Skip navigation

At this year’s Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Portland, OR, I had the opportunity to interview David Widawsky, Director of the Chemistry, Economics, and Sustainable Strategies Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We discussed regulation, innovation, the future of green chemistry and much more.

 

Ashley: What is the EPA doing for green chemistry right now?

 

David: That’s a very open question, and we’re doing a lot of things. I think that recognition, as Jim Jones said during the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA) ceremony, is an important part of what we do to raise awareness. Our work to support the PGCCA occurs under our pollution prevention activities. Much of the work associated with the awards is voluntary; people aren't required to do it. It’s exciting that we have so many people that want to be involved with our green chemistry program.

widawsky.PNG

Part of what we're doing in addition to raising awareness is trying to identify opportunities to educate the public, elected officials, public officials and industries in the opportunities around green chemistry. For example, we’ve done work to educate folks around safer coatings and materials: low VOC coatings, UV curable coatings, etc. Innovations in this area help reduce the amount of energy and volatizing chemicals that go into curing coating, and they help reduce the use of toxic chemicals in the processes. So, this is one example of sharing success stories in areas of activity in technology innovation, economic development, and research innovation that is exciting for us.

 

One of the things we’re trying to do more actively now is to identify pollution prevention /green chemistry as a solution for some of our regulatory challenges. One of the examples that I gave this morning to introduce the session we had on PGCCA winners was an example from Cytec Industries, a company that won an award in 2012 for replacing sulfuric acid in descaling processing pipes when processing alumina from bauxite. Huge amounts of spent sulfuric acid that were previously generated are no longer a liability for those bauxite processors. Permitting challenges, potential water quality issues, potential solid waste issues, waste management, etc. all might find solutions when the new process is used.

 

When we’re looking at ways to manage environmental challenges and meet regulatory requirements we’re trying to raise awareness and position green chemistry as a solution - a business solution - for environmental challenges. It’s not a mandate. When you meet regulatory needs, sometimes you serendipitously meet business needs. We're trying to do more with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and the Department of Commerce in terms of supporting small to medium-sized manufacturers by promoting green chemistry as a solution.

 

We’re trying to work more at the sector level, such as the food processing and automotive industries. We’re looking across the industry sector to ask, what is their chemical foot print? What is their process transformation footprint, and how can green chemistry be a solution? That’s another exciting part of what we’re doing. We have many different irons in the fire to amplify and leverage green chemistry to help facilitate adoption in the marketplace. As public servants we don’t represent any company, but we try to identify opportunities for businesses in this space. We have some resources at our disposal, and we try to get involved and participate in important conversations with procurement officials, investors, and supply chain managers. Our goal is to help make green chemistry part of normalized supply chains. So that’s a long answer to your short question.

 

Ashley: How do you think rewarding green chemistry through programs like the PGCCA compares to regulating companies?

 

David: Regulation is a key way that we protect human health and the environment. I appreciate the need for regulation - and we do need it. The same people in our office who manage the PGCCA have a huge role in managing and implementing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). They’re in that place that includes both regulation and EPA’s pollution prevention program, and there’s a complementarity there that we are trying to explore.

 

We’ve recognized some companies with green chemistry awards, and I had a couple of slides in my talk about the auto sector. I mentioned UV-curable coatings earlier. That’s basically developing coatings that can be cured with ultraviolet light instead of heat. When you cure things with heat - whether they’re primers or finished coatings or paint – you’re using a lot of energy. Many coating materials also contain volatile solvents, which may raise concerns. If you take those VOC’s out of the picture it can save companies money, and it can ameliorate or potentially obviate the need for a permit. People might still use coatings with VOCs if they capture the volatile organic carbons and don’t release them into the environment, but investing in that can take money and capital. Why do that when there are green chemistry options out there, that can save these companies money and that will help them to more easily meet regulatory requirements? These are green chemistry options, and that’s where I think the sweet spot is.

 

Ashley: So where do you think is the biggest challenge or bottleneck within a company is in becoming greener? Is it in R&D or is it more on the business side?

 

David: Without working this metaphor too hard, take the metaphor of a chain. There’s a lot of links in that chain. In some cases you may have strong links, but you also may have weak links. In some cases the R&D just isn't there. For example, in some cases people find it hard to get the same performance with non-fluorinated chemicals as they do with fluorinated chemicals - but folks are working hard on innovation in this space. On the other hand, some green chemistry processes have been around for thirty or forty years, but the price points don’t work for businesses or there’s an extremely complicated supply chain relationship. So it may be that changing one chemical or chemical transformation or materials transformation affects a whole lot of capital or capital expenditure.

 

One of the stories we heard about today was one of this year’s PGCCA winners. CB&I and Albemarle developed a solid catalyst system for making alkylate additives for gasoline (which helps gasoline meet environmental standards). However, in order for facilities to modify their plants to use this system there’s potentially a significant capital expenditure cost. It depends on the business and what they're doing. Sometimes, if it’s within a company, the decision to recapitalize their systems to be more efficient is possible depending on what payoff will be. If the price and the economics don't work they might not do it. The other problem is, even if you can recapitalize, how many months or years will it take to see the payback? In that case, the R&D might have become green before the business.cb&i.PNG

 

I think it sometimes has to do with the fact that it’s a business-to-business supply relationship. If a company is thinking adopting green chemistry the question may be: are they using green chemistry to produce the same product, or is there something about the product that changes? If something about the product changes, then they may have a lot of client relations that they have to pursue to get acceptance. They have to ensure the marketplace that they will deliver the same performance, timeliness and volume.

