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Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog

64 Posts authored by: CBriddell

Henry Ford:


“For a long time now, I have believed that industry & agriculture are natural partners & that they should begin to recognize & practice their partnership. Each of them is suffering from ailments which the other can cure. Agriculture needs a wider & steadier market; industrial workers need more steadier jobs. Can each be made to supply what the other needs? I think so. The link between is Chemistry. In the vicinity of Dearborn we are farming twenty thousand acres for everything from sunflowers to soy beans. We pass the crops through our laboratory to learn how they may be used in the manufacture of motor cars &, thus provide an industrial market for the farmers' products."


Source: Ford News, p.49, March 1933

When you go out to buy a shiny new Ford, you may be thinking about fuel efficiency, but you probably are not thinking about what the foam in your seat is made out of.


0ef9196.jpgLuckily, Dr. Deborah Mielewski is. She is the senior technical leader of the plastics research group at Ford Motor Company Research. Carrying on in the same vein as the company’s founder (see side panel), Mielewski has successfully researched, developed and  implemented a number of innovative materials made from a wide variety of agricultural and recycled products.


From soybeans in your seat to wheat straw in your storage bins to coconut fiber in your trunk liner to rice husks in your car’s electrical assembly—there is no shortage of ideas her team is working on.


Mielewski has Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has been working at Ford for 28 years.


She first brought her ideas to the executives at Ford in 2001 (and got immediate support from Bill Ford, then CEO and Henry Ford’s great- grandson), but it took until the price of oil started to rise to gain traction broadly both within and outside the company. Today, Ford has a sustainability vision that states that “recycled or renewable materials will be selected whenever technically and economically feasible.” Ford also makes it clear that renewable resources should not compete with the food supply—addressing a common concern surrounding the growth of biobased feedstocks.  Many of the materials are waste or byproducts of the food industry like rice and oat hulls.


So far, many bio-based products have passed the test of being technically and economically equivalent (or better) for a number of different applications on vehicles. The average vehicle contains 17-19% by weight plastics, textiles and natural materials.  The use of plastics has been driven by the desire to decrease the overall weight of the vehicle in order to increase fuel economy. It is in this area Mielewski and her team have been hard at work innovating.


The average Ford vehicle today uses 20-40 pounds of renewable materials. Examples include:


  • SoyFoam-sm.jpgStarting with the Mustang in 2007 and now present in all of Ford’s vehicles built in North America, Ford uses soy-based foam in seat cushions, backs and in 75% of head rests (pictured right). This adds up to 31,215 soybeans for every vehicle, or over 5 million pounds per year. The soy foam replaces petroleum-based foam, reducing saving approximately 20 million pounds of CO2 annually and reducing ozone depleting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) by 67%.
  • Since 2010, Ford’s Flex cars have been produced with wheat straw reinforced storage bins—creating a market for another agricultural waste product and reducing CO2 emissions by 30,000 lbs annually (pictured bottom left).
  • Beginning in 2012, the Ford Focus electric car contains trunk mats made from coconut fibers—yet another agricultural waste product.
  • Since 2014, Ford’s popular F150 trucks contain rice husk reinforced plastic in their electrical harness. Rice husks, or the shells, are a waste product, so using them creates a market for  45,000 lbs of the material per year, all sourced from farms in Arkansas.
  • Also in 2014, tree-based cellulose (a byproduct of the lumber industry) replaced fiberglass in structural armrests in the Lincoln MKX (pictured bottom right).
  • In partnership with Coca-Cola, Ford has demonstrated the use their PlantBottleTM technology—a PET plastic made from renewable sources—to create automotive fabrics, carpet and headliners for the Ford Fusion Energi.
  • Other materials Mielewski’s team are reviewing include using shredded U.S. currency as a composite(appropriately) in coin trays, tomato skins from Heinz to make car wiring brackets and storage bins, and hemp fibers in armrests and center consoles.

Deborah Mielewski will be a keynote speaker at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Bethesda, Md. this July 14-16.



http://corporate.ford.com/microsites/sustainability-report-2013-14/environment-p roducts-materials-choosing.html



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


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Catalysis, the process of reducing a reaction’s energy requirement through use of a catalyzing agent, is a standard design principle of green chemistry. Yet many of the catalysts that chemists use are made out of rare metals like platinum. Figuring out how to do catalysis without using unsustainable catalysts is a priority to green chemists and companies seeking to find better, more efficient, cheaper, and ecological pathways to produce their products. One inspiration for solving such a problem has been nature.


Enzymes, a type of protein, are nature’s catalysts, working within cells to speed up reactions of all kinds. For example, enzymes in our digestive tract help break down food so that we can more rapidly benefit from it. But how can enzymes help chemists? Well, what if enzymes could be manipulated to catalyze the industrial reactions industry performs, such as creating a drug molecule or biofuel?


Enter Dr. Frances Arnold, professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at Caltech and director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center. Arnold has developed a method of protein engineering called directed evolution. The basic process involves encouraging random mutations in the gene sequence for a protein of interest, such as an enzyme catalyst. The genes are introduced in bacteria or yeast, which produce the mutant enzymes.  As the bacteria express the mutated genes, the resulting proteins are screened for favorable behaviors. Genes responsible for favorable traits are then extracted and reinserted into the next evolutionary round.



Credit: Joe Lertola, Bryan Christie Design


The goal of the process is to produce an enzyme that works in a way not found in nature. “I’m most excited about creating enzymes to catalyze reactions that nature never cared about or discovered,” says Professor Arnold. “I want to evolve chemical novelty, in the form of whole new enzymes.”


Over the past two years, Arnold has published 10 papers on this subject, finding enzymatic approaches to reactions that previously only chemists had been able to produce. But finding novelty through evolution is not always easy.


It’s clear that nature has the capacity to produce new catalytic activities, for example degrading synthetic pesticides sprayed on crops, but it’s far from clear how nature creates these new catalytic pathways. Cracking this code is a challenge that could open up opportunities to replace many of the reactions chemists do with more favorable, biological reactions. Breaking down the walls between traditional catalysis and biocatalysis will maximize the creative potential of both fields.


In Arnold’s research group at Caltech, students of molecular biology, biochemistry, bioengineering and chemistry work together. “I know chemists who feel that biology is the big frontier for them,” says Arnold. “They can apply their more traditional chemical knowledge to identifying new opportunities for biological synthesis.”


