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Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog

79 Posts authored by: Christiana Briddell

By Christiana Briddell, Sr. Communications Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute, and featuring Yalinu Poya, Ph.D. student at the University of Glasgow.


When you start to scratch the surface of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first thing that becomes apparent is that they are often interconnected and have synergistic relationships. A world without hunger is the ideal of Goal #2. This goal alone reaches beyond agriculture practices and touches social and financial systems, land development trends, equality and access issues; grapples with the threats from climate change (to which agriculture also contributes); and impacts the health of land, air, and water.


The key, however, to ending hunger has to be in developing a comprehensive, fundamentally sustainable food production system that is resilient to the effects of climate change, maintains and promotes biodiversity, water and land management practices, and can be applied by the small-scale farmers that make up the 40-85% of food production in many parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa.


Currently, the U.N. estimates that 1 in 9 people in the world are undernourished, a number that has risen over the last three years rather than declined. In Africa, 20% of the population is considered undernourished, but even in wealthy countries like the United States, food insecurity affects 11% of the population.


There are many areas related to Goal #2 that are relevant to chemists. Increasing agricultural production and fighting pests has been the focus of agricultural scientists for decades. New technology-assisted farming promises a smarter approach to fertilizer application, crop protection management, and water management.


Innovations such as Dow AgroSciences LLC’s Instinct Technology, (which won a Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2016), helps reduce nitrogen pollution from fertilizer runoff by making the nitrogen in fertilizer applications more available to crops and slower to degrade into unusable forms.


Phosphorus, like nitrogen, is essential for plant growth and one of the main ingredients in fertilizer, but phosphorus will become increasingly difficult to mine in the future, with peak production estimated to hit between 10-60 years from now. Currently, most phosphorus that is not absorbed by plants, runs off into water bodies where it contributes to eutrophication. Research is needed to find ways to recover and recycle phosphorus from sewage treatment plants using low-energy, highly-efficient separations.


Alternative pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are more environmentally friendly are another area of ongoing research and development. Biopesticides, derived from microorganisms that naturally attack crop pests and diseases, have been explored for a variety of applications. For example, Agraquest, Inc. (now Bayer CropScience) was an early Green Chemistry Challenge Winner for their biofungicide Serenade, which makes use of a naturally occurring bacteria. Companies like Marrone Bio Innovations have developed a number of bio-based solutions derived from microorganisms and plant extracts.


Genetic resilience is important to this goal, with a focus on preserving the genetic diversity of crop species for the future. Finding varieties and modifying genes in order to develop qualities such as drought resistance may be an important tool as some regions dry out. In other regions, there will be a need for salt-resistant crops, or protection from molds and fungus, and in all cases, increased yields.


Improving the Sustainability of Nitrogen Production through Catalysis


One of the biggest challenges to making the modern agricultural system more sustainable is the energy demands of a reaction at its heart—the Haber-Bosch Process for the production of ammonia. I asked Yalinu Poya, originally from Papua New Guinea, and currently a Ph.D. student in Prof. Justin Hargreaves research group at the University of Glasgow, U.K., to share her approach to this issue:


Picture 1: Sourced from

Catalysis is continuously making great contributions towards improving, or in some cases, resolving some of the world’s most common and demanding challenges that we continue to face. My specialty is in heterogeneous catalysis with my Ph.D. research focusing on synthesizing catalysts for ammonia production in the Haber–Bosch Process. The Haber–Bosch Process is a mature technology developed in the early 20th Century, however there are many currently pressing challenges to make it more sustainable. By addressing its catalyst component through my research, I believe many of the problems associated with the process can be solved, or my research could contribute to a greater solution.


The Haber–Bosch Process, which was developed in the early 1900’s, was a landmark achievement of the 20th Century. Currently, the process produces over 174 million tonnes of ammonia annually, establishing an accessible route for the production of over 450 million tonnes of synthetic fertilizer. In itself, this sustains food production for 40% of the global population.


The Haber–Bosch Process involves combining pure H2 and N2 feedstreams directly over a promoted iron catalyst at temperatures of around 400°C and reaction pressures of over 100 atmospheres. The reaction is exothermic and is equilibrium limited, thus it is thermodynamically favoured at lower reaction temperatures. Despite this, the temperature of operation is dictated by the requirement to achieve acceptable process kinetics.


Due to the reaction conditions involved in the process at a global scale, including the generation of feedstock, the operation of the Haber–Bosch Process currently consumes 1-2% of the world’s energy demand and produces 1.6% of man-made CO2 emissions. To reduce these harmful effects and yield massive rewards both in terms of economic and environmental benefits, there is great interest in the development of small-scale local ammonia production plants based on renewable hydrogen generated from water via electrolysis and powered by sustainable electricity sources such as wind energy. In such a context, which would facilitate the production of ammonia on a localized scale close to its point of use such as on a farm, it is necessary to develop novel ammonia synthesis catalysts which are active under less severe operational conditions appropriate to smaller scale reactors.


It is notable that a number of active ammonia synthesis catalysts are comprised of cobalt in addition to other active metals – a combination of cobalt and rhenium as a bimetallic catalyst shows high ammonia synthesis activity. Despite its low surface area, cobalt rhenium is an active catalyst in ammonia synthesis, however a more highly dispersed catalytic phase can be obtained by application of a suitable catalyst support. It can be anticipated that this would lead to enhanced catalytic performance.


The United Nations has designed and implemented 17 Sustainable Development Goals specifically to make the world a better place by facilitating a sustainable future for everyone. It is estimated that the world population will reach 9.1 billion by the year 2050, consequently food production will need to rise by 70% to keep up with global demands. Farmers will require more fertilizers to maintain fertile soil in order to produce healthy crops, which will result in an increased demand in the production of fertilizers. Since ammonia is the main component in fertilizers, it too will need to increase in production in order to fulfill Goal 2–Zero Hunger.


Picture: Sourced from

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


Reduce Waste

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







Green Chemistry


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant winners pictures

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

By Christiana Briddell, Communication Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

In a cultural and political climate that grows increasingly more divisive and nationalistic, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand as a clarion call for decisive and coordinated action for the benefit of global humanity. These far-reaching goals cover everything from the eradication of poverty to climate action to peace and just institutions. If you want to dream big—look no further.