 

Supply chain and customer testing relationships can also be challenging. One of the examples that we've seen is amongst some recent PGCCA winners in the biofuels/renewable fuels spaces or that work on converting of things like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or methane into fuels. In order to get those fuels accepted by the aerospace, car, and space industries there are a lot of tests and certifications that have to happen. That’s an expensive process. Trying to get the Department of Defense to test a new fuel in a hundred million dollar jet can be challenging. There are a lot of steps involved, and it’s an expensive proposition for small startup companies that can represent a pretty serious investment.

 

A fascinating example from the auto sector is one from Hyundai North America.  I heard a story two or three years ago at a meeting of the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, an auto supply sector organization that the EPA helped launch.  Hyundai said they were looking for greener foam for their seats and headrests. Their seat supplier didn’t know how to produce it because they buy their foam from a foam manufacturer. There are multiple tiers to that supply chain. So Hyundai says they want this, and the seat supplier says I don’t know how to get that. The foam supplier eventually figured that they could change their business or lose out. That supply chain relationship took some complicated and delicate conversations, but eventually the seat manufacturer was able to source out much greener foam for their seats. That kind of industry involvement creates more awareness in the supply chains. Their willingness to go outside of what’s been done for decades and think about things a little differently was key to moving that forward.

 

We’re trying to figure out and learn more about supply-chain relationships. What are the sweet spots? What are the pressure points? What are the weak links in the chain? There may not be a federal assistance or recognition program that will fix every link, but the more we are aware of challenges the more effective we can be. If there’s something we can’t do, we can at least shine light on the issue and raise awareness about it. Otherwise, we work to identify opportunities and options to make a positive impact.

 

Among the many exciting things about being at this conference is all of the stories. Pretty much every company is experiencing some type of challenge, but each of these challenges presents an opportunity.

 

Ashley: If something like greener foams is a challenge for the automotive industry, why isn’t there more pre-competitive collaboration like what we have with the Pharmaceutical Roundtable?

 

David: In pharma, they’re all working in the precompetitive space so the idea of reducing the cost of say, oxidation, is a common good. No one is competing in that space. They’re all competing on their active ingredients for their drugs, which they’re obviously not sharing information about. But they know all these drugs need an oxidation reaction, and every company would be better off if they could do greener oxidations. It won’t throw off the competitive model.

 

I think the automotive and electronics industries are still trying to figure out where they can and can’t collaborate. Organizations that have credibility as supporting competition, supporting the American business model and have credibility in the environmental space could serve a really important role. We’re starting to see that in certain areas. A variety of non-governmental, non-profit organizations are trying to make those connections. There are some interesting stories out there, so we’re keeping our ears open.

 

Ashley: If we’re developing green chemistry solutions that are hard to implement here, do you think those solutions would be easier to implement in developing countries that don’t already have so much infrastructure?

 

David: Absolutely. There are some really exciting things going on in distributive models. One of the companies that was recognized last year with a PGCCA, Renmatix, is developing methods for using supercritical water for breaking down woody biomass. Jim Jones and I visited their pilot plant recently, and they’re looking at potentially building large plants near sources of woody biomass or potentially developing more modular systems. In these modular units, you have a potential feedstock that may be biobased, you have a system that can potentially be self-sustaining (like using lignin to power the plant), and you can make it small or large scale. There are some huge opportunities for companies using this kind of approach.

 

We heard today from Newlight, one of this year’s PGCCA winners, about converting methane to PHA and precursors for plastics. Their vision is to have production capabilities for this fitting on the back of a semi. These types of innovations provide opportunities for developing countries.

 

Hybrid Coating Technologies, a company that won an award in 2015 for their isocyanate-free resin coatings, may or may not, for example, manufacture in developing countries. But, as one of their partner companies said, when you go into an auto-supply or auto-repair shop you see large numbers of cautionary signs about the chemicals that they’re using.  Coatings may often contain a number of sensitizing compounds. Not using those chemicals means that people can avoid cumbersome and expensive personal protective equipment, sometimes called moon suits. Having lived in tropical countries myself, I can assure you that it could be very uncomfortable to wear a moon-suit to apply insulating foam, paints or coatings to vehicles in hot and humid locales, and the risk is that people won’t use them. The potential public health benefits of green chemistry in those countries could be massive, even larger, perhaps, than in the US.

 

Ashley: Where do you see green chemistry being in ten or fifteen years?

 

David: Hopefully everywhere! Sometimes I think we need to stop and look around. We’re surrounded by green chemistry opportunities.  Take textiles: the chairs we’re sitting on, the carpet under our feet, in our vehicles, our houses. Everywhere. The plastics that go into your phone cover, on our conference badges, adhesives. These are just a couple of areas where we’re seeing innovations in green chemistry.