Young chemists know that the field is changing and more jobs are opening in these cross disciplinary areas. According to a MarketsandMarkets Report released in February, the market for biocatalysts is projected to grow at 5.5% per year and reach 11.94 kilo tons by 2019. Driven by technological advances, biocatalysis is particularly strong in Europe and the United States, where biocatalysts are used in laundry detergent, the food and beverage industry, the specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries, and increasingly in the production of biofuels. Many start-ups are employing these methods, especially in the production of biofuels and specialty chemicals. Arnold herself has founded two companies, Gevo, Inc., which uses her methodology to create the biofuel isobutanol, and Provivi, a start-up that is developing new products for crop protection.


Large companies are also embracing the developing capabilities of biochemistry. In 2010 Merck, in partnership with Codexis, developed an enzymatic process for producing the active ingredient in Januvia™, a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The new process replaced a rare metal rhodium catalyst, and won the team a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the EPA that same year.


Professor Arnold will be keynoting at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference this July 14-16 in North Bethesda, Maryland where she will talk about chemical novelty and the opportunities for green chemists and engineers in this field.


“Doing great science is hard, but doing great science that has an impact is even harder,” says Arnold. “So if you like challenges, try to do that.”



Arnold has received numerous honors, including induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (2014), the ENI Prize in Renewable Energy (2013), the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011) and the Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering (2011). She has been elected to membership in all three US National Academies, of Science, Medicine, and Engineering. Among other activities, Prof. Arnold chairs the Advisory Panel of the Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering and serves as a judge for the Queen Elizabeth Prize in Engineering.  Arnold holds more than 40 US patents and has served on the science advisory boards of numerous companies. She co-founded Gevo, Inc. in 2005 to make fuels and chemicals from renewable resources and Provivi in 2013 to develop new products for crop protection.



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


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

In the early 2000s, the director of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®, Dr. Paul Anastas, initiated a discussion with the Dr. Berkeley “Buzz” Cue, a leader in green chemistry at Pfizer, about the possibility of starting a collaborative group that would work to catalyze the broader adoption of green chemistry and engineering in the pharmaceutical industry. These discussions turned into meetings, and in 2005 the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable was established.


Ten years later the Roundtable looks back at an impressive set of accomplishments, and the roundtable concept has led to the establishment of three other ACS GCI roundtables—Formulators’ in 2007, Chemical Manufacturer’s in 2009 and Hydraulic Fracturing in 2014.



Click on the infographic to see it in full size


"Since its creation in 2005, the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has been driving the development of innovative ‘green’ approaches to address some of the most important sustainability challenges in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals," says Dr. Juan Colberg, Technology & Innovation, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer and Co-Chair of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable.  "Over the last 10 years and through the Roundtable’s grant program, we have been able to make significant advancements such as greener solvent alternatives, less toxic catalytic conditions and biocatalytic transformations."


Some of the key accomplishments of the Roundtable include the development of a common solvent selection guide; a process mass intensity calculator and reagent guide; publication of an article outlining key research areas that has been cited 347 times and helped set the agenda for the Roundtable’s grant program (look for an update article later this year); $1.58 million dollars in grants awarded; and numerous publications, presentations and symposia.


"As we look ahead with our collaboration, the Roundtable will continue to sponsor exciting research and development in green alternatives," continues Colberg. "By working together, we can help develop processes that are more sustainable, environmentally sound and cost-effective."



This year, the Roundtable will be holding three events in honor of its anniversary:


Green Chemistry Makes a Difference: Innovations Leading to a More Sustainable Pharmaceutical Industry

The call for posters is open through February 28th for this one-day symposium to be held April 16, 2015, at F. Hoffmann-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland. Registration is free and limited, so if you are interested in attending, please register soon!


19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

The Roundtable is putting together a day-long symposium on green chemistry accomplishments in the pharmaceutical industry over the last 10 years and challenges on the horizon in North Bethesda, Maryland, July 14-16, 2015. Additionally, many other sessions of relevance to the industry will be featured. The call for papers remains open for these sessions through March 13, 2015.


Green Chemistry Makes a Difference: Pharmaceutical Industry/Academic Collaborations

The Roundtable will organize two sessions covering green chemistry organic chemistry topics at the 250th ACS National Meeting & Exposition in Boston during August 16-20, 2015.


Congratulations to the Roundtable! Current members include Amgen; AstraZeneca; Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Cubist Pharmaceuticals; Codexis; Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.; Eli Lilly and Company; F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd.; GlaxoSmithKline; Johnson & Johnson; Merck & Co., Inc.; Novartis; Pfizer Inc.; Sanofi and ACS GCI.


Find out more athttp://www.acs.org/gcipharmaroundtable



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


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

Now that winter weather has swept the Northern Hemisphere, a lot of people are bundling up in waterproof jackets and other outdoor gear before heading out into the elements. Nothing beats staying dry on a cold and wet day, right? But have you ever stopped to think of the chemistry behind your rain-proof yet moisture-wicking apparel? And how green is it?


As it turns out, waterproofing is in the midst of a largely behind the scenes migration toward greener chemistries. Although this is just small piece of the overall sustainability profile of apparel and footwear, it is an excellent example of the complexities of going green from research and development, through global supply chains, across multiple government regulators, and ultimately into the hands of the consumer.


Long-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals


In the early 2000s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency became concerned about the accumulating research on long-chain perfluorinated chemicals, and particularly perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical found as an impurity in preparations used to make materials water and dirt repellent like stain resistant carpets. This C8 chemistry was also used to produce fluoropolymers which have been put to use in products that make consumers’ lives easier—from non-stick pans to waterproof boots. But numerous research studies found that PFOA persists in the environment, is bioaccumulative, can be found in blood samples of wildlife and people around the world, and has been shown to cause cancer and developmental problems in laboratory animals. It should be noted that the concern was not that the user of the product such as a raincoat would be exposed directly, but rather that between the chemicals manufacture, application, product washing and disposal, it made its way into the environment and eventually back into humans.


Based on these concerns the EPA began a voluntary phase-out program with the eight major chemical manufacturers of PFOA with a goal to eliminate the chemical in emissions and products in the U.S. by 2015. The EPA just released 2014 progress reports, which show that all of the companies are on track to meet the 2015 deadline, and many have already completely phased-out this chemistry. According to the EPA the manufacturing of long-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylate chemicals (another way of identifying this chemical group) by companies not participating in the voluntary program will also cease by the end of 2015. This January, the EPA released a new ruling that any future new manufacturing, importation and processing of these chemicals would have to be approved through the EPA. Regulators in Europe have also expressed concern, with Norway issuing the strictest standards in the world for PFOA in consumer products, a limit of 1 microgram per square meter.


That being said, brands who make waterproof or water resistant products have been largely in a position over the last decade of voluntarily reworking their recipes (or more commonly, requiring their suppliers to rework recipes) to eliminate this chemistry. Doing so can be more complex than one may initially think. One camping tent, for example, may contain 80 different parts. So there is a lot of retooling needed to make changes across the board.