Set in 2015, these 17 broad goals each contain specific targets with indicators to help track progress in achieving them. If you are interested in learning more, the U.N. website is very educational:


The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
The American Chemical Society—representing the world’s largest society of scientists—recognizes the importance of chemistry in uplifting people’s lives and ensuring the well-being of the planet. In their policy statement on Sustainability and the Chemistry Enterprise, the Society states: “We believe the chemistry enterprise must continue to provide leadership in forging the science and technology that will provide humanity with a sustainable path into the future.”

Using the SDGs as a framework, the ACS is developing a strategic response to this challenge. One of the first priorities is to inspire and enable chemists to see themselves and their work as directly relevant to one, if not many, of the goals. Indeed, there are a myriad of ways that chemistry will necessarily underpin our global efforts in achieving them.

For example, we cannot truly meet goal #2, End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, without closing the loop on soil fertility by finding a way to produce ammonia (NH3) sustainably (which requires a sustainable energy source to produce hydrogen), and by recovering and recycling phosphorus from waste streams. This will require significant development in the fields of catalysis and low-energy, high-efficiency separations respectively. In just this one goal, a revolution in agricultural science and subsequent impact on global infrastructure is required.

It is easy to be overwhelmed when faced with an immense transformative challenge, such as truly meeting the SDGs. On the other hand, sufficiently inspired groups of researchers have performed similarly “impossible” feats under tight timelines—most recently brought to mind with the 50th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission to the moon in July of 1969. Truthfully, although the technological challenge is Nobel-Laureate quality significant, the harder challenge may be in our own capacity to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the future of the planet and the humans who will live on it. Can we put aside other demands; adopt a focus, purpose, collaborative and innovative spirit fit to meet these goals?

This is the question we must ask ourselves.

In the coming issues of The Nexus, we will focus on each goal in turn and discuss specific ways that chemistry innovation can help to move us forward. We will also reveal ACS’s evolving strategic response to the SDGs including a new hub on the website for all things related to chemistry & sustainability. We invite the chemistry and chemical engineering communities to share their approaches to addressing the SDGs so that we can highlight successes, learn from each other, and work together in achieving the dream of a sustainable world.

Has the growing awareness of the reality and impacts of disposable plastic pollution finally started to change the marketplace? It seems that many factors are coming together to shift food packaging options away from plastic lately. Maybe this scenario rings true to you too:


A year or so ago, my favorite fast casual restaurant chain for lunchtime salads switched from plastic to fiber-based bowls and changed their plastic utensils to PLA compostable plastic. Not too long before, the American Chemical Society’s LEED Platinum certified office building where I work added compost bins on each floor, contracting with a composting company that is making significant inroads to offices all over Washington, DC.


In Maryland, where I live, the state recently passed a ban on polystyrene food containers, cups, egg cartons, vegetable trays and other items.


Even plastic straws seem to be disappearing from many establishments.


All of this seems like a positive step forward…but as members of the green and sustainable chemistry community, we have to remember to consider that all materials have their pros and cons and often a look at the whole picture reveals a more nuanced reality.


A deeper look into packaging alternatives is needed, and Safer Made’s recent report, Safer Materials in Food Packaging, presents a number of issues and design challenges. The report also highlights innovators in each area.


What Keeps that Salad Bowl from Seeping?


Getting away from plastic bowls and plates has generally meant moving to paper—or molded fiber. Molded fiber is biobased and can incorporate recycled paper and fiber products, providing an additional layer of sustainability. However, molded fiber alone does not provide an effective barrier to liquid, grease or air. To improve its properties, chemical additives or coatings are used, and many of these—as listed in Safer Made’s report—are chemicals of concern.


Making a big appearance on this list are all sorts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Chemicals in this class persist in the environment and can accumulate in our bodies. The U.S. EPA cites evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans including reproductive and developmental issues. If these chemicals of concern are in packaging that ends up in a compost pile, they can also pose a risk at contaminating compost that may go back into the food production cycle.


Replacing Functions, Rather than Products


After many years of being burnt by substituting problematic chemicals with close relatives only to find they were not much better in the end, the focus is now shifting to looking for functional innovation. Instead of the focus being on replacing certain chemicals, a functional approach allows innovators to approach a problem with a wider perspective. For example, if an additive chemical is causing concern, it may be that a different starting material, design or technology, would negate the need for such an additive. To this end, the Safer Made report identifies three functional challenges at play in food packaging and three corresponding solution areas.




Based on this approach, Safer Made further defined three broad innovation needs within food packaging: Alternatives to Petroleum-Based Plastics, Improved End-of-Life Functions, and Safer Functional Additives.




Innovation in Fiber Food Packaging


Safer Made’s report gives many examples of companies working on food packaging innovations. I have highlighted a few examples that relate to safer and greener fiber-based packaging below—divided into design innovation and additives innovation.


Improving the design, material and manufacture of fiber


California company Ecologic is producing fiber-based containers in the standard shapes of home care, food and beverage bottles. Their design uses recycled cardboard and newspaper mixed with polymeric binding agents and molded into a bottle shell. Inside the shell is a separate, thin PE liner. At the end of use, the two pieces can be easily separated. The shell can be recycled or composted, while the liner can be recycled with plastic bags in most places. Compared to similar plastic bottles, this design uses up to 60-70% less plastic, and can be shipped to customers flat, which improves the shipping carbon footprint.


Melodea, an Israeli start up backed by Swedish and Brazilian pulp paper companies, is taking an entirely different approach. They are using cellulose from the paper industry’s waste pulp sludge to produce Cellulose Nano Crystals—materials that give structure to the cell walls of plants. One of the applications for this tough material is to strengthen biobased packaging. Melodea also wants to use this material to replace aluminum as a gas barrier coating in multi-laminate packaging (e.g., Tetra-Pak). This could improve the material’s ability to be recycled.


Improving water and oil resistance without harmful additives


Ahlstrom-Munksjö, a Finnish-based global company that has a large line of fiber-based packaging solutions, recently released Grease-Gard® FluoroFree® papers that provide grease-resistance for food wraps, clamshells, microwave popcorn bags, and fast-food products without the use of fluorochemicals.


