EN

Silicon is the second most abundant element in Earth’s crust after oxygen, but carbon-silicon bonds are unheard of in nature: Neither biological organosilicon compounds nor biosynthetic pathways to create them have been identified. But when given the right starting materials, some heme proteins can stereospecifically form carbon-silicon bonds, report researchers from Caltech.


Research Simplifies Recycling Process for Rare-Earth Metals

December 12, 2016 |

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have pioneered a process that could enable the efficient recycling of rare-earth metals, which are found in many high-tech devices.



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By David Constable, Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®


Back in October, I wrote about systems thinking: what it is and why we need to think about it more in chemistry. This month, I’d like to talk about a related idea, and that is life cycle thinking. Most people, when they hear “life cycle,” think about a product they know and perhaps how long that product has been on the market. Or, they think about all the activities to bring a product to market, and how long it takes to do that. One obvious example of this is how people think about an automobile. Large auto companies (Ford, GM, Volkswagen, Toyota, etc.) have been around for the better part of 100 years, they have multiple brands (Lincoln, Cadillac, Buick, etc.), and multiple cars that are part of those brands. For any line of cars, there is a design stage, a pre-production stage, a production stage, market entry, regular major redesign stages, etc., and sometimes, a line brand and line of cars is halted (e.g., GM – Saturn, multiple car lines). We can then talk about the life cycle of a car either from the development of a line of cars to the retirement of that line of cars, or we can think about the life cycle of the car from the perspective of the time I bought the car, sold the car, someone else buys it, etc. until it ends up as scrap.


The above example illustrates two important points. First, this is how most business people think about life cycle. Second, a fundamental idea in life cycle thinking and systems thinking is the idea of scope and “boundary conditions.” In other words, I can talk about a line of cars from the broader perspective of when a company first conceives and develops a brand, a line within that brand and the retirement of the brand from the market. Or, I can talk about how I bought my Prius in 2010, and I’ll keep it until it dies, and I have to buy a new one. In either case, stating my boundary conditions is extremely important in order to understand the context of a business case, say the return on investment (ROI) of a car. A life cycle ROI will obviously mean something different to a car manufacturer as opposed to an individual buyer.


An important tool that is used to better understand systems or systems-level impacts is life cycle inventory and assessment (LCI and LCA). This kind of life cycle is different than the business person’s idea of life cycle but let’s return to the example of an automobile. An automobile is a very complex assembly of smaller parts that we use to transport ourselves from point A to point B. Each of those assemblies can be broken into parts and individual parts can be broken down into their component pieces, and those component pieces can be further delineated into individual materials. So, the body of the car has bumpers, a hood, doors, etc. A door will have a window, interior panels, some electronics and mechanicals, multiple coatings, padding, etc. Each of these individual components can be broken down until you get to the smallest, indivisible part, and each part has a supply chain associated with it that extends backwards to raw material extraction (e.g., an ore, or petroleum, etc.), and extends forward to when that part is no longer usable and it is recycled or disposed of in some fashion.


What the Life Cycle Inventory Assessment does is take an inventory of the inputs and outputs of each manufacturing process for each part as it moves through its series of manufacturing steps from the extraction of the ore (raw material) to where it finally ends up in the environment. Those inputs (fossil fuels (mass and energy), ores, oxygen, etc.) and outputs (products, by-products, emissions, etc.) are generally grouped into impact categories like ozone depleting substances, greenhouse gas equivalents, etc. and added up across the entire life cycle. For a product like a car, you can probably imagine that to do a full life cycle inventory, you have thousands of parts for which detailed input and output information is collected. To say the least, it’s pretty complex, and I haven’t begun to talk about the assessment phase; i.e., once I have all those impact categories, what does that mean for human and environmental health and safety?


But chemists don’t make cars, so what does life cycle have to do with chemistry? Well, chemists make chemicals and materials, many of which do go into making an automobile, and each of those chemicals and materials have a life cycle. Let’s take another example closer to what a chemist may encounter and say we make a chemical for a crop protection agent like a pesticide. Apart from looking at how the pesticide might affect the target pest, e.g., a leaf borer through a mechanism related to one part of its growth phase and therefore non-toxic to other organisms, making that pesticide, applying it, and thinking about how it degrades in the environment are all part of its life cycle considerations. In making that compound, you are likely going to have a synthetic route characterized by a set of complex intermediates, and a process that employs a variety of reagents, catalysts, solvents, etc. to make each intermediate and final product, after which there is a formulation step where the pesticide is mixed with other solvents, and chemicals so it may be applied. There’s also going to be a lot of energy associated with the production of the pesticide, and energy use in its application. How much of the pesticide is manufactured is directly related to how much needs to be applied per acre of crop and how many times during a season it needs to be applied. The efficacy of the pesticide, characterized in terms of mg pesticide/acre is known as the functional unit; a very important concept in life cycle inventory/assessment because impacts are normalized to the functional unit; i.e., X number of CO2 equivalents/functional unit.