Short-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals


But if long-chain perfluorinated chemcials (PFCs) have fallen out of favor, what then is being used to make our clothes waterproof? According to the EPA, there are over 150 alternatives. The closest group of alternatives are short-chain perfluorinated chemicals, a C6 chemistry. This group is generally considered to be safer as they are less persistent in the environment and less toxic, while manufacturers are finding that their waterproofing properties—with some extra preparation—are equivalent to long-chain PFCs. Bernhard Kiehl of the Fabrics Division Sustainability Team for W.L. Gore & Associates, the makers of Gore-Tex®, has been working with their suppliers to eliminate PFOA from all of their products over the last ten years. PFOA showed up as an impurity in the water repelling agent that the company purchases and applies to their products. By 2011 Gore had met this challenge for most of their consumer products and has more recently eliminated PFOA from all their products, including professional products—uniforms for fire fighters, the police, medical workers and others—which have higher performance requirements. “We believe we are one of the first companies to complete this project across the entire range of products,” says Kiehl.


Other outdoor brands are also busy eliminating PFOA by requiring their suppliers to provide PFOA-free material. Ensuring that this happens is a challenge in an industry with a long and broad supply chain. One way many brands have accomplished this is by working with Bluesign Technologies, a company based in Switzerland that provides a sustainable certification of products. Bluesign looks at a manufacturer’s recipes and processes, among other things, and works with companies until they meet Bluesign’s standards for environmentally friendly and safe production. By the end of 2014, Bluesign eliminated all C8 chemistry from their approved chemicals list, so all of the products certified by them must use either C6 or C4 technology, or one of over 30 non-PFC alternatives they offer.


The industrial advantage of long-chain PFCs is that they are a one-size-fits-all solution. Moving to C6 chemistry means that more care needs to be taken in the preparation of the fabric. Different types of fabric and different constructions have different processing requirements. The preparation of the fabric must be perfect and may need an additional washing and drying cycle. “That was a huge learning curve for many brands and many textile mills,” says Peter Waeber, CEO of Bluesign Technologies. “Today a C6 technology comes close to a C8 if all those conditions are perfect.”


“After looking into several options, [short-chain PFCs] was what we believed the most environmentally responsible choice,” says Bernhard Kiehl. “You have to look at the entire life cycle and what a replacement does. You have to look at wash frequency, the frequency of needing to apply an aftermarket water repellent, how the entire lifetime of the jacket is affected by loss of performance and so on.”


Another group looking at alternatives to long-chain perfluorinated chemicals is the Outdoor Industry Association’s Chemical Management Working Group who formed a task force with the European Outdoor Group, the German Sporting Goods Association, and the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group to work on, among other things, the water repellency issue. The group put together a research needs scoping document outlining data gaps, challenges and opportunities of different waterproofing materials, as well as outlining use cases and performance requirements to get a sense of what is really needed and what is overkill for a particular application. The outdoor industry is clearly interested in moving away from chemicals of concern that may eventually (or have already) land on the growing list of restricted substances regulated by REACH, the EPA and California, or otherwise attacked by activist groups like Greenpeace. “One of the biggest challenges of making progress across the board is the disconnect between academia and research organizations and the on-the-ground needs of the industry,” says Beth Jensen, Director of Corporate Responsibility at the Outdoor Industry Association. Jensen hopes that efforts like their scoping document will help facilitate a critical need for industry-informed academic research. Without the visibility into what choices alternatives present, product designers are not able to make the most sustainable decisions.


Short-chain PFCs, as the most known substance among the alternatives, is currently a favorite, but some express concern that C6 chemistries will ultimately be a “regrettable substitution” or at least an example of over engineering for consumer products. Nicholas Nairn-Birch of the EPA’s Chemical Control Division explains, “'Short-chain alternatives are reviewed by EPA's New Chemicals program against the range of issues that have caused past concerns with PFCs, as well as any issues that may be raised by new chemistries. Current research and testing results demonstrate lower toxicity and bioaccumulation concerns for short-chain alternatives relative to their long-chain counterparts. EPA's review of alternatives is still on-going.”


Others point out that while C6 is needed for professional fabrics and personal safety gear, it is not needed in simpler applications for consumers. “You can only repel oil or oily stains with fluorinated chemistry, but if you are just talking about water or rain, fluorine-free finishes are very much at the level of fluorine containing finishes” says Jan Beringer, Head of Research & Development, Department of Function and Care at the Hohenstein Institute in Germany. Peter Waeber concurs that there are currently non-PFC alternatives that can endure 25-40 washing cycles, and correctly points out, “How many times do you wash a rain jacket?” Ultimately, the sense is that short-chain PFCs will be phased out for waterproofness at some point in the future, but until a breakthrough chemistry is found, will remain necessary for applications that need to repel oil and dirt.


Non-Fluorinated Alternatives


Alternatives to PFCs include paraffin, stearic acid-melamine, silicone, dendrimer and nano-material based chemistries (if you are interested, this joint outdoor/sporting goods/fashion industry report outlines the main alternatives). More research is needed to fully determine the environmental fate or health impact of these compounds (and the chemicals used to process them). These alternatives may be biodegradable, but as Jan Beringer comments “Apart from the data we already have on this, there needs to be more research done on how non-fluorine hydrophobic finishes behave in the environment.”


For some, non-fluorinated finishes may provide the protection and performance needed. For others, concerns about the durability and consumer perception remain. Without the oil and dirt repellency, garments may become stained, washed more frequently, or discarded sooner.


In field trials between jackets with non-fluorinated finishes versus fluorinated finishes, Gore found that the everyday grease and grime a jacket may be exposed to—things like food stains, skin oils, sunscreen or even the diesel in road-spray—affects the overall water repellency of a jacket. In these trials, jackets with non-fluorinated finishes lost their water repellency performance faster than those with fluorinated finishes. Gore also performed a life cycle assessment of their waterproof, windproof and breathable jackets in which they found that while production and distribution have an important impact, the longevity of the jacket is the most influential parameter, and the number of washes per year in the use phase plays a significant role. If a waterproof finish affects the longevity of a jacket, and that jacket is discarded earlier by the consumer, then no one wins.


Even though there appears to be good tools in the toolbox for waterproofing, it seems that both research and innovations are needed in this field. Unfortunately, the industry has seen their margins on products go down, and as textile auxiliaries have moved from out of the U.S. and Europe, there have been fewer funds available for research and development. Academic and research institutions could, and in some cases are, taking up this work both in the U.S. and Europe, but much is needed—especially considering the trend towards tailoring recipes and processes for specific applications. New R&D efforts often take six to eight years to come up with a viable new substance and then testing and approval through regulatory bodies can take another two years. So the time frame for change is neither fast nor inexpensive, but it may be inevitable. “Short-chain will be phased out. We need an alternative,” comments Peter Waeber. “As soon as we have one, it’s dead.”