 

Among the most exciting things is all of the fantastic basic chemistry research that’s happening because of green chemistry. There’s a lot of work going in to fine-tuning our chemistry knowledge which helps reduce the cost of production. Paul Chirik, one of the PGCCA winners this year, was talking about how when they started out it was really expensive to produce their earth-abundant metal catalysts. But through fine-tuning these activities they’ve been able to get those price-points down.

 

In five to ten years I’d like to see more of this everywhere. I’d like to see industry organizations on the supply side take a more active role in educating their members and member companies on the economic and business opportunities around green chemistry. We’re seeing this in pharmaceuticals. A huge amount of work has been done in pharma to reduce solvents, for example. The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has led a great example. We’ve seen a lot of interesting work in the auto supply sector through the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment organization that the EPA helped start. There’s also a lot going on in the food and electronics industries.

 

In five or ten years I’d like to see industry organizations showing companies that use materials or transform those materials, that their work can be an active opportunity to pull economically advantageous, business-oriented, wonderfully green innovations into the market. I think those industry organizations will be the strong voices. The EPA, the ACS GCI and other organizations can help initiate those conversations, but the industry organizations and the supply chains themselves will be the real pulls.

 

 

 

Photos by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A simple Google search of “green chemistry” and “hydrogen peroxide” will quickly display many links to the reported environmental benefits of using hydrogen peroxide in chemical reactions. From a winner of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award in 1999 to more recent “green” chemistry lab experiments, a cursory glance will lead you to believe that hydrogen peroxide is a model reagent. This view has scarcely shifted in the more than twenty years of growth in the field of sustainable chemistry. But are the commonly touted benefits enough for this chemical to be considered “green”?

 

Hydrogen peroxide is known to produce water as an innocuous reaction byproduct, and it’s used as a safer alternative to chlorinated oxidants. But green chemistry is, in a large part, also about looking at the entire life cycle of a product, material or chemical. It’s evaluating even useful chemicals and asking if they’re ideal or if they can be improved upon. It’s therefore surprising that hydrogen peroxide is commonly cited as a “green” reagent – surprising for reasons like its associated safety concerns and unsustainable production process. Discussion of what makes something “green” – a reaction, product, feedstock, material or process – is at its core a discussion of metrics. How do we measure environmental, health and safety improvements? The challenges and perceptions of hydrogen peroxide beg the question: who determines what trade-offs are worthwhile, and which aren’t?

 

In 2005, a team of scientists from NASA and Honeywell assembled a historical review of “Hydrogen Peroxide Accidents and Incidents.” The report illustrates clearly that challenges arise when the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is raised for lab or industrial applications to 30% or more - ten times higher than what you’d use to disinfect a cut.

 

In addition to being a strong oxidant and corrosive, upon interaction with some organic compounds hydrogen peroxide can transform into an explosive ingredient. This is exactly what happened in Helena, Montana in 1989 when a runaway train collided with another train and derailed. Over 26,000 gallons of 70% hydrogen peroxide spilled and reacted with spilled isopropyl alcohol and ground contaminants. Windows at nearby Carroll College were blown out by the fire and explosions that ultimately resulted in the evacuation of 3,500 residents and six million dollars of clean up and repairs. The very qualities that make hydrogen peroxide a highly effective bleaching agent for the textile and paper industries are the same that pose a risk to safety.

 

Of course, there’s no need to panic about hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet. The IARC and Public Health England are just two of many organizations that don’t consider hydrogen peroxide to be a carcinogen in humans, and most hydrogen peroxide that you buy at the store is likely only three to six percent concentrated. Just as hydrochloric acid in your stomach is different from the 6 molar HCl under the hood, you can imagine that these differences in concentration command very different considerations.

 

That said, hydrogen peroxide at these higher concentrations is hazardous to human health and the environment. It’s corrosive to metal, skin and eyes and is acutely toxic. In a 2014 press release about sun screen the American Chemical Society noted that, “high amounts of hydrogen peroxide can harm phytoplankton, the microscopic algae that feed everything from small fish to shrimp to whales.” It’s in the second-highest health hazard category for both humans and for long-term harm to aquatic life. It’s not hard to imagine that its production, transportation, storage and application on a large, industrial scale would pose problems.

 

Hydrogen peroxide expands, sometimes dangerously, when heated or boiled, meaning that even stationary storage or processes like distillation can become dangerous.  There are numerous accounts of leaking drums or slightly contaminated hydrogen peroxide causing explosions as a result of its high reactivity. This can be dangerous even on small, laboratory scales. In 1957 at Rocky Flats, for example, radioactive plutonium was released into a lab because hydrogen peroxide was exposed to minor impurities. Traces of iron, copper and nickel initiated a catalytic reaction in a glove box, pressurizing the box until the radioactive materials were ejected outwards.  More recently in 2010, Chemical and Engineering News reported that a mixture of hydrogen peroxide (35%) and acetic anhydride resulted in an explosion at Northwestern University, seriously injuring a chemist.

 

There are many more accounts of lab incidents – sometimes fatal ones - resulting from hydrogen peroxide use that could illustrate this point: it’s not that hydrogen peroxide should never be used, but that its reputation among green chemists as being harmless deserves more scrutiny. Hydrogen peroxide has, in many cases, served society well; it’s used to treat drinking water, remove stains, produce pharmaceuticals, and as a disinfectant in homes and hospitals.