So, I hope you can see that from a systems perspective, a chemist has a great many opportunities to change the life cycle impact profile and the overall systems effects a chemical might have. In the case of the pesticide, for example, finding a chemical that is exquisitely selective for the intended target such that it does not adversely impact any other living organism, and that doesn’t require a large amount of chemical/acre to protect the crop, will have a huge positive system benefit. Another crop protection strategy might be to employ different approaches like integrated pest management or genetically modifying the plant to have resistance against the pest, and these should also be considered. The chemist also has control of the synthetic path to the final active ingredient through decisions about which framework molecule to start with and how to make and break bonds to functionalize that framework molecule, adding the bits and pieces that take you to the final molecular structure, most likely a molecule with multiple chiral centers and therefore synthetically challenging. And the process chemists and engineers have considerable control over the process that is used to make each intermediate and the active ingredient. Each of these choices has a potential system cost and an overall system benefit. As in all of life, the choices we make matter.


As I’ve said before, the notion that green chemistry and engineering is not good science or that it is not challenging is a frankly astoundingly ridiculous assertion. It is, in fact, amazingly complex, and that complexity is frequently daunting. That’s why systems thinking and life cycle skills are so important for chemists to be aware of and incorporate in their work. I think that chemists are masters of solving complex problems, and I have every confidence they can solve the many challenges faced in delivering a more sustainable world. It’s just going to require them to think about chemistry differently than they currently do, and they are going to need to develop creative, innovative solutions to address the complex problems. The challenges are immense, but if they weren’t, where would the fun be?



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roundup-12-16.pngGreen Biologics Starts Shipments of Bio-Based n-Butanol & Acetone

December 14, 2016 | Business Standard

Green Biologics Ltd, the UK-based company that makes specialty chemicals from agricultural waste and sugar cane, has started commercial shipments of bio-based n-butanol and acetone from its manufacturing facility in Little Falls, Minnesota (USA).


New Bio-Based Plastic Leaches Less, Keeps Food Fresher

December 13, 2016 | PBS

Traditional “green” plastics have their share of problems, whether it be a compostable food container with sides too flexible to a secure lid or a biodegradable bag that rips on its way to the compost bin. But a new and improved biodegradable polypropylene carbonate film—PPC—may have solve those problems.


Chemists Uncover a Means to Control Catalytic Reactions

December 12, 2016 |

A team of researchers, led by Nobel Prize-winning chemist John Polanyi, employed a combination of experiment and theory to discover that the position of the molecule on the catalytic surface is a key factor in determining the rate at which particular bonds break.


Meet Photanol: Harnessing Cyanobacteria’s Powers for Green Chemicals

December 12, 2016 | Labiotech

Producing fuels and chemicals from CO2 and light has long been a dream of Biotech, and Amsterdam-based Photanol is working on making it an industrial reality with engineered cyanobacteria. The following article is an interview with Ross Gordon, Director of Business Development, about Photanol’s strategy.


Researchers Expand Research on Simplifying Recycling of Rare-Earth Metals

December 12, 2016 |

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have pioneered a process that could enable the efficient recycling of rare-earth metals, which are found in many high-tech devices. Mining and purifying rare-earth metals is not only expensive and labor-intensive, but takes a devastating toll on the environment. The current methods for recycling them are wasteful and inefficient. The paper focused on one pairing in particular which could enable scientists to recycle rare-earths from compact fluorescent light bulbs.



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We’re very pleased with how preparations for the 21st Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference are coming together. Our technical program chairs, Dr. David Leahy, BMS, and Dr. Amit Sehgal, Solvay, have been working very closely with us, and we are on schedule to open the abstract system on the 4th of January. Due to the large number of symposia proposed, the conference will add a 7th concurrent technical track this year — it’s very exciting to see GC&E expanding and broadening like this. We have also been working with a variety of partners to put together a new set of student workshops and a toxicology-oriented workshop being run by Beyond Benign and the MODRn research collaborative. Of course, we are looking forward to once again hosting the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences on the Monday night preceding the conference. This should be an outstanding week of technical programming, extensive networking and fun events. I hope to see many of you in Reston, Va. this June.


I was honored to be invited to the UN-sponsored Summit on Science and Technology Enablement for the Sustainable Development Goals at the New York Academy of Sciences which took place earlier this month. At the summit, I worked with others to think about how to implement more sustainable consumption and production to support the sustainable development goals. There are a huge number of innovations we need to be working on now to enable the transition to more sustainable production, and it is perhaps easier to think about production than it is about consumption. Clearly, there needs to be more innovations in science and engineering research to effect substantive changes and move the world to closed loop, bio-based, and renewable production and consumption.