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


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

The call for papers and registration is now open for the 19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Catalyzing Innovation is the central theme of the conference to be held July 14-16, 2015 in North Bethesda, Maryland—just outside of Washington, D.C.


“The conference informs attendees on the design, commercialization, and use of processes and products, which are feasible and economical while minimizing the generation of pollution at the source and the risk to human health and the environment,” says Dr. Richard Wool, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware and 2015 conference co-chair.


The conference has been organized into a series of day-long tracks listed below. Scientists, engineers, educators and students will be able to select a series tracks over the three days that suit their own interests.


  • Catalysis in Green Chemistry
  • Designing Safer Chemicals
  • Education
  • Enlisting Biology to Solve Chemical Problems
  • Functional Thin Films
  • Green Engineering
  • Greener Synthetic Transformations
  • Harnessing Chemistry for Green Energy
  • Pharmaceutical Green Chemistry
  • Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Winners
  • Sustainable Consumer Products
  • Sustainable Feedstocks
  • Sustainable Materials
  • Tools, Metrics and Strategies for Green Chemistry


“This particular GC&E conference will be the first of its kind,” says conference co-chair Dr. Bruce Lipshutz. “In addition to the ‘usual’ breadth of topics covered, along with an outstanding selection of speakers, the addition of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Symposia to the program—featuring both recent and former recipients—puts this meeting over the top.”


The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA) distinguishes some of the top research in the country that incorporates green chemistry principles into commercially impactful processes and products. The 2015 award ceremony and reception will take place on the afternoon of Monday, July 13, 2015 in Washington D.C. Registrants of the conference will have the chance to indicate they would like to attend this ceremony and reception as well.


Each of the conference three days features an opening lecture by a distinguished keynote speaker. In addition there is a keynote lunch lecture during the first day of the conference.


Chris Coons is a U.S. Senator from Delaware who has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and has been actively engaged in chemistry-related policy issues. In September 2015, he introduced a bi-partisan Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act with Senator Susan Collins of Maine. The bill would create a cohesive plan to fund research into sustainable chemistry, improve coordination between federal agencies, and boost commercialization of sustainable technologies.


Deborah Mielewski, Ph.D. in chemical engineering, is the Senior Technical Leader of Materials Sustainability at the Ford Motor Company. She has been with Ford Motor Company for 28 years and was responsible for initiating the biomaterials program at Ford Research in 2001 where her team advanced soy-based foam for automotive seating. Mielewski is now developing sustainable plastics that meet stringent automotive requirements, including natural fiber reinforced plastics and polymer resins made from renewable feed stocks.


Angela Belcher, Ph.D. in chemistry, is the W. M. Keck Professor of Energy working in the Departments of Material Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering at MIT. Belcher specializes in proteins and how they can direct the material properties of minerals. The Belcher lab focusses on nature’s own processes to design imperative materials and devices for energy, the environment, and medicine.


Frances Arnold, Ph.D., is the Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at Caltech. Her research pioneered ‘directed evolution’ of enzymes, a process which is used widely in industry and basic science to engineer proteins with new and useful properties. Arnold has been honored for her innovative research by multiple awards, has been elected to the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering, has more than 40 patents, and has co-founded two companies.


Dr. David Leahy, Principal Scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb, is the third conference co-chair this year. The mandate of the organizing committee is to select interesting topics across a range of research areas and speakers who can deliver high-quality technical information. Along with the PGCCA awards and the annual ACS GCI Industrial Roundtable Poster Reception, there will be plenty of programing and events targeted to industry researchers and business people.


The Green Chemistry & Engineering Business Plan Competition will be held again this year to provide an opportunity for early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs to test their ideas in front of a distinguished panel of judges while vying for a cash award. As the only business plan competition that directly targets green chemistry and engineering ideas, ACS GCI recognizes the potential of these innovative technologies to propel the chemical enterprise towards a sustainable future.


Students are encouraged to register and present their work during the poster sessions. There are several funding opportunities available, and students who are not winners of a travel award may enter the poster competition to win one of two $500 cash prizes.


"This conference informs people at all levels (academia, industries, government ) that sustainable development has to provide...ecological integrity and social equity to meet basic human needs through viable economic development over time," says Susan Sun, Professor at Kansas State University and conference organizing committee member. "Biobased is good but has to have no competition with food; and green is good but has to meet required performance at affordable price."


Wool concludes, “New insights gained from international leaders in the green chemistry and engineering fields from industry, academia and government will lead to Smarter Research, Greener Design and a Better World.”


For more information on the conference go to gcande.org or contact gceconfernece@acs.org.


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


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

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is officially launching a new roundtable today: The ACS GCI Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable. Building off of the successful roundtable model—the new roundtable will identify opportunities for the oil and gas industry to use green chemistry and engineering in hydraulic fracturing.


Current founding members of the ACS GCI Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable include:

    • Apache Corporation, Houston, Texas
    • The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Michigan
    • Marathon Oil Corporation, Houston, Texas
    • Nalco Holding Co., Naperville, Illinois, a full subsidiary of Ecolab Inc.
    • Rockwater Energy Solutions Inc., Houston, Texas
    • Trican Well Service, Calgary, Canada


New members are welcome to join at any time; To be considered a founding member, companies must apply by December 31, 2014.


This scientific collaboration will seek to enable informed decisions about those chemicals commonly employed in hydraulic fracturing and will work to promote the prioritized development of more sustainable chemical alternatives.


“Green chemistry is also safer chemistry,” says Danny Durham, director of Global Upstream Chemicals, Apache and co-chair of the new roundtable. “The roundtable will focus on improving the environmental footprint of the industry by funding academic research for safer alternatives, sharing scientific information, developing tools that help operators make good choices and communicating the facts with key stakeholders.”


The ACS GCI convenes roundtables to provide member companies with a scientific-focused organization better positioned to prioritize research needs, inform the research agenda and reduce the cost of green chemistry and engineering tools specific to the industry.


“It is important to bring third-party credibility, good science and good research to this whole area of hydraulic fracturing,” says David Long, co-chair of the roundtable and ACS GCI Governing Board member. “The roundtable offers a way for competitive companies to come together and work collaboratively to use green chemistry to address common non-competitive issues and research needs.”


Other ACS GCI Roundtables include the Pharmaceutical Roundtable, Formulators’ Roundtable and Chemical Manufacturer’s Roundtable.