 

This brings us to the actual production processes used to make hydrogen peroxide. The challenges with this chemical go beyond storage, use, and transportation. Because green chemists must use systems thinking – looking at the big picture, from the time a material is extracted from the earth through its manufacture and ultimate disposal – it’s key to look at how chemicals are made.

 

Hydrogen peroxide is produced almost exclusively using the anthraquinone process. The very first step in its manufacture, as described by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, poses problems for the chemist trying to be “green.” To begin with, a palladium catalyst is called for to carry out the initial hydrogenation. Palladium is well-known to be a critical material: difficult to extract and expensive to obtain while being an inherently finite resource. The social and environmental impacts of extracting materials like platinum group metals (PGMs) can be devastating, and market stability is unreliable with an estimated 88% of the world’s PGM supply being located in South Africa. There is huge water and energy consumption associated with PGM mining, and it produces greenhouse gases and difficult to handle solid waste streams.  On top of that, we’ve previously explored the challenges around most industrially produced hydrogen, particularly the fact that it’s almost exclusively sourced from non-renewables.

 

And this is just the first of four main steps.  Additional steps require a non-polar solvent like benzene – a human carcinogen - to dissolve the anthraquinone that’s been produced, followed by additional solvents to dissolve even more quinone byproducts that result from that reaction.

 

With hydrogen peroxide being one of the world’s top 100 most important chemicals, it’s extremely unlikely we’ll see a reduction in its use anytime soon. What if we could at least produce hydrogen peroxide in a green and sustainable way? This is an opportunity for innovation that would serve nearly every facet of industrial chemistry. Researchers are developing routes to produce hydrogen peroxide directly to be more step-economic. These include via noble-metal catalysis, fuel cells and plasma methods. While none of these methods are perfect – for example, continued use of palladium – it’s a step in the right direction in achieving more efficient, greener production. Headwaters Technology Innovation Group, for example, earned a 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award based on their less energy-intensive, direct synthesis of hydrogen peroxide, but it relied on the use of palladium-platinum nanocatalysts. This method has the added benefits of producing higher yields at a lower cost although the process has not been taken to large scale. In China, researchers have likewise worked to develop a palladium-catalyzed but more efficient, less hazardous synthesis of hydrogen peroxide. Even in this team’s conclusion they state that there is still much work to do, and that “the most promising technology in the future will be direct synthesis of hydrogen peroxide from hydrogen and oxygen without using anthraquinone as the reaction carrier.”

 

So where does this leave chemists? It’s our duty as scientists to keep asking how we can improve – for the environment, for our health - the processes and materials around us. Time and time again, serendipity and perseverance have proven that anything can be achieved through chemistry. Surely, there is a sustainable, safe method of producing hydrogen peroxide or an entirely new reagent that will allow the chemical transformations that are considered dependent on it to occur.

 

This is yet another opportunity for chemists and chemical engineers to design greener chemicals, chemistries, and processes that enable a more sustainable future. While hydrogen peroxide has its advantages, we can and should do better. Are you up to this challenge of pursuing greener options at each stage of production and use not just for hydrogen peroxide, but across all of chemistry?

 

 

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

 

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

At this year’s GC&E conference, I had the chance to interview Shawn Hunter, Global EH&S Product Sustainability Leader for Building and Construction at the Dow Chemical Company. Here, read our discussion about Dow’s sustainability initiatives, successful interdisciplinary efforts, and prospects for the future of chemistry.

shawn.PNG

 

Ashley: How is green chemistry involved in what you do at Dow?

 

Shawn: In my role I am responsible for product stewardship and sustainability for Dow’s Building & Construction (B&C) business group. What that means is integrating sustainability and product stewardship into business strategy, which entails making sure our products are safe for their intended uses and compliant with regulations, as well as coordinating B&C sustainability activities and setting our B&C sustainability goals. Green chemistry fits into that in a big way because we spend a lot of time looking at new materials, new substances, and new ideas.  It’s part of our whole innovation process.

 

At Dow, we have a 2025 Sustainability Goal around Delivering Breakthrough Innovation. We have a defined stage-gate process for developing new technology, and part of that process includes an emphasis on green chemistry. We want to have an understanding around the EH&S aspects of the substances we are dealing with and of the new products that we are designing. Then, we look at what it takes for that specific new idea or new innovation project to be successful in the market. Green chemistry fits directly into that.

 

Another 2025 Sustainability Goal related to green chemistry is our Increasing Confidence in Chemical Technology goal. This goal seeks to broaden the conversation on the perceptions of chemical technology, and build stakeholder confidence in the safe use of chemical technology to address our sustainability challenges. Green chemistry is front and center in the work that we are doing on this goal related to value chain outreach, collaboration, and product transparency.

 

A: Since this year’s conference is themed around “design,” can you speak to how Dow works to design products to be safe throughout the whole life cycle?

