Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog

69 Posts authored by: Christiana Briddell

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.


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

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.



“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.

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.


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

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.


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

Henry Ford:


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


Source: Ford News, p.49, March 1933

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


References: roducts-materials-choosing.html



“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.

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


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


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



Credit: Joe Lertola, Bryan Christie Design


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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


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

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


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



Click on the infographic to see it in full size


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


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


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



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


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

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


19th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

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


Green Chemistry Makes a Difference: Pharmaceutical Industry/Academic Collaborations

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


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


Find out more at



“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.

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


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


Long-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals


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


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


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


Short-Chain Perfluorinated Chemicals


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Non-Fluorinated Alternatives


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


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


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


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



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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


For more information on the conference go to or contact


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


More information can be found at



“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.

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


Academic Category:

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

“Aerobic Oxidation Methods for Pharmaceutical Synthesis”


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




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

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


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





Greener Reaction Conditions:

Solazyme, Inc., South San Francisco, California


“Tailored Oils Produced from Microalgal Fermentation”


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




Designing Greener Chemicals:

QD Vision, Inc., Lexington, Massachusetts


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


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



Greener Synthetic Pathways:

The Solberg Company, Green Bay, Wisconsin

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


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



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



“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.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



“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.

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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



“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.