“Given the high level of public concern about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, moving toward chemicals with less toxicity can not only reduce business risks and save money, but can also enable hydraulic fracturing companies to speak directly to the public's concern,” says Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, who helped facilitate the roundtable's formation.


Green chemistry and engineering principles help scientists find ways to reduce or eliminate toxicity, conserve energy, reduce waste and consider the impact of chemical products and processes throughout their life cycle.


More information can be found at http://www.acs.org/gcihydraulicfracturing



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


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

This year's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards were given today during a ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building in the District of Columbia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds these awards annually to recognize companies, small businesses, and academics who have developed novel green chemistries that benefit the environment, reduce the use of hazardous chemicals, and deliver economic benefits. Dr. Kent Voorhees, Chair of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®, and Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of the the U.S. EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention delivered remarks.


Academic Category:

Shannon Stahl, Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Aerobic Oxidation Methods for Pharmaceutical Synthesis”


Professor Stahl developed a general approach to aerobic oxidation of primary and secondary alcohols using a novel, inexpensive copper catalyst and oxygen from air. The new process is selective, tolerates diverse functional groups, achieves high yields, and can be performed safely on a large scale. These reactions of particular importance to the pharmaceutical industry reduce the use of hazardous chemicals and are likely to save time and money compared to traditional oxidation methods.




Small Business Category: Amyris, Inc., Emeryville, California

“Farnesane: a Breakthrough Renewable Hydrocarbon for Use as Diesel and Jet Fuel”


Farnesene-Online-Sales.jpgThe team at Amyris created a drop-in replacement biofuel called Farnesane for diesel and commercial aircraft engines. This sugar fermentation product outperforms first generation biofuels such as ethanol and traditional biodiesel, contains no sulfur, and has been approved for use in jet fuel. The innovation addresses the sustainability of our transportation sector, which is currently a significant source of CO2 emissions worldwide. A recent analysis shows Farnesane produces 82% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional diesel.





Greener Reaction Conditions:

Solazyme, Inc., South San Francisco, California


“Tailored Oils Produced from Microalgal Fermentation”


Solazyme developed a process to generate tailored oils from microalgae using a combination of fermentation techniques and genetic engineering. The algae can produce a range of oils covering a wide variety of properties to meet individual customer’s needs. These oils are being tested and sold commercially for an array of different applications including food, fuel, home and personal care, and industrial products. Superior performance, lower volatile organic compound emissions, and reduced carbon footprint are just a few of the advantages of Solazyme’s process.




Designing Greener Chemicals:

QD Vision, Inc., Lexington, Massachusetts


“Greener Quantum Dot Synthesis for Energy Efficient Display and Lighting Products”


spectrum.jpgQD Vision produces quantum dots, essentially nanoscale LEDs that produce high-quality color, saturation, and system efficiency for flat screen displays and solid-state lighting. These quantum dots improve the efficiency of LED devises and solve the traditional problem of low-quality LED light. In addition to producing a superior LED, QD Vision significantly improved their manufacturing process to reduce hazardous reagent use and worker exposure, solvent waste and the amount of energy consumed both in processing and product use.



Greener Synthetic Pathways:

The Solberg Company, Green Bay, Wisconsin

“RE-HEALINGTM Foam Concentrates–Effective Halogen-Free Firefighting”Solberg_RE-HEALING Foam Action.png


The Solberg Company developed a firefighting foam blend of surfactants and sugars that in the intended application outperforms with less environmental impact compared to fluorinated firefighting foam concentrates. This blend, called RE-HEALING Foams, eliminates the need for long-chain fluorinated surfactants that are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, and short-chain fluorinated surfactants that are less toxic yet still environmentally persistent chemicals. The Solberg Company’s foam has been certified and meets all the required firefighting performance criteria.



Learn more about each of the winner's on C&EN's full coverage.



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Life cycle assessment has become an important tool for companies to understand the environmental impact of their products, processes, or even whole company footprint from beginning to end. LCA’s measure the total flow of mass and energy (among other things) for a given unit starting with the extraction of raw materials, on to the manufacturing processes, then to consumer use and ending with how a product is disposed of or reclaimed into a new cycle.


I interviewed GlaxoSmithKline’s Dr. Concepción Jiménez-González, on her and co-author Dr. Michael R. Overcash's recent paper “The evolution of life cycle assessment in the pharmaceutical and chemical applications – a perspective” published in Green Chemistry. Jiménez-González notes that there is an increasing interest over the past few years in using LCA techniques to evaluate greener approaches in the pharmaceutical industry. She points out that the ‘greenness’ of a product ultimately relates to its overall environmental footprint, and LCAs are the best way to measure that. “The more holistic and systemic an LCA is, the better the picture of the ‘greenness’ of the process or chemistry is,” says Jiménez-González.


Given an LCA’s potentially expansive scope, one of the most important aspects of a successful analysis is defining the specific objectives and goals of the study. For example, you might want to compare two pathways to synthesis of a pharmaceutical ingredient and determine which method has the lowest overall environmental impact. Or you may want to analyze all the inputs and outputs of a current process to determine where the greatest need for improvement lays. Depending on your goal, data collection parameters can be set correctly.


Along the same lines, care must be taken when using LCAs to benchmark amongst different types of products or comparing one study to the next. “When comparing products or services, the boundaries need to be the same and the assumptions need to be congruent,” say Jiménez-González. Without this, LCA’s may tell you a lot about what you are measuring, but not a lot about other choices.


Another factor in life cycle assessments is how to collect all the required data. Most companies do not operate at all levels of the supply chain, and therefore getting data from earlier or later in the supply chain requires a degree of transparency. “LCAs are driving some inter-company collaboration,” says Jiménez-González. One example of this is the efforts of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable to engage their suppliers in calculating Process Mass Intensity data.


At the same time, intra-company collaboration is also a big part of LCAs. “When someone inside a company is conducting an LCA, the group needs to engage with different departments within the enterprise, such as procurement, engineering, commercial, finance amongst others,” says Jiménez-González. Another aspect of collaboration has arisen in “companies who do not have a well-developed internal LCA program tend to have collaborations with universities and external research centers to ensure the integrity of the LCAs.”


Historically, LCAs were limited in scope but the trend has been moving towards incorporating more and more complex systems into the analysis. Meanwhile an ISO standard has been developed which defines methodologies and approaches for analysis. As a result of these trends, conducting an LCA can be very data intensive and very time consuming to complete. This has led some to use databases such as Ecoinvent that  provides quality-checked life cycle inventory and assessment information which can be plugged into your calculation.