 

S: Our Product Stewardship organization implements Dow’s product commitment to Responsible Care®, which is our commitment to develop products that can be made and used safely throughout the life cycle. It begins with characterizing the risks of our products by first assessing the hazards of the materials that we’re considering using, and proceeds considering the end-use application of the product where we look at the potential for exposure. Here we rely heavily on our Dow toxicologists; we are lucky to have a world-class toxicologist group available to help, sometimes just by walking to the office next door. And they are providing more and more predictive toxicology tools and capabilities so we can incorporate that information even sooner in our innovation process. We make decisions around which chemistries or technologies to pursue based on a number of factors, which include the safety of the materials used in the application.

 

A good example of the way that we think about this is demonstrated by Dow BLUEDGE™ Polymeric Flame Retardant Technology. Development of this technology was very green chemistry inspired, as the focus was on developing a low-hazard solution to an industry challenge. A number of years ago the polystyrene foam insulation industry was using a flame retardant, HBCD (Hexabromocyclododecane), which has been classified as a PBT (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic) and a Stockholm POP (persistent organic pollutant).

 

There was a clear need in the market for a replacement for HBCD. We took that as a challenge to ask, “How we can as Dow—with our innovation and chemical and toxicological expertise—come up with a replacement for HBCD in order to fit in this application and be commercially successful?”

 

Of course if you are replacing a PBT compound, you need to have a non-PBT substance as the replacement. Something that has a really good toxicity profile would be even better. And of course it needs to perform—flame retardants have a critical function in the safety of the end use product. So we started with a huge list of over a hundred compounds and went through a tiered process to find what worked. First we screened out candidates based on a predictive toxicology. Once we got rid of those with red flags we moved to the next tier and started to do testing for things like PBT properties, acute toxicity, or mutagenicity. These are well-defined steps that we use to rule out candidates at an early stage and progress to the next. This tiered approach, which allowed us to optimize the time and effort needed to find the solution, was a smart way of thinking about the innovation process to help us find a successful polymeric solution to the challenge in the market.

 

A: This being the 10th time that Dow has won the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, how do you think the processes have improved over time and what are the greatest challenges of implementing them?

 

S: I’m really excited that Dow has reached number ten with the Instinct® nitrogen stabilizer. I was at the award ceremony on Monday before the GC&E Conference, and that was pretty cool to see. When I think of our 2025 Sustainability Goals, we really have set big, bold aspirational goals. We’re talking about things like, how do we help lead a blueprint that allows us to transition to a sustainable society? As a society we are not necessarily at a sustainable place today, but we need to get there in the future. At Dow, we know we have a role to play by helping guide and enable that transition. When you look at the role that green chemistry can play, it’s all about the innovation opportunity.  As we continue to have these aspirational goals, one challenge might be to really comprehend just how significant our work can be toward defining a sustainable tomorrow.  But the opportunity and potential are there, and we have a lot of folks that are really excited about this across the globe, working on new technologies, and I hope that these 10 awards are just the beginning!

 

A: You mentioned that you work with a number of toxicologists. Do you have interdisciplinary teams of chemists and toxicologists or do your chemists have toxicology training?

 

S: I think that the issue of how to incorporate the toxicology knowledge with the chemistry knowledge is super important. I really like the idea that Paul Anastas mentioned in his Keynote address about these merging over time. You absolutely need to have both.  I again feel very lucky that at DOW we can pull together these cross-disciplinary teams to solve problems. We’re not turning our chemists into toxicologists, but they’re learning a lot from our tox experts, and are applying that tox knowledge in their own thinking as they design new products. Going back to the polymeric flame retardant example, we pulled together a range of people to help address this challenge, which meant that innovation chemists, process chemists, product chemists, toxicologists, manufacturing guys, commercial guys, and sales and marketing folks were all a part of this huge effort. You certainly cannot bring a green chemistry technology from ideation to implementation by yourself in a lab. Having a collaborative nature and getting external stakeholder feedback helps to guide a solution to success.

 

A: Does Dow have its own metrics for green chemistry?

 

S: Dow is a very metrics oriented company - that’s what happens when you have a company of chemists and engineers. If you look at Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals, there are a whole lot of metrics within them.  We have seven high-level goals; each of those goals contain additional metrics.

 

So from the 2025 innovation goal we then have, for example, a metric about delivering an R&D portfolio that has a 6:1 benefit to burden ratio from a life cycle perspective. This helps us strive for new solutions that bring energy and climate change benefits to the market. Improved food packaging, for example, might take a little bit of energy or carbon investment to make, but can save the embedded carbon or energy in the food. You are spending a little CO2, to save a lot of CO2 in the end.  That sort of benefit-to-burden ratio is seen as a life cycle investment.

 

A: Finally, do you have any thoughts about the conference or your experience so far or any thoughts on where Dow is going to go with green chemistry?

 

S: The conference this year is outstanding. There are so many important conversations going on in terms of breaking down silos and making sure that the right folks are talking to each other. The point you brought up about our toxicologists talking to our chemists, well I just came from a session where it was really focused on that whole idea.  Some of the talks were on how we make tox-type tools readily available to chemists.These types of conversations are key in advancing green chemistry.

 

Of course, Anastas’ talk was inspiring as always as we think about the future. What’s also great about this conference is that you have a group of folks who really understand the potential of chemistry to help us get to that sustainable place. If we want to get to that world where we have 8-10 billion people that are living well globally and living within the limits of the planet, chemistry - green chemistry - is going to be a key part of that transition.