Ultimately, packaging has to achieve its purpose of keeping food fresh and transportable to prevent food spoilage, while minimizing environmental waste (both in the production and disposal of the packaging), without causing unnecessary health concerns from chemicals leaching into food. Unless we all find a way to stop using single-use containers, innovation is urgently needed to achieve this deceivingly complex challenge for such everyday, mundane items.


As more consumers continue to demand safer and more eco-friendly products, innovation in this area is bound to grow. Companies like Safer Made, a venture capital fund that invests in companies and technologies that bring safer products to market, are helping to spur this innovation.

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is excited to participate in the 2019 Spring ACS National Meeting & Expo in Orlando, FL this March 31 through April 4. With so much going on at the National Meetings, it can be easy to miss a session you wish you had attended. To make it easier, ACS GCI has compiled a selection of “must-attend” sessions to get the most green and sustainable chemistry and engineering out of the meeting!


Visit the ACS GCI in the Expo!

The ACS Expo in the Orange County Convention Center is the central meeting space for those attending the meeting. While there, be sure to visit ACS GCI at the Green Chemistry Kiosk within the greater ACS booth (Booth 623). Talk to staff and learn more about sustainable and green chemistry practices. There will be fun giveaways and the return of our spinning wheel where attendees can spin to win different prizes. We look forward to seeing you at the booth Sunday, March 31 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Mon-Tues., April 1-2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.!


Dr. Paul Richardson, Director of Oncology Chemistry at Pfizer, and member of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable will be speaking at the ACS Theatre within Booth 623 in the Expo Hall at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2. Richardson’s presentation will provide a brief introduction to “Green Chemistry in the Pharmaceutical Industry – Why, When, Who and How?”


Don’t forget to check out the ACS Store and get our new Green Chemistry T-shirts!


Green Chemistry & Pharma

Practical Green Chemistry Tools and Techniques for Research and Development Scientists
Sunday, March 31, 1:30 - 4:30 pm, Room W313, Orange County Convention Center

This workshop will equip industry-based R&D chemists and engineers as well as graduate students with practical green chemistry tools, methods and metrics. We will cover green chemistry basics through to the most recent innovative tools and metrics widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. The workshop will be tailored toward scientists and engineers working in batch chemical operations in common use within the pharma industry but the tools may be applied to other allied chemical industries.


What you will learn:

  • Fundamentals of green chemistry and engineering.
  • Tools that the pharma industry routinely uses to optimize their synthetic chemical processes.
  • How to use these tools to make “greener” decisions in synthetic drug design and process development.
  • Real-world applications from experienced pharma industry process development chemists.


ORGN: Innovative Green Chemistry: Striving toward Zero-Waste API Manufacturing
Monday, April 1, 8:00-11:45 a.m. and 1:00-4:50 p.m., West Hall F3, Convention Center
This session put together by the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable (Guy Humphrey, Kevin Maloney) will feature Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Frances Arnold, Bruce Lipshutz, Sachin Handa, and other accomplished speakers.


BIOT: Emerging Frontiers in BIOT

Thursday, April 4, 8:30-11:30 a.m., Grand A, Rosen Centre Hotel
Members of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable's BioPharma team will discuss research and best practices aimed at increasing the sustainability of bioprocessing. Learn about newly developed metrics for biologics manufacturing, life cycle assessment case studies, recycling single use plastics and more.



Green Chemistry & Education


CHED/SOCED/ACSGCI/I&EC: Green Chemistry Student Chapters: Stories of Success
Monday, April 1, 8:30 a.m. – Noon, Room W311C, Orange County Convention Center

Hear from ACS undergraduate Student Chapters who have successfully incorporated green chemistry into their chapter. Presenters include students from Tennessee Tech, University of Central Arkansas, University of Puerto Rico – Bayamon, Heidelberg, University of Detroit Mercy, University of New England, Gordon College, and many more.


CHED/CHAS/ACSGCI/I&EC: Green Chemistry as a Pillar of Safety Education
Tuesday, April 2, 1:30 p.m., Room W311C, Orange County Convention Center

One aim of green chemistry is to reduce chemical hazardous impacts on human health and the environment. However, green chemistry principles are not yet an integral part of safety education. This symposium will explore innovation and best practices for integrating green chemistry into safety curriculum.


CHED/CEI/ACSGCI/I&EC: UN Sustainable Development Goals: Unique Opportunities for the Chemical Enterprise
Monday, April 1, 1:30 – 5:30 p.m., Room W311C, Orange County Convention Center

Learn how all sectors of the chemical enterprise can contribute to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially through green chemistry and sustainable chemistry technologies. The last 40 minutes of the afternoon will be a workshop for the chemistry education community to discuss and explore innovative ideas for integrating the SDGs into chemistry education. Topics include connections between the U.N. SDGs and the chemistry enterprise; multidisciplinary topics and collaborations; and the importance of systems and life cycle thinking.


CHED/CEI: Green and Sustainable Chemistry Theory and Practice: Chemistry for New Frontiers
Sunday, March 31, 1:30 p.m., Room W311C, Orange County Convention Center

This symposium will engage and inform the CHED community on recent advances in green and sustainable chemistry education for majors, non-majors and K-12 students.


Green Chemistry & Small Business


SCHB/CEI: Frontiers in Green Chemistry for Small Businesses
Tuesday, April 2, 8:00-11:55 a.m. & 1:00-4:55 p.m., Orlando V, Hilton Orlando

What does it take to make it as a green chemistry business? This symposium will offer experiences from successful small green chemistry businesses as well as highlights of recent market trends and resources available especially to small green technology companies.


General Green Chemistry Sessions


ENVR: Green Chemistry and the Environment
Tues-Thurs, April 2, 4-6 p.m., April 3, 8-11:45 a.m. & 1-5 p.m., April 4, 8-11:40 a.m.


Green Chemistry Awards


POLY: ACS Award for Affordable Green Chemistry in Honor of Richard Gross
Monday, April 1, 2019, 8:30 a.m. – Noon, Salon 12, Rosen Centre Hotel

Award address is on “Biocatalytic routes to tunable building blocks, surfactants and polymers.”