Out of this approach are emerging streamlined tools that make use of these easy-access metrics to get quick estimated results. The benefit of this approach is the ability to make relatively quick assessments, but the tradeoff is that the results may come with larger margins of error since the data isn’t specific to the actual suppliers you work with. An example of a streamlined tool is one the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable is developing. The tool, currently in beta, is based on their Process Mass Intensity Calculator and incorporates LCA data from Ecoinvent.


Regardless of which approach a company takes, collecting quality data is one of the big challenges for LCAs. Jiménez-González has identified some community needs related to data availability:


  • Increase the geographical resolution of LCA databases
  • Improve consistency and transparency of the LCA methodologies and data
  • Continue to develop streamlined tools
  • Include data quality indicators in reports
  • Update existing data, particularly industry averages used in LCA software and streamlined tools
  • Incorporate continuous peer reviews


The other great challenge, and the point of all of this analysis, is to effectively interpret LCA results so that they can be used to make intelligent business decisions. Again Jiménez-González has some common-sense suggestions for practitioners:


  • Put more emphasis to the goal of the study to avoid superfluous results
  • Incorporate LCA metrics in smaller steps depending on the level of maturity of the organization
  • Translate the LCA results into actionable steps at the shop-floor level
  • Make it easy for non-experts to use and apply LCA insights


Life cycle assessments are here to stay, and more and more companies are finding it valuable to look at LCA data when evaluating products and processes. Taken in context with other data points, decision-makers can better understand the impacts of choices and tradeoffs between different approaches.



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Dr. Anne E. Marteel-Parrish of Washington College and Dr. Martin A. Abraham of Youngstown State University have put together a new textbook for general chemistry titled, “Green Chemistry and Engineering: A pathway to sustainability.” For college students who might be more inspired to approach chemistry and engineering from the perspective of how it’s relevant to sustainability and fits into an environmentally-friendly career path, then this book will be essential.


green-chemistry-and-engineering-a-pathway-to-sustainability.jpgAimed at undergraduates taking an introduction to general chemistry, the book introduces basic concepts in chemistry and engineering through the lens of sustainability issues. Green chemistry and engineering are specifically outlined, and examples of successful applications are highlighted. Special topics include renewable materials, energy, economic considerations, and toxicology. I agree with the author that many portions of the book would be suited to a more general course on scientific applications, and would fit in beautifully to an environmental studies curriculum.


“Where do we want to be 50 years from now? What do we want our planet to look like? How do we get out of our comfort zone and change our way of thinking?” Dr. Marteel-Parrish asks. “If you are interested in having the answers to these questions and if you are ready to pursue science in a creative, innovative, and responsible manner, then this book is for you.”


Green Chemistry and Engineering: A Pathway to Sustainability” was published by Wiley in 2014 and is copyrighted by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.


Find more information on green chemistry textbooks, lab manuals, and reference materials.

A review of some of the talks present at the GC&E Conference from the session, “Greening the Supply Chain Using Biobased Chemicals”

Richard Mehigh from Sigma Aldrich described how his team improved a process to extract β-Amylase from  sweet potatoes (or yams)—an enzyme used in the pharmaceutical industry and as a gel filtration chromatography marker. The previous process had been developed in early 1960s and was not reliable. The new process improved it on many levels including: used a new source available year round, removing the use of acetone which was a safety issue and disposal cost, cut the process time in half saving labor hours, increased the yield per pound of sweet potato saving cost on the starting material, and created a consistent, higher purity product.


Itaconic acid is a 100% bio-renewable product produced by fermenting carbohydrates such as corn. Itaconix, a company out of New Hampshire specializes in producing polymers from itaconic acid. Yvon Durant, CTO, discussed the polymerization process and how their products improved the performance of detergent formulations—one of their myriad applications.


Rachel Severance from Arizona Chemical Company discussed a pine-based asphalt additive that improves the performance and sustainability of road resurfacing (read the article here).


Other talks were heard from Dixie Chemical, NatureWorks, LLC, Omni Tech International, LanzaTech, Corbion, and Eastern Michigan University.



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A review of some of the talks present at the GC&E Conference from the session, “Abundant Innovation: Pathways to new chemical feedstocks from CO2 and natural gas”


Professor James Clark of the University of York in the U.K., opened the session with an introduction on the problem of wasted. For example, discarded materials from food production are underutilized or wasted in staggering quantities—things like whey, corn stover, starch, sugar cane bagasse, and risk husks. “We are incredibly unimaginative about what we do with our waste,” says Clark. Even recycling doesn’t stack up—only 1% of all plastic is recycled in the world.


The production of chemicals and fuel from bio-based sources includes co-products of the pine industry in the form of Crude Tall Oil (CTO). Sarah Cashman from Franklin Associates (a division of ERG) presented the results from a life cycle assessment on the use of CTO for chemical products and fuel compared to petroleum and vegetable oil-based alternatives. The LCA boundaries included pine production and the distillation/processing phase, not use or end of life. The results showed that the global carbon footprint of CTO saves 50.7% when compared to traditional substitutes. The carbon footprint of CTO is significant lower when used for products that are otherwise derived from C5 resins, heavy fuel oil, ASA, and acrylic reasons, but equal to products normally derived from soybean or gum. Read the full executive summary.


Carbon dioxide is also a wasted resource, and potential source of energy and chemicals. Professor Andrew Borcarsly of Princeton University discussed his research in utilizing a source of CO2 plus water and renewable energy to create chemicals and fuels. His research shows that creating certain oxidized chemicals may be more efficient from CO2 than from oil—things like acetone, isopropanol, propylene, butanol, and formic acid. Borcarsly co-founded LiquidLight, a company that is perfecting this CO2-based,  low-energy catalytic electrochemistry to create a range of chemicals such as ethylene glycol.


Other talks included Leah Rubin from UC Berkeley on the use of nitrogen heterocycles for feul cells as an alternative to hydrogen, Lyndsey Soh from Lafayette College on using CO2 as a solvent in the production of biodiesel from algae, and David Calabro from ExxonMobile on the chemistry of CO2 capture.



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What will the next twenty years of green chemistry and engineering innovations hold? This is the question that Dr. Eric Beckman seeks to illuminate in his upcoming keynote address at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Beckman is a professor of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, an accomplished researcher, entrepreneur, and a proponent of an integrated approach to sustainability education.


EricBeckmanlarge.jpgBeckman has always seemed to bridge worlds. He got his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at MIT before entering the chemical industry for three years, then returned to graduate school where he received a PhD in polymer science at the University of Massachusetts. In 1989, Beckman joined the chemical engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh continuing a research interest in CO2 as a solvent.