 

There are a lot of great ideas floating around. Many of them tie into the notion of the sustainability goals at Dow and the blueprint that we need to transition to a sustainable society.  It’s really exciting to see all of these innovations coming down the road, and I’m looking forward to what the next 25 years of green chemistry will bring.

 

 

 

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

 

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

Contributed by Ashley Baker, Research Assistant, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

 

Some dedicated researchers literally look high and low for new compounds to be used in products like pharmaceuticals. The vast majority of chemical building blocks, however, rely on a common set of seven bulk organic chemicals.  These seven precursor chemicals – methanol, ethylene, propylene, butadiene, xylenes, benzene and toluene - are not only produced in some of the highest volumes worldwide, they’re also derived almost exclusively from petroleum.

 

Computational analysis has shown that the more times a chemical has been used in synthesis, the more it becomes a molecular “celebrity.”  A set of core molecules, which represents only 4% of all organic compounds, are involved in over 35% of known reactions, and give rise to more than 78% of the known organic chemical universe.  This results in a low level of chemical diversity, and doesn’t make apparent other options that may be less intrinsically hazardous.  And the data show a troubling trend to boot – as developing countries produce and use more chemicals, they’re relying on the same petroleum-derived starting materials.

 

flasks.PNG

Of course, it’s only natural that chemists use the building blocks they’re familiar with. They ensure thermodynamically and kinetically favorable reactions, result in the highest yields, react in predictable ways, are “easily” obtained (i.e. lowest cost), and generally don’t require sophisticated reactors or laboratory technology. Yet, a look at our standard set of chemical building blocks begs the question: are chemists inherently limiting their ability to innovate with their loyalty to the familiar?  Certainly there are molecules with unique biological properties for treating disease, for example, which have yet to be discovered.

 

As technologies emerge to produce chemicals biosynthetically, another question arises: should the focus be on creating these same chemicals – and wedding ourselves to their associated risks – or are there other kinds of chemicals available to us, but hidden, tucked away in common things like mangroves and dairy products, that are waiting to be put to a different use? Not only do these new molecules need to be discovered, but it’s imperative that chemists adopt synthetic biology as just another synthesis tool to broaden their ability to make useful and more sustainable chemical transformations.  In 2013, annual production capacity for renewably-sourced chemicals was approximately 113 MMT, including nearly 89 MMT of ethanol capacity. That’s less than a third of the global production of the seven bulk organic chemicals mentioned earlier.

 

What will it take for renewable and sustainably-derived chemical building blocks to replace the large volumes of petroleum-derived chemicals currently used? There are a wide range of initiatives and research projects that are building a revised chemical library consisting of biobased and renewable alternatives.  Simple bio-based chemical building blocks like ethylene derived from ethanol hold promise for replacing their naphtha-derived counterparts. In addition to avoiding the use of fossil fuels, a larger chemical library means more options as we explore and design alternative chemicals and chemical processes that are safer for humans and the environment.  As biosynthetic chemistry advances, it will enable the development and utilization of an enzyme’s high selectivity to functionalize molecules in ways that are not practical through conventional organic synthetic chemistry routes.

 

Combining biological approaches with traditional synthetic organic chemistry will give us access to molecules with new functionality in fewer, more efficient steps. Broad approaches to finding different chemicals are helping to define new classes of compounds that may offer interesting alternatives to standard synthetic route strategies.  An Australian biodiscovery company, for example, is working to discover new chemical structures and families from a vast array of microbial outputs.  The potential for discovering new functionalities from microbes that can be added to existing chemical structures is, for all practical purposes, endless. Another implication of research into the use of synthetic biology is the possibility of producing unique, highly tailored products and materials.

 

On the other hand, there are a large number of projects aimed at tackling one chemical challenge at a time, as for example replacing synthetic styrene-butadiene latex with a biodegradable lignin-based adhesive.  Materials such as plant proteins are also being explored for a variety of different end use applications.  The results of studies like these is that in many cases the new materials have improved properties over their petroleum-based counterparts, like plastic films with better strength and elasticity.  While these examples are many and compelling, it is unfortunate that the path to commercialization continues to be challenging.

 

Still, expanding our chemical library is an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs. Bio-based, renewable and potentially more sustainable chemicals from small start-ups are working to develop markets to increase the demand for novel and more sustainable chemical alternatives. The ACS GCI recently started the ACS GCI Biochemical Technology Leadership Roundtable, uniquely devoted to catalyzing and enabling the bio-based and renewable chemicals economy by promoting the underlying science required for the development and implementation of bio-based and renewable chemical technologies.  However, with petroleum at such a low cost, these start-ups are struggling and many technical challenges remain.

 

From pine trees to yeast, there are huge possibilities for a  more sustainable chemistry enterprise in the future.  It seems that every day there’s another breakthrough in a biosynthetic method, or another start-up has begun making chemicals from waste, or from some other bio-based source.  Although the widespread adoption may be slow-going, more researchers and businesses continue to pursue success in creating safer, financially beneficial, and more robust products through an increasingly diverse and more sustainable chemical library.