I&EC: 2019 ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship Awards: Symposium in Honor of Paul Dauenhauer
Monday, April 1, 8 a.m. – Noon, Room W224E, Orange County Convention Center

Award lecture is on “At the frontier of renewable chemicals from biomass.”


I&EC: 2019 ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering Lectureship Awards: Symposium in Honor of Kevin Wu
Monday, April 1, 1:30-5:20 p.m., Room W224E, Orange County Convention Center

Award lecture is on “Functional nanoporous materials for lignocellulosic biomass conversion and chemical engineering applications.”


The ACS Student Chapter Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 7 p.m. in the Convention Center, Valencia Ballroom A.

The Undergraduate Student Chapter Awards Ceremony at the ACS National Meeting in Orlando is coming soon, and this year we will be congratulating 76 student chapters who have won the Green Chemistry Award! Included in this number are four International Chapters –newly eligible this year—who won: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Universidad Icesi (Colombia), Universidad de Costa Rica, and the University of Delhi (India).


The Green Chemistry Award signifies that student chapters have successfully done at least three activities in the school year focused on green chemistry.


One of the most important aspects of this award is demonstrating that the chapter understands the difference between general sustainability, environmental chemistry, and green chemistry—three related but different concepts.

As the Georgia State University Student Chapter put it:

“In previous years, it was thought that green chemistry had the same definition as sustainability, and that green chemistry was just about reusing, recycling, and cleaning up. This year, it was learned that green chemistry is being conscious as chemists about the environmental impacts at every step of your work. Green chemistry calls for designing ways to prevent waste down to the molecular level. It is not using chemistry to clean up water and air pollution or waste that was already in an environment. It is about implementing greener methods and technology that does not create waste in the first place to be cleaned up.”

One way to get a firm start on the right track is by attending a relevant ACS webinar or Program-in-a-Box and using the green chemistry tie-in activities that ACS GCI has prepared. The upcoming February 26th Program-in-a-Box on the Periodic Table will include a green chemistry activity.@ Past events can also be used, including a dive into bioplastics and EPA’s Safer Choice Program.


Of course, there is no shortage of ideas for how chapters can go green—just look as a few examples from this year’s winners!


Students from Heidelberg University held a green lab contest were students wrote essays evaluating a reaction of their choice and how it could become a greener reaction using green chemistry design principles. The papers were judged by faculty with winning ideas to be considered for incorporation into labs next year.


Northeastern University students hosted a number of excellent speakers covering topics such as the importance of design for degradability, using flow chemistry to reduce waste and improve safety, and the challenges of degradability in modern polymers and how green chemistry could approach this problem.


Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham created two trivia games—a green chemistry Jeopardy and Family Feud. Green chemistry trivia topics were divided into the areas of medicine, diseases, public policy, the environment, famous chemists and famous sites of ethical green chemistry issues.


The University of Detroit Mercy students taught a group of third graders about green chemistry using M&M’s to demonstrate atom economy. The importance of reducing waste was brought home when all the green M&M’s had to go in the “waste”—a beaker filled with water—and could not be eaten.


Wilkes University students made biodiesel and glycerin from waste oil produced by the campus cafeteria. The biodiesel was offered to the Wilke’s engineering department and the glycerin was later used to make soap in a general chemistry lab. The students learned about preventing pollution, producing biodegradable products and creating an energy efficient product.


If you are coming to Orlando, make sure to attend the CHED symposia Green Chemistry Student Chapters: Stories of Success to hear from a selection of ACS Student Chapters on their green chemistry initiatives. Co-organized by ACS GCI, the session will be held on Monday, April 1, 2019 from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Convention Center, Room W311C.


The ACS Student Chapter Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 7 p.m. in the Convention Center, Valencia Ballroom A.

Attending and presenting at a scientific conference is an important milestone and professional development opportunity for young researchers. To enable this experience for more early-career scientists, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) administers three annual awards for students and postdoctoral scholars pursuing research incorporating green chemistry and engineering design principles. In total over the years, 95 scholars have benefited from these awards, representing a growing pool of young scientists and engineers who will be at the forefront of research as we tackle our planet’s most pressing sustainability challenges in years to come.


This year, seven awardees were selected from an impressive pool of applicants. The winners hail from seven different U.S. institutions: The University of South Carolina, Yale University, George Washington University, North Carolina State University, Gordon College, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Louisville/duPont Manual High School.


Thank you to our dedicated judging panels for volunteering their time to review the ever-growing number of applications and Congratulations to these outstanding researchers!


Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award

The Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award provides national recognition and honor for outstanding student contributions to furthering the goals of green chemistry through research and/or studies. The ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry and the National Institute of Standards and Technology support the award. Recipients receive $1,000, and an additional $1,000 is available to support travel.


The 2019 award will be presented during the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference/9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry, June 11-13, 2019 in Reston, Virginia.


D.M.M. Mevan Dissanayake, a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, is the 2019 Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award winner. Dissanayake’s research is aimed at developing greener synthetic techniques by incorporating electrochemical methods to synthesize pharmaceutical compounds. He is currently working on research to develop an atom economic route for amidation titled, “Anion Pool Synthesis for Electrochemical Derivatization of Pharmaceutical Compounds.”


Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship

Two U.S.-based scholars received the 2019 Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship, which supports the participation of a young international green chemistry scholar to attend a green chemistry technical meeting, conference or training program. The award was established in 2000 through the ACS International Endowment Fund in commemoration of the late Dr. Joe Breen, first director of the Green Chemistry Institute. Each winner receives up to $2,000 for travel and conference expenses.


From the 38 nominations received, the 2019 winners are:


Hanno Erythropel is a postdoctoral associate at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Erythropel has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from McGill University. At Yale, Erythropel has worked on several projects including, a) studying the presence, fate and effects of sweeteners and flavor molecules in tobacco products, b) developing greener synthetic methodologies for the synthesis of sugar-based molecules used in skin care, and c) leading a team of students and post-docs in a meta-review of green chemistry progress over the last 20 years. Erythropel will be using the award to attend the 4th Green & Sustainable Chemistry Conference in Dresden, Germany held May 5-8, 2019.