Carbon dioxide is a nontoxic, inexpensive, mild solvent that continues to excite many researchers with its potential. Uses for CO2 had already been developed in the 70s for application in the food industry, particularly for the decaffeination process. However, Beckman explains that "by the late 80s, people had exhausted what they could try to do with it because all of the most interesting things you might want to dissolve in CO2 just wouldn't go." So what he and a few other researchers first set out to do was find out how to design substances to dissolve into CO2. Once this was accomplished it opened up doors for uses that hadn’t been possible before. Throughout the 90s, Beckman explored new processes in CO2, ultimately leading to being awarded an EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2002 for the Design of Non-Fluorous, Highly CO2-Soluable Materials.


As the decade progressed, Beckman's thinking around what is “green” began to evolve as a number of influences and interests converged. He expanded his focus on green processes by beginning to explore how to design greener products—and in doing so, developed the first course on product design for chemical engineering students at Pitt. He also began reading work on materials flow analysis, considering questions such as where exactly did chemicals go in the environment. As a chemical engineer, Beckman says he immediately understood the concept of pollution prevention: "You've paid money for materials, you've paid money to process the materials, and now you are going to pay money to throw part of them away? That doesn't make any sense economically."  Adding to this understanding, Beckman credits Paul Anastas and John Warner’s ideas and the work of Jane Bare on lifecycle assessment (LCA) for broadening his ideas about sustainability in science. To cap off the decade, he cofounded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt in 1999, for which is now the codirector.


In 2007, Beckman took a three year sabbatical from Pitt to start up a company, Cohera Medical, to commercialize research into new medical adhesives. Essentially, these biocomopatable medical adhesives hold tissues together as the natural healing process occurs and is then are resorbed by the body after degrading into harmless subcomponents. Their first product, TissueGlu®, has recently been approved in Europe and is slated to be approved in the U.S. this year.


What does green chemistry mean to you? Says Beckman, “Systems and customers.”


Now back at Pitt, Beckman is busy responding to a new thrust from the University's leadership to expand and integrate sustainability research  and education throughout the school. With the Mascaro Center playing a leading role, Beckman is helping to define the direction of new coursework, research certificates, and a new master's degree that will integrate sustainability into fields like public health, business, law, and political science, along with chemistry and chemical engineering. For chemical engineering students, part of what this will look like is a more integrated entrepreneurial focus, where students take business essentials as a sophomore, product design (including green design) as a junior and senior's with great product ideas will have the option of taking a prototyping class. The goal is to start to bridge some of the silos between departments, and between the business and academic world that trouble the chemical enterprise. Beckman emphasized that as a result of these silos we've created, "If you were going to sit down in academia to create a green product, you'd need a team of nine from nine different departments." The same holds true in industry.


For small business, the silos are even more problematic. "There are huge differences between small business and academia," Beckman points out, making it hard for small companies to work with academia. Small companies can access capital, but have to move very fast to prevent burning through it; academics have plenty of time, but never enough money. Small companies need team players; academia rewards the standout individual. "Academia does not train PhDs to do what small companies need them to do," concludes Beckman. At the university, students are trained to be great scientists, but "small companies need a PhD to manage projects, people, and budgets against the constraint of time."


It’s an appropriate time to reflect as green chemistry reaches twenty. We have come a long way –as Beckman rightly points out, twenty years ago you couldn't even put the words "green" and "chemistry" together. Yet, we are in many ways still near the beginning of a growing movement to rethink how  chemistry & engineering are carried out, in order to be truly sustainable.


Join Dr. Eric Beckman and others at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in the Washington DC area June 17-19, 2014. In addition a keynote address, Dr. Beckman will be presenting "Beyond the PhD: Start-ups as early employee or founder".



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At the ACS National Meeting in Dallas, I had a chance to interview several representatives of ACS Student Chapters who were leading green chemistry educational activities at their institutions. Together with my colleague Doug Dollemore and the ACS Ambassadors program, we put together this video which highlights some of the student outreach efforts to get kids involved in sustainability and chemistry. (Also available at: http://youtu.be/WKablXLSaJs ).



Many of these students and their institutions also presented their efforts during the Sci-Mix undergraduate poster session at Dallas. Bellow is the creative tree-themed poster from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in Ponce's ACS Student Chapter.

Poster- Green Chemistry.jpg


In fact, there were many more students that I didn’t get a chance to interview on video who are working with their peers to highlight green chemistry this Earth Day/Week:


"We will celebrate the 2014 Earth Week with a whole week of activities," says Jose Mercado Adrover, the leader of the ACS Student Chapter's Green Chemistry program at Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Their activities will include watching and discussing environmental documentaries, doing demonstrations using the Climate Science Toolkit, informing students and public on green chemistry and the water crisis, participating in a community activity planting medicinal trees, and participating in "Festival de la Química" Earth Week Edition in the National Historic Old San Juan.


"On Earth Day we will again have a campus wide green chemistry seminar," says Ronnie Funk from the Erskine College's ACS Student Chapter. In their last—and first—green chemistry seminar, 89 students attended. This time they will focus for the "non-scientist". In addition, Mr. Funk mentions that the are developing a hands-on green chemistry presentation for a non-major general chemistry class, as well as putting up a poster on green chemistry for display in the department hallway.


Congratulations to all these chapters—some of the 74 total who received the Green Chemistry Award for their outreach efforts in the 2012-3013 academic year!



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According to the UN Environment Programme, switching to energy efficient lighting could be one of the most significant short-term initiatives to counter climate change1. In addition, it would save everyone a lot of money. In the US alone, the switch to energy efficient lighting could save $19.8 billion dollars annually, reduce electrical consumption for lighting by 36.6%, and reduce CO2 emissions by 111.8 million tons per year.


One of the best energy efficient lighting technologies on the market is the Light Emitting Diode, commonly known as LED lamps. LEDs outshines their closest competitor, the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), on longevity and brightness. They are also more environmentally friendly than the CFLs since they do not contain mercury, which has become a landfill and recycling problem. The one drawback of LEDs is that they emit a harsh light that is unpleasant to the eye. This is where Seth Coe-Sullivan's company, QD Vision, comes in.


Seth Coe-Sullivan, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the upcoming Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in June, is an engineer, nanotech entrepreneur, and proponent of green chemistry. After receiving his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at MIT, Coe-Sullivan founded a company with four colleagues based on his research into the properties of quantum dots. In his words, "Quantum dots (QDs) are a new class of materials designed on the nanoscale, where we use quantum mechanics to change the color of the material without changing the chemical composition of the material." Today QDs are used in Sony LCD televisions, which help Sony deliver superior color quality and have a beneficial environmental impact. "We can deliver light where the human eye wants it more efficiently than any other material, and so TVs with high color quality can consume less power, and hence reduce the net environmental carbon, heavy metals, and electricity consumption of TVs, which are otherwise consuming more and more of the typical home's power budget," says Coe-Sullivan.