 

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

 

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

Introduction

 

To make an alkane from an alkene, a carboxylic acid from a nitrile, or a ketone from an alcohol, a chemist will most likely consider hydrogen a key ingredient. What a chemist might not consider, for these and many other cornerstone reactions, is from where that hydrogen is sourced.

 

Any concern raised about our hydrogen supply might seem like a moot point. Hydrogen is, after all, the most abundant element in the universe. But while hydrogen is vital in processes that support everything from global food production to fibers in clothing, the supply and production methods aren’t often topics of conversation. As a key building block for ammonia, hydrogen is an important ingredient in fertilizers that support global food production. Meanwhile, ammonia is the second largest chemical product produced worldwide. In addition, many biological products like vegetable oils are often hydrogenated to improve their oxidative stability. Polymers, another huge segment of the chemical industry, often rely on methanol produced using hydrogen as a reagent. To provide some scale for the magnitude at which chemical industry relies on hydrogen, the plastics market alone (a subcategory of the broader polymers market) is projected to be worth $654.38 billion by 2020.

 

Despite much talk about a pollution-free “hydrogen economy” for hydrogen as an energy carrier, the majority of hydrogen – up to 95% - is produced for industrial use in chemical upgrading. The process of steam –methane reforming uses methane derived from natural gas. The energy-intensive reaction operates under far-from mild conditions, requiring 1000-degree Celsius steam under up to 362 psi pressure in the presence of a catalyst. The products, in addition to hydrogen, include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Although natural gas is not absolutely essential for hydrogen production it’s an inexpensive and well-established process for doing so.

 

Research and Innovation

 

Hydrogen image-For article.jpg

Most often, hydrogen production is talked about in terms of its viability as a fuel. Although that’s not the focus of this article, the use of hydrogen in transportation has been the impetus for many recently developed technologies that could enable sustainable hydrogen production for large-scale use. While the amount of GHG emissions generated from producing hydrogen via natural gas are less than half compared to conventional gasoline vehicles, it is still a limited technology since employing this process often requires a continued dependence on non-renewable petroleum feedstocks. In short, as Dr. James Jackson, a professor of chemistry at Michigan State University, made clear in a presentation for the Energy Biosciences Institute in 2011, “Hydrogen has to be understood as a petrochemical. If you buy commercial hydrogen today, it’s made by reforming of methane, and it’s essentially always downstream from a fossil source.” Or, in other words, there is work to do whether the context is a hydrogen fuel cell car or a chemical production facility.

 

Although hydrogen production for energy and for chemical manufacturing are quite different, it’s easy to imagine current work on hydrogen fuel cells or energy storage becoming the basis for technology at an industrial scale. While there is a great deal of research toward producing renewable hydgrogen, there are challenges for all of the current methods.

 

For example, hydrogen can be produced via electrolysis, but the energy input is higher than that which hydrogen returns.  At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a wide array of more sustainable water splitting methods are being investigated. Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is just one method of harvesting sunlight to produce hydrogen from water, reaching conversion efficiencies around 12%. These systems employ semiconducting materials which, unfortunately, often require materials with undesirable supply chain risks like gallium, indium or platinum.

 

Alternatives to using critical materials could include metal-organic frameworks made using more abundant materials, eventually achieving similar efficiency. Water can also be split by microbes that produce oxygen and hydrogen from sunlight. Hydrogen photoproduction is, however, currently limited by an organism’s ability to withstand the unusually high oxygen levels that are generated.

 

Similarly, microbes carefully selected for their genetics – for example, microbes that show both potential for direct conversion of hemicellulose to hydrogen and don’t produce unwanted byproducts – are being employed for their potential in hydrogen production via fermentation with low feedstock costs.

 

Biochemical technology has the potential to take the process one step further. For some chemicals it’s possible to skip the hydrogen production step in the first place, directly synthesizing the desired product. For example, researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology are working to engineer nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria for the production of ammonia.

 

Of course, not all current research in the field is bio-based. High-flux solar furnaces can sustainably reach the high temperatures needed to drive thermochemical hydrogen-generating reactions. At NREL, biomass gasification is driven by concentrated solar energy. This process can produce bio-oil as well as up to 83% of the hydrogen potentially available in the biomass. Again, a drawback of this process is that, currently, critical materials are used to achieve the catalytic reformation.

 

But sustainable synthetic molecular catalysts are simultaneously being explored for sustainable hydrogen production. Again utilizing solar energy, carbon quantum dots have been employed in mild conditions for photocatalytic hydrogen generation. Catalysis could provide a twist on the conventional methane steam-reforming – a candidate for more sustainable hydrogen production using bio-derived feedstocks. Although researchers at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology achieved a relatively low efficiency hydrogen conversion from a copper-nickel catalyst and bio-based ethanol, it could be what’s needed to break the trail for more efficient - yet sustainable – catalysts for hydrogen production.

 

 

Looking Ahead

 

It remains to be seen whether or not recently developed hydrogen production methods, like the few discussed here, hold potential for use on an industrial level. The question may become: what technology is the most practical for large-scale hydrogen production? As fuel cells gain acceptance in cars and hydrogen is increasingly generated using renewable energy, perhaps hydrogen infrastructure and understanding will grow to pique industrial interest.