Selene Ramer is junior at George Washington University in the District of Columbia where she studies computational modeling to predict the harmful effects of chemicals. Ramer’s current research focuses on validating design guidelines for minimal aquatic toxicity on high-volume pesticides. Ramer will be using the award to present her research at the 2019 International Symposium on Green Chemistry in La Rochelle, France held May 13-15, 2019.


Ciba Travel Awards in Green Chemistry

Established in 2009 through the Ciba Green Chemistry Student Endowment, the purpose of this award is to expand students’ understanding of green chemistry by facilitating participation at a scientific conference. The award amount covers conference travel expenses up to $2,000.


From 47 nominations, the winners of the 2019 Ciba Award for Green Chemistry are:


William Joseph Sagues, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Forest Biomaterials at North Carolina State University, for his research on the “Catalytic Graphitization of Lignocellulosic Biomass.” Sagues seeks a more sustainable process for creating synthetic graphite, which is currently derived from petroleum and coal-based material. Synthetic graphite is a component of the Lithium-ion battery, in demand today for use in electric vehicles and for energy storage. The award will allow Sagues to present his research at the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering and 9th International Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference in Reston, VA from June 11-13, 2019.


Quincy Dougherty is a senior at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where she is majoring in both chemistry and business administration with a minor in biology. While at Gordon, Dougherty has been president of their ACS Student Chapter from 2017-2018, during which time the chapter received Green Chemistry Awards for their outreach activities. In the lab, she has pursued green chemistry through a research project on the Greener Extraction of Lycopene from Tomatoes using HPLC. Dougherty will use the award to attend the ACS National Meeting in Orlando, Florida March 31-April 4, 2019 and present in the symposium on “Green Chemistry Student Chapters: Stories of Success,” as well as in the Sci-Mix poster event.


Reece Johnson is a senior in the Department of Chemistry and Physics at the Florida Gulf Coast University. Johnson applied his interest in green chemistry to develop greener methods and catalysts for research related to synthesizing cancer-fighting compounds, “Green, Solid-Supported Catalyst for the Synthesis of Superior Cancer-Fighting Resveratrol Analogues.”  Reece will be using the award to attend the ACS National Meeting in Orlando, Florida March 31-April 4, 2019.


Bhavana Pavuluri is a junior at duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Kentucky and a high school researcher in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Louisville. At the university’s lab under Prof. Sachin Handa, Pavuluri has contributed to various projects including research published in J. Org. Chem., “Micelle-Enabled Photoassisted Selective Oxyhalogenation of Alkynes in Water Under Mild Conditions.” Enthusiastic about pursuing green chemistry research, Pavuluri will use the award to travel to the ACS National Meeting in San Diego, California held August 25-29, 2019.


For more information about these awards or to find information about the 2019 applications deadlines, please check out our website:

Applied Separations is a small business based in Allentown, Pennsylvania that has supported greener approaches to chemistry for years. The company manufactures supercritical fluid systems, offers DNA-free laboratory sample preparation consumables and a new CO2 flash chromatography machine.


Prime_three controllers.jpgLed by CEO and founder Rolf Schlake, they developed the Spe-edTM Prime for use in educational settings and for many years now has offered an opportunity for institutions of higher learning to apply for an educational grant. The winner of the award receives a Spe-edTM SFE Prime Package, which includes a Supercritical Fluid System and vessel designed specifically for the higher education market as well as supporting Classroom Materials, such as a syllabus, handouts, suggested applications and more. The award is presented by Schlake at the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, which will be held this year June 18-20, 2018 in Portland, Oregon.


The deadline for applications for the 2018 Educational Grant is April 30, 2018. Among other considerations, proposals should illustrate how the machine will be used to teach supercritical fluids in the college classroom, with an emphasis on green chemistry and environmentally friendly processes. Learn more about how to apply.


Supercritical Fluids as Supporting Research into the Origins of Life

One of the past winners of this award is Professor Michael Gaylor of Dakota State University who has seen the Prime system positively influence his teaching, research and even recruitment of new chemistry students. “Engaging in supercritical fluids teaching and research mentoring introduces students to a sophisticated field of chemical study that substantially expands their theoretical and experimental skill sets,” says Professor Gaylor. “I’ve seen this pay big dividends for my students heading into industry labs and graduate programs by giving them an advantage over the competition.”


One of Professor Gaylor’s research areas is investigating the high-pressure origins of life. The Prime system has enabled him to simulate deep-sea hydrothermal vent conditions for investigating mineral-catalyzed chemical reactions relevant to the origins of life. “We’re increasingly focused on understanding how simpler geochemicals and the myriad of organic compounds delivered to Earth via meteorites during the Late Heavy Bombardment period of Earth’s early history might have assembled to form the more complex molecules of life under high-pressure conditions, such as those found in hydrothermal vent systems and in deep underground environments.”


Gaylor’s lab also develops supercritical fluids methods for a number other research areas:

  • Extracting/characterizing beneficial and pollutant chemicals associated with South Dakota’s alternative energy and deep underground research efforts
  • Extracting/characterizing anthropogenic chemicals in environmental samples, (e.g. land-applied sewage sludge biosolids)
  • Assessing the phytochemical inventories of ornamental plant nectars in relation to their capacity to uptake pollutants from indoor air,
  • Estimating pollutant bioavailability to soil organisms
  • Extracting/purifying bioactive natural product compounds


Supercritical Fluids in an Analytical Chemistry Class: An example

Another past winner of this award is Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Trinity B.S. degree’s in chemistry and biochemistry and encourages student research throughout their college career.

“The acquisition of the Spe-edTM SFE Prime supercritical fluid extraction apparatus has provided our students with the opportunity to explore the fundamental properties of supercritical fluids at the lab bench and to experience firsthand the benefits offered by this important “green” sample preparation technology,” says Professor Janet Morrison.