In the future, this technology could be used to modify the light of LED light bulbs too, to make these environmental champions pleasing to the eye. Here is how it works:



Coe-Sullivan is a strong proponent of nanotechnology's potential for positive impact on the environment through innovation. He sees an opportunity in the emergence of nanomaterials to "become a living case study" showing us "that our society doesn't have to wait for an environmental disaster to begin a science-based regulatory process that enables us to benefit from new materials without having the sometimes associated negative impacts." Others share this proactive view, and have identified the need for research into the unique nature of nanomaterials to inform policies, procedures, and the development of greener nanotechnology. At QD Vision, Coe-Sullivan established a strong Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) policy which  led to a focus on greening the product.


"My interest in the EH&S impacts of nanotech stem from the first time my company was hiring people not otherwise involved in the field.  In putting them in the lab developing these materials, we had to be sure that we weren't putting them into harm's way. From occupational safety, it was a natural continuum to start looking at the product safety and environmental safety aspects of our materials and products, so that we could develop them in a responsible manner and design safer products. The green chemistry actions were an even easier fit, where making our chemistry green also meant making our costs lower and our material efficiencies higher. We had a green chemistry program before any of us knew to use the words."


QD Vision is now nine years old and Coe-Sullivan is confident in the company’s progress: "QD Vision has launched Color IQ, a line of optical component products that are currently in TVs, and are being designed into displays of all types from 17" and up. The big opportunity for QDs in displays is to transition from a high-end feature into the mainstream of the market, from TVs to tablets." Indeed, this is a big market. According to Global Industry Analysts, the market for flat panel displays is expected to reach $110 billion by 2017. We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Coe-Sullivan at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, June 17-19, 2914 in the Washington DC area. Find out more at http://www.gcande.org.


1United Nations Environment Programme (2012). Achieving the global transition to energy efficient lighting toolkit. Accessed March 24, 2014: http://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/publication/Complete%20Enlighte nToolkit_1.pdf



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Growing, processing, and dyeing fabric is a huge global industry (over $70 billion in the U.S. alone)—and one with a significant environmental footprint. Most people don’t know much about the how our clothes—made of all kinds of materials and colored with all shades of color—are produced. Dyeing cotton, for example, is an expensive, time consuming process which generally requires large amounts of salt, alkali, water and energy. The waste water from dyeing is highly polluted with salt and excess dye, both of which are difficult to remove from the effluent. In addition, most dyes and many fabrics are derived from petroleum-based sources and are not easily recyclable. In essence, fabric, something that touches us all (no pun intended) is ripe for the kind of innovation that green chemistry and engineering drives.


One of the pioneers in this effort is Dr. Richard Blackburn, who heads up the Advanced Textiles Programme at University of Leeds. His research interests cover natural dye extraction, sustainable dyeing processes, and sustainable fibers. Blackburn will be giving a keynote address at the upcoming 18th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (gcande.org) this June 17-19, in the Washington DC metro area.


richard_blackburn_324x198.jpgIn the late 1990s, Dr. Blackburn was a Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds when he became interested in how to make dyeing processes more environmentally friendly. The book Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice had just been published, and the concept of reducing waste and energy use through chemistry made a lot of sense to him. When Dr. Blackburn joined the faculty of Leeds Centre for Technical Textiles in 2000, sustainability research in textiles was virtually unheard of. So Dr. Blackburn put together a Green Chemistry Group (now Sustainable Materials Research Group) and started off on a broad course of sustainability research.


One of his early research topics addressed the currently waste-intensive methods of dyeing cotton. Dr. Blackburn was able to develop a new chemical process that doesn't require as much salt or alkali, nor the time and energy that goes with it. Another area of research was on the properties of polylactic acid (PLA) as a replacement for synthetic polyester. PLA is polyester made from 100% renewable sources and is completely compostable. Dr. Blackburn also worked on a novel process for coloring polymers that completely sidesteps wet-processing entirely and has the potential to save time, money, and resources in the coloring of fabrics.


In 2006, Dr. Blackburn decided to organize a conference, "Green Chemistry in Textiles,"  to bring together industry members and researchers exploring innovative greener approaches. This was the first conference of its kind, and they were expecting around 50 participants—210 showed up. Building on the interest generated, Blackburn teamed up with John Mowbray, of Ecotextile News, Phil Patterson, currently the managing director of Colour Connections Textile Consultancy, and others to establish a non-profit called the RITE group (Reducing the Impact of Textiles on the Environment). Formed to educate the textile industry on what sustainability means and looks like, the RITE Group held well-attended annual conferences from 2007 to 2012 in London. "A lot of the perception in the industry is that things that are clean and more sustainable are more expensive," notes Dr. Blackburn. "Of course there are economies of scale, but if you think about it purely theoretically; if you are making a garment using less energy, less water, less waste, surely that is more economically feasible. Surely that should actually be cheaper." Achieving this in textiles, with a global supply chain that is often lacking in transparency, is difficult and at times slow, but certainly what many in the industry are reaching for.


Lately however, Dr. Blackburn is putting more of his attention on the next generation. "I think the most important thing is that the people going into the industry in the future understand sustainability properly, rather than just trying to educate the people who are already there," says Dr. Blackburn. He explains that many U.K. students don’t think of textile engineering as a career opportunity. There is a perception that textiles is an old fashioned industry that has mostly moved out of Europe—However they are interested in textile design. Dr. Blackburn’s mission is to help the best of these students recognize the scientific career opportunities in textiles and convert them to a chemistry-based Ph.D. program. "One of the things I’m most keen on, is trying to get designers to think about sustainability and the full supply chain," emphasizes Dr. Blackburn. "If the designer understands it, they can build in aspects of sustainability—be it in relation to materials use, processes that are used, or what happens at the end of life. If they just design it to look nice, they won’t ever consider sustainability."


Dr. Blackburn’s current research includes investigating the possibility of extracting natural dyes or building blocks chemicals from food waste. Natural dyes went out of fashion in the mid to late 1800s, as petroleum based replacements took the market. Lately however, there is more interest in natural products, yet growing plants for dyes has its own drawbacks—namely, in acreage needed and expense. Recovering dyes from organic waste, however, is an exciting avenue of research.


We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Blackburn at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. In addition to Dr. Blackburn’s keynote, there will be many sessions designed for people advancing green innovation in the apparel and footwear industry at the conference this year. Find out more at http://www.gcande.org.


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