The end of the year is invariably a time of great reflection for many, and that is certainly true for me. I think it’s been a great year for green chemistry and engineering and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®. We’ve made solid progress with the education road map effort, the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Portland was a great success, and the industrial roundtables continue to grow and thrive. We’ve expanded our Nexus readership and our social media following, especially on Twitter. I’m very proud of what the Institute has accomplished with your help, and I look forward to increasing our reach and impact in the New Year.


This will be, however, not as director of ACS GCI, but as its science director. As of Jan. 1, Dr. Mary Kirchhoff will be heading a new staff division within ACS—the Division of Scientific Advancement. In addition to her work to establish this new division, Mary will assume responsibility for the ACS GCI as director. Many of you know Mary through her leadership as the director of the Education Division, where she has been for the past 11 years, and her long-term leadership of the ACS Summer School on Sustainable Energy and Green Chemistry. Mary is an ardent supporter of green chemistry, and was the first assistant director of the ACS GCI in the early 2000s. I hope you will join me in congratulating Mary on her new appointment and in supporting her as she moves Scientific Advancement and the ACS GCI forward. The details of the transition will take time to work through, but you may be assured that we will not miss a beat and will continue to deliver on all our programs.


It’s been a pleasure and an honor to be here over the past four years as director of the ACS GCI, and I look forward to working with you in my new role. All that remains for me to do is to wish you a happy, joyous, restful holiday season with friends and family, and a very prosperous, healthy and happy New Year!





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The 2016 Ciba Award in Green Chemistry was awarded to four outstanding students from the University of Cincinnati, University of Pittsburgh, University of Toledo, and Yale University. These doctoral students and candidates have shown significant abilities to incorporate creative green chemistry solutions into their research. Administered by the American Chemical Society (ACS)’s Green Chemistry Institute®, the Ciba Travel Award enables students with an interest in green chemistry to travel to an ACS scientific conference with a specific green chemistry component.


The students will have opportunities to expand their education by attending symposia, networking, and presenting their research. This year’s awardees’ research areas include reduction in waste generation and toxicity, green synthetic methodologies, utilization of nano-enabled biomaterials, and control of antimicrobial activity through nanoparticle modulation.


From a pool of excellent applications, the panel of judges selected the following winners (list is pictured from left to right):



  • Badri Bhattari is a Ph.D. candidate in the chemistry and biochemistry department at the University of Toledo in Ohio. His area of interest is the investigation of greener routes for the synthesis of silver nanoparticles. The goal of his research is to reduce waste generation and toxicity of the reagents and solvents used in these syntheses. He plans to attend the 253rd ACS National Meeting, April 2-6, 2017, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Rebecca Haley is a Ph.D. candidate studying organic chemistry with a concentration in green synthetic methodologies at the University of Cincinnati. Haley’s thesis topic is on Understanding Solid State Nickel Catalysis in the High Speed Ball Mill. After graduation, she plans to continue research in methodologies that employ recyclable catalysis and reduce solvent waste. She will attend the 21st Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Reston, Va., June 13-15, 2017.
  • Lauren Pincus is a Ph.D. green chemistry and engineering student from Yale University. Pincus’s broad research interest is to design more sustainable water treatment technologies. Her current research project aims to develop selective adsorbents for remediation of inorganic contaminants using nano-enabled biomaterials. She will be attending the 253rd ACS National Meeting, April 2-6, 2017, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Lisa Stabryla is a Ph.D. student of environmental engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Stabryla studies the control of antimicrobial activity and preclude resistance by modulating specific physicochemical properties of the nanoparticle. She wants to pursue research questions related to the design of nanomaterials in a way that safely provides solutions to global public health challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance. Lisa will attend the 21st Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Reston, Va., June 13-15, 2017.



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All over the country, chemistry undergraduate students are doing green chemistry outreach and activities as part of their ACS Student Chapters. The Green Chemistry Award for ACS student chapters started in the 2001-2002 academic year, with only four winners. Since then, several schools have used their creativity to come up with their own green chemistry activities. To recognize their efforts, ACS GCI presents a Green Chemistry award to chapters that have done at least three green chemistry activities over the last school year. Activities range from putting on green chemistry themed scavenger hunts to volunteering at local schools to spread the word about green chemistry. This year there were 52 winners!