Prof. Morrison goes on to describe in detail how she was able to successfully incorporate teaching supercritical fluids as a way to get students thinking about greener processes in the lab and in industrial applications. She writes:


“Analytical Chemistry (Chem 311) is a required course for all of our majors and is one of the most challenging classes in the department in terms of both lecture and laboratory demands.  In one of the experiments currently performed in this course, students use gas chromatography and the internal standard calibration method to determine the fatty acid composition of a variety of food products, such as potato chips and other snack foods typically consumed by college students. The classical procedure involves isolation of the fat from the food using methylene chloride, followed by saponification, transesterification to fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) using BF3-methanol, back extraction into methylene chloride, concentration of the extract, and, finally, quantitative analysis by GC.  This conventional sample preparation method is cumbersome and messy, involving several transfers of material and the use of multiple flasks, and is typically the most time-consuming portion of the experiment for the students.


“With the addition of the Spe-edTM SFE Prime instrument, students have compared the classical procedure with a streamlined SFE procedure by extracting the fat from the food samples using SF-CO2 as a “green” solvent-less alternative to the methylene chloride approach. The students compare the conventional method with SFE in terms of solvent usage, extraction time, recovery efficiency, and analysis cost on a per sample basis considering the cost of solvents (purchase and disposal) and time.  This side-by-side comparison of the conventional solvent-based method with the SFE method complements and reinforces our lecture discussion of the benefits of supercritical fluids for extraction. The incorporation of SFE into the laboratory portion of the course thus converts what previously was a theoretical lecture discussion into a valuable educational hands-on experience with this alternative sample preparation technology.


“A culminating part of the lab experience in Analytical Chemistry involves student groups proposing independent projects for which they then design and carry out the experiments and analyze, interpret, and present the results.  One group chose to further investigate the applicability of SFE for the isolation and subsequent analysis of fatty acids from commercial foods by not only extracting with SF-CO2, but also performing a single flask simultaneous collection and derivatization by bubbling the SF-CO2 effluent directly into BF3-methanol in the collection tube.  The collection tube was subsequently heated to facilitate transesterification and the resulting FAMEs were isolated into a small volume of hexane added to the collection tube.


“Because the SFE extraction vessel can be weighed before and after SFE (if extracted to a final constant mass), students can additionally get an estimate of the total fat content of food samples, and we have had students estimate the fat content in chocolate using SFE. To expose more surface area, prior to SFE the chocolate samples are freeze-fractured using a small volume of liquid nitrogen, and then crushed into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle.  More advanced concepts can be studied by having the students generate extraction profiles to optimize extraction time and explore extraction kinetics.”


There are many possibilities for using supercritical fluids in your lab! Don’t miss the chance to submit an application for this Educational Grant by April 30, 2018.



“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.


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The non-agrarian among us may not know this, but petroleum-derived, non-biodegradable, effectively non-recyclable plastic mulch is used extensively in farms across America to control weeds, retain moisture in the soil, and increase crop yields.


My own experience with plastic mulch dates from 2002 when I worked on an herbicide/pesticide-free vegetable farm in northern Virginia. One of the techniques we employed to control weeds was laying down plastic mulch films about 4 feet wide tucked into the soil on both sides to form a bed in long rows up and down the fields. We transplanted acres of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant—you name it—into the beds with a tractor-pulled device that punched holes in the plastic, delivered fertilized water into those holes, and carried two workers low to the ground who could plant trays of transplants in rapid succession. It was quite effective and saved us a world of weeding later in the year. On the downside, at the end of the year, or end of the planting, we had to manually remove the now-dead vegetable plants that had grown on top of the plastic, pull up the plastic by hand, ball it up and take it to the landfill. Not particularly sustainable but if you ever have had to hoe all day in the humid hot Virginia summer—definitely worth it.


Now a Tennessee company, Grow Bioplastics, is working to create an alternative plastic mulch with a greatly improved sustainability profile. Essentially, they are seeking to use lignin, a waste product from the paper and biofuels industries, to create a biodegradable plastic mulch that farmers could literally plow into their fields at the end of the year—saving time and reducing waste.


In January, Grow Bioplastics received a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 to conduct research and development work on Lignin-Biomass Based Biodegradable Plastics for Agricultural Applications.


“The National Science Foundation supports small businesses with the most innovative, cutting-edge ideas that have the potential to become great commercial successes and make huge societal impacts,” said Barry Johnson, director of the NSF’s Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships.


“Being selected for this competitive award from the NSF is a huge step for our company,” said Tony Bova, CEO and co-founder of Grow Bioplastics.


Bova and his co-founder Jeff Beegle are graduates of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and started their company in 2016. They participated in the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s Business Plan Competition held at the 2016 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference and won.


“Winning the 2016 ACS Green Chemistry Business Plan Competition had a huge impact on our business, and we wouldn't be where we are today without that experience and funding,” says Tony Bova.


Grow Bioplastics is planning to launch their first products in 2019 which will be plastic pellets that can be processed into blown or cast plastic mulch films and thermoformed or injection molded trays and pots for agricultural and horticultural applications. With the SBIR money, they will be able to hire their first employee and will be collaborating with Glucan Biorenewables, LLC, to use their novel gamma-valerolactone derived lignin streams, and with Dr. David Harper, associate professor at the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon, to help evaluate the ability of their materials to be processed.


The Phase I NSF SBIR grant also opens up the opportunity to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $750,000). Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.



Tony Bova (L) and Jeff Beegle (R), Co-Founders of Grow Bioplastics, with a sample of their lignin-based plastic.

Photo Credit: Adam Brimer/The University of Tennessee



“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.

The organic personal care market is expected to grow to US$25.1 billion by 2025. Fueling this demand are consumers who are anxious to avoid problematic chemicals and are interested in products that contain natural ingredients. Likewise, brands are interested in reducing their environmental footprints by using renewable raw materials, greener processes and more sustainable packaging.


Unlike other industries, where biobased chemicals have to “drop into” existing processes seamlessly, cosmetics and personal care products can often leverage the novel ingredient as a selling point.


Humans have been using natural products to color hair, oil skin and heal wounds for eons. But new naturally derived products are not the same as yesteryear's. Advances in chemical analysis and extraction technology help scientists identify and locate the “good stuff” — say an antioxidant — while removing other compounds that may have adverse impacts, for example, that cause inflammation. This precision helps companies know exactly what is in their product and improves the uniformity of natural products.