 

Achieving sustainable hydrogen production is likely to be a very slow transitional process, but already the U.S. Department of Energy Fuel Cell Technologies Office anticipates a hydrogen economy where production is diversified, utilizing natural gas augmented with “renewable, nuclear, coal (with carbon capture and storage), and other low-carbon, domestic energy resources.” With ever-increasing capabilities for sustainable hydrogen production, chemical manufacturing that relies little on non-renewable feedstocks may indeed become a thing of the past.

 

 

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

 

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

Contributed by Ashley Baker, Research Assistant, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

 

Slowly but surely the world is waking up to the reality and consequences that come with a disposable tech culture.  In May 2009, The Atlantic revealed “clean energy’s dirty little secret,” the story of how green technologies are currently made possible through the use of rare earth elements.  Just last year, the BBC featured an article detailing the disturbing conditions in and around an Inner Mongolia rare earths processing factory.

 

While the efforts of journalists and scientists seeking to raise awareness about the environmental and geopolitical issues surrounding rare earth elements have not inspired broad action, many different groups are seeking sustainable solutions.

 

Despite their name, these materials are not especially “rare;” certainly, many of them are more abundant in the Earth’s crust than commonly used platinum group metals. The challenges surrounding rare earths have more to do with their geographic concentrations and the difficulty in separating the desired elements from the ore in which they’re bound.

 

rare earth elements table.JPG

To add to the physical challenges of obtaining these materials, politics and global economics play key roles in the world’s supply.  China has the largest concentration of rare earths in the world, enabling the country to exert significant influence on the rare earths market.  Last year, the World Trade Organization determined that China was violating international trade agreements with its export restrictions.  The fact that the U.S., which has struggled to compete with foreign rare earth prices, filed the claim demonstrates the scale of these concerns.

 

Despite the challenges of mining and processing rare earths, our growing dependence on them – for everything from texting to national security – means avoiding them is no straightforward task.  This is where green chemistry can play a key role by re-imagining the processes and chemistries involved and innovating towards more sustainable solutions.  All over the world, chemists and engineers are seeking – and finding – ways to make sure that people throughout the world have access to technology that enables a higher standard of living, and for many years to come.

 

Alternatives, Innovation and Mitigation

Because of the market’s uncertainty associated with the distribution of rare earths, businesses have good reason to seek alternatives to buffer themselves against sudden price changes.  Companies such as Honda, Dell and Solvay are just a few that are innovating and seeking more sustainable ways of using rare earth elements or developing alternative approaches to delivering similar functionality.

 

Designing for recovery and recycling can cut down on the amount of rare earths a company needs to buy.  The Electronics TakeBack Coalition promotes green design and recycling of electronics.  That’s the route Dell is taking.  The theory is that by building products such that rare earth-containing components are easily identifiable and removable, the likelihood of the materials being either collected and reused increases.  Likewise, car manufacturer Tesla teamed up with Umicore to get as many rare earth metals as possible back from their electric engines.  Partnerships that enable more sustainable approaches while reducing operating costs are certainly a win-win.

 

bastnasite.JPG

While some companies look downstream for solutions like recycling, others are investigating opportunities for improvement closer to the beginning of the process.  Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for example, are seeking ways to improve the harsh processing steps.  They’ve found that ionic liquids may prove to be a safer alternative way to extract rare earths from mineral ores like bastnaesite, which is conventionally repeatedly treated with strong acids.  Further research into greener rare-earths processing methods could reduce the environmental impact of using them.

 

Opportunities

While mitigating the effects of using rare earths after the fact is certainly a step in the right direction, it would be ideal to avoid their use in the first place. IRENA is an international collaborative project with the mission of replacing indium and gallium in flat panel displays by using single-walled carbon nanotubes.  Similarly, novel metal alloys with computationally-predicted magnetic properties may just be the way forward.  With the help of computer programs that are more powerful than ever, there’s a chance novel compounds and materials could usurp permanent magnets made from rare earths.

 

The demand for these materials and products is great, and funding opportunities for more extensive research are emerging in response.  The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK began a £10 million program to support alternative, sustainable materials and to accelerate their commercialization.  Stateside, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) created the REACT program (Rare Earth Alternatives in Critical Technologies) to likewise fund research into substitute materials.

 

The current shortcomings of clean energy are certainly fixable; moreover, the methods we use now are hopefully just to tide us over as we transition from fossil fuels. Projects and organizations all over the world – like the Critical Materials Institute and the Critical Raw Materials Innovation Roadmap – are initiating collaborative efforts to create and implement technology that will work today and for many tomorrows. In addition, despite the bad environmental reputation of rare earths mining in China – by far the largest global supplier - there has been a buzz in clean production research over the past few years (reference: section 7.3.7).  Changes in Chinese mining regulation specifically target the most environmentally harmful mining methods, such as those that produce large quantities of radioactive slurry or facilities that fail to treat wastewater, gas and solid waste.  Encouraging results from research institutes and universities across China point to a future of safer and more efficient rare earths mining worldwide.

 

While the challenges may seem insurmountable, assuming there are no viable alternatives is a sure way to not find them, and believing something is impossible is a sure way to inhibit innovation. The future of rare earth element use will certainly require thinking far outside the box, and that could mean anything from mining the moon to undiscovered biochemical routes.

In