Examples of what the ACS Chapters achieved this year include the following events and programs:

  • Students at Canisius College promoted green chemistry through green demonstrations with third graders at the local elementary school in Amherst, N.Y. Read more
  • Angelo State University celebrated their ninth consecutive time receiving the green chemistry award. They are extremely proud of their efforts to reduce waste and utilize nontoxic reagents in their chemistry laboratories. They also work hard to educate the campus as a whole about bringing in green chemistry speakers. Read more
  • At West Virginia State University, the chapter is involved in science days at local elementary schools, booths around campus, and other community events to educate on the importance of green chemistry. Read more


The 2015-2016 academic year Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award winners are:


Angelo State University Student Chapter

Penn State Berks Student Chapter

Union University Student Chapter

Bellevue College Student Chapter

Ramapo College of New Jersey Student Chapter

University of California-Los Angeles Student Chapter

Canisius College Student Chapter

Sacramento City College Student Chapter

University of California-San Diego Student Chapter

City Colleges of Chicago Wilbur Wright College Student Chapter

Saginaw Valley State University Student Chapter

University of Central Arkansas Student Chapter

College of William & Mary Student Chapter

Saint Francis University Student Chapter

University of Florida Student Chapter

Duquesne University Student Chapter

Salt Lake Community College Student Chapter

University of Houston Student Chapter

Emory University Student Chapter

South Texas College Student Chapter

University of Massachusetts Boston Student Chapter

Erskine College Student Chapter

Southwest Minnesota State University Student Chapter

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Student Chapter

Florida International University Student Chapter

Tarleton State University Student Chapter

University of New England Student Chapter

Gordon College Student Chapter

Tennessee Technological University Student Chapter

University of Pittsburgh Student Chapter

Heidelberg University Student Chapter

Texas Christian University Student Chapter

University of Puerto Rico-Aguadilla Student Chapter

Henderson State University Student Chapter

The College of New Jersey Student Chapter

University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus Student Chapter

Humboldt State University Student Chapter

The Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Student Chapter

University of Tennessee at Martin Student Chapter

Inter American University of Puerto Rico Ponce Campus Student Chapter

The University of Texas at Dallas Student Chapter

University of Texas at Tyler Student Chapter

Inter American University of Puerto Rico San German Campus Student Chapter

Truman State University Student Chapter

University of Toledo Student Chapter

Middle Tennessee State University Student Chapter

Tuskegee University Student Chapter

Waynesburg University Student Chapter

Northeastern University Student Chapter

Union College Student Chapter

West Virginia State University Student Chapter

Pasadena City College Student Chapter



If your chapter needs assistance thinking of green chemistry activities that will help you receive a green chemistry award, review the ACS GCI Student Chapter Guides and watch informative videos for unique, fun ideas! We are excited to see what everyone does this school year.


Congratulations to all 52 chapters for reaching your green chemistry goals!


Keep up the good work all!



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


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

Contributed by Laura M. Reyes, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, GreenCentre Canada


IHC4 standalone with text.jpgIt is critically important that the right resources are readily available to advance chemistry technologies with the potential to impact climate change. GreenCentre’s IHC4 program is there to help.


GreenCentre Canada created the InnovationHouse Chemistry Countering Climate Change (IHC4) program to advance technologies that could directly counter climate change, or otherwise help the world adapt to a changing climate. These technology areas could include anything from greenhouse gas reduction and utilization to water and resource management, plus anything in between. The IHC4 program provides resources—either through services or direct funding—to chemistry-and-materials-based technologies that show environmental and commercial promise.


So far, GreenCentre has run two initiatives under the IHC4 flag:


Through the IHC4 Competition, GreenCentre is providing development services and resources to start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises at no cost to the winning clients. The IHC4 Competition culminated in an exciting day of presentations from nine finalists to a panel of experts, as captured in a video of that day. Out of these, the five resulting competition winners were: Alchemy, Anomera, CHAR Technologies, Forward Water Technologies, and Qwatro, whose projects are all currently being planned and carried out in the GreenCentre labs.


The IHC4 Call for Academic Inventions supports early-stage academic technologies by awarding proof-of-principle grants up to $50,000 per project. The application period for this competition just closed on December 15. In the next phase, projects will be assessed and sent out to an industrial review committee who will not only help choose the winning grant recipients, but will also provide valuable feedback to applicants regarding potential commercial applications from an industry perspective.


We have already seen a very positive response to these IHC4 initiatives. Climate change is a global and communal problem that we all face, but few people (relatively speaking) realize the huge impact that chemistry can have in fighting against it. By creating a program specifically for technologies that use chemistry to counter climate change, we have noticed a deeper understanding of the importance of advancing green and sustainable science.


At GreenCentre, we plan to continue creating and organizing IHC4-focused opportunities that enable us to support innovation in chemistry and materials at various stages of development.


Want to stay updated on upcoming GreenCentre and IHC4 news? The best way is to sign up to our InnovationHouse portal, where you can learn more about our competitions and portfolio technologies, and keep up to date on our network. We will also be at the 21st Annual GC&E Conference in June 2017 – see you there!



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