Another hurdle chemists are helping us jump is to ensure that bioactive ingredients remain available in the final product and last on the shelf. Every cook knows there is a world of difference between a fresh vegetable and a vegetable that has been sitting around for too long. The same concept holds true with plants heading toward a cosmetic formulation.


Dr. Richard Blackburn, University of Leeds, organized a symposium at the 21st Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference focused on green chemistry in cosmetics and personal care products.


330px-Sacred_lotus_Nelumbo_nucifera.pngMichael Koganov, Ph.D., Vice President of BioMaterials, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, presented how Ashland is approaching the issue with their mobile plant processing units, which can be driven directly to the field so that plants can be harvested and processed in one step, minimizing the loss of active compounds. These units, which use a solvent-free Zeta Fraction Technology, can process up to 10 tons of living plants at a time.


Ashland has already been developing and using its technology, acquired from AkzoNobel in 2015, to provide brands with exclusive natural ingredients. This year, Ashland has begun putting some of their botanical ingredients on the open market. Their first product, derived from the sacred lotus flower (Nelumbo nucifera), has been tested against a placebo to provide benefits such as a 20 percent reduction in wrinkles, 14 percent increase in skin hydration and a 25 percent increase in a measure of skin softness.




Another trend in producing greener cosmetics looks beyond agricultural sourcing, where concerns about competing for land use with food production worry some. L

uckily, there are other rich sources of biomass, such as waste from food and beverage production and ocean life.


Algae and orange peels


Keracol, a small business spun out of the University of Leeds, has recently developed a line of naturally-derived hairstyle products. Hair sprays and gels contain a film-forming polymer that provides the shine and hold required. Options are limited for consumers looking for a bio-derived hair spray or gel that performs, washes out easily and is flexible enough to use on damp or dry hair.


Meryem Benohoud, Ph.D., Lead Product Development Scientist at Keracol, has been working with two biopolymers that are plant-sourced, renewable and biodegradable: alginic acid and pectin. Alginic acid is an anionic polysaccharide found in brown algae. Pectin is a heteropolysaccharide found in plants, in this case sourced from waste material, e.g. orange peels from the beverage industry.


Keracol’s patented formula takes advantage of alginic acid and pectin’s natural gel-forming properties while overcoming their limitations — namely, both biopolymers do not naturally dissolve in ethanol, a significant problem for hair sprays that are typically 55 percent ethanol.


Pinot noir, port, blackberries and blackcurrants


pure-super-grape.pngGrape skins, along with other red or blue berries, contain antioxidants and water-soluble pigments called anthocyanins. Research has shown that anthocyanins have many bioactive properties, such as free radical scavenging, metal-chelating, antimicrobial, wound healing and chemopreventive activities, and their ability to prevent oxidative damage makes them of interest in skin care products. As a result, several projects are looking at different uses for the waste (skins, seeds, damaged berry, etc.) from wine and port production as well as the juice and fruit industry to recover these valuable compounds for cosmetic applications.


In 2015, Keracol partnered with Marks & Spencer to bring to market a set of skincare products containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds extracted from the waste stream of pinot noir production. The resulting “Pure Super Grape” was favorably received in the marketplace, winning several cosmetic industry awards.


Sannia Farooque, University of Leeds, has also been looking at blackcurrant waste from drink processing in the U.K. as a source of anthocyanins and antioxidants. Similarly, Nuno Mateus, Ph.D., from the University of Porto is systematically researching uses of waste from port and blackberry production — big business in Portugal. Both of these researchers are bringing a chemists eye to understanding the composition of the active compounds, assaying their potential positive qualities, and developing processes to extract, preserve and use them in a cosmetic formula.




As the demand for “natural” and safer cosmetics grows, it will be up to chemists to seek the most sustainable approaches to supplying natural ingredients — whether it be by using byproducts of the food industry as raw material or by developing solvent-free extraction technologies that bring the chemistry lab to the field. Green chemistry is not black and white. There is and will always be a sliding scale from somewhat better to groundbreaking, with new innovation and technology pushing us toward the more sustainable end of the equation over time.



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Change is hard and it takes a compelling reason to do it. Implementing green chemistry principles in your work takes significant effort, so why do it? What message sparked your interest and motivated you to change your perspective and work?


In a recent paper, “If Chemists Don’t Do It, Who Is Going To?” Peer-driven Occupational Change and the Emergence of Green Chemistry," the authors explore the effects of arguments used by advocates of green chemistry in an attempt to promote its adoption to their peers. Borrowing a concept from communication theory — framing — the authors find evidence that the way green chemistry is presented affects whom it resonates with or not. For chemists who want to get an “outside” perspective on their field, this paper sets the discussion within the current understanding of how occupations change in response to various pressures. The findings may also help you communicate your research or work more effectively to different audiences and troubleshoot unexpected reactions.


Last year, green chemistry celebrated its 25th anniversary. From the beginning, its growth has been, to a significant extent, organic — driven by chemists advocating for change among their peers. Although external forces (e.g., regulations and pressure from retailers/consumers) are growing factors in support of change, most green chemistry efforts remain voluntary initiatives.


The early green chemistry advocates used several distinct arguments to encourage a wide variety of chemists to adopt green chemistry principles, which themselves outlined a variety of avenues chemists could use to rethink their processes. The three frames identified through analysis of extensive interviews and archival data are as follows:


The Normalizing Frame positions green chemistry as an approach in line with mainstream chemistry’s focus on discovery, design, and the optimization of processes. If you side with green chemistry’s call for innovation, you probably connect with the Normalizing Frame.


The Moralizing Frame is the ethical imperative to do chemistry in a way that minimizes chemistry’s negative impact on human and environmental health, or ideally puts humanity on a path toward sustainability. If you align with these values and seek to apply them to your work, this frame probably speaks to you.


The Pragmatizing Frame looks to green chemistry for its usefulness in providing perspectives that open up new ways to tackle practical problems. If you find green chemistry an effective tool to cut costs, pack more students in your fume hood-free lab, and/or create products that will not likely be subjects of future chemical regulation, this frame applies to you.


Of course, many of us associate with more than one of the above frames; they all are valuable. Interestingly, the authors found that each frame tends to resonate with a specific occupational role: The Normalizing Frame attracts innovators; educators, public communicators, and students are attracted to the Moralizing Frame; and problem solvers are attracted to the Pragmatizing Frame. Does this ring true to you?


Tensions Between Frames

The existence of multiple frames has attracted a diverse group of chemists to green chemistry, providing certain strength to the community. However, it has also created a degree of resistance among chemists who might have been compelled by one frame, but find another frame undercuts the message and turns them off. Three tensions were identified:


Tension of Quality: Innovators and researchers attuned with the Normalizing Frame are turned off by the Pragmatizing Frame’s focus on practical applications. The perception that cutting-edge fundamental research is not compatible with applied research is wrapped up into this tension.


Tension of Commitment: The moralizing frame, while a powerful motivator for many, can rub some chemists the wrong way. Problem solvers attracted to the Pragmatizing Frame use green chemistry in support of other business or organizational goals. Green chemistry is not a guiding principle, as it is in the Moralizing Frame, but one of many useful tools — and in any business, there are limits on how much one can push a greener approach if it is not also benefiting the bottom line.


Tension of Complexity: Innovators also have trouble with the Moralizing Frame because in their research they know that to achieve the best result, one must often make trade-offs. A chemistry that is greener in one regard, may lag in another and often does not hit all of the principles of green chemistry.


As a result of these tensions, the authors note, some voices have expressed the need to narrow the message and focus on green chemistry’s ability to advance the science (the Normalizing Frame). However, others in the community have advocated to keep the doors open and continue to utilize any message that works to reach the largest number of people — whether tensions arise or not.


We will end where we began… Change is never easy. It is natural that those who are “dipping their toes” in green chemistry will begin with small changes. However, as one works with the principles over time, a natural expectation arises that one will continue to develop a more robust, innovative and nuanced understanding of how the arc of chemical research and development can be bent toward the ever-elusive dream of a truly sustainable science — the necessary underpinning of a sustainable society and world. As a community of early adopters, how can we strive to hold green chemistry as an inclusive yet rigorous way of doing science, attractive to our brightest minds, biggest sources of funding, most capable implementers, and most diverse and inspired crop of young chemists yet?


Reference Table







Motivation for green chemistry

GC is consistent with mainstream chemistry in its focus on discovery, design and optimization(e.g., optimizing a reaction, exploiting chemical diversity, designing out hazards)

Ethical imperative to deliver social benefits and take ownership over the impact of their work(e.g., What better choices can we make?)

GC can help you tackle day-to-day challenges (e.g., getting in front of regulations and increasing the safety of labs, which increases the amount of students they can handle)

Who tends to resonate with each frame


(Note: A chemist may take on different roles in one job or over the course of his/her career, thereby resonating with multiple frames.)

Chemists in role of innovators

“GC forces you to think about chemistry differently…which pushes you toward innovation.”

Chemists in role of educators and communicators

Audiences critical of chemistry, such as the public and consumers, students who may be inspired to make a difference, chemists who want to think of their research benefiting people, and the planet

Chemists in role of problem solvers

Cuts the cost of waste disposal and operating fume hoods; helps with fundraising and curbing manufacturing costs

Description of the tensions that may arise between frames

Tension of Quality between Normalizing and Pragmatizing


Innovators say, “We don’t do applied research,” “GC is for folks who can’t come up with better ideas,” “uptake in liberal arts colleges puts off research universities doing ‘cutting-edge research,” “publishing because it’s green not good research” “not rigorous”

Tension of Complexity between Moralizing and Normalizing frames

Innovators think GC principles don’t capture the complexities and nuances in developing chemical products and processes

Tension of Commitment between Pragmatizing and Moralizing

Problem solvers use GC when it supports other goals, not as a guiding principle like the moralizing frame suggests. GC incompatible with need to make trade-offs, can only cut so much inefficiency out



“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.


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The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable gave out two distinguished awards during the 20th Annual GC&E Conference in Portland, Oregon this past June.


Peter Dunn, recently retired from Pfizer, was recognized for his years of dedicated service to the implementation of green chemistry and engineering  through the Roundtable and within the global pharmaceutical industry. The Roundtable presented him with a “Green Chemistry & Engineering Impact in Industry” award.


Dunn was a founding member and former cochair of the Roundtable where he helped initiate the research grant program, supported the growth of the Roundtable and was  one of the  lead authors of the formative Green Chemistry article ‘Key green chemistry research areas—a perspective from pharmaceutical manufacturers’, which has received  over 435 citations to date since it was published in in 2007. Later Dunn served on the editorial board of Green Chemistry and highlighted green chemistry research by coauthoring 13 of the Roundtable’s popular ‘Green Chemistry Articles of Interest’. Dunn held the industry’s first “green chemistry” position at Pfizer and developed an environmentally-friendly commercial process for making Viagra, among other scientific achievements.


DSC_4448b.jpgPete Dunn posing with members of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable.
Left to Right: John Wong, Pfizer; Juan Colberg, Pfizer; Sa V. Ho, Pfizer; John Tucker, Amgen; Pete Dunn, Barry Dillon, AstraZeneca; Daniel Richter, Pfizer.



Professor Charles Liotta, Georgia Tech, was recognized by the Roundtable for his life-long dedication to research and education. Liotta is a recognized leader in physical-organic and polymer chemistry; he is perhaps best known for his breakthrough discoveries and seminal books on phase transfer catalysis.


He has served for nine years as the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, and has headed the Institute for Sustainable Technology and Development. In 2014 Liotta earned Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Georgia Tech.  Liotta’s awards are numerous including a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award with colleague Dr. Charles Eckert in 2004. More recently, Liotta earned an ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable Research Grant in 2012 and since then and has presented the research results at several invited symposia. The Roundtable presented Liotta a Lifetime Achievement Award.


Liotta Award Group Shot.jpg

Prof. Liotta receives his award.
Left to right: Barry Dillon, AstraZeneca; John Tucker, Amgen; Charles Liotta, Georgia Tech; Mike Kopach, Eli Lilly.



“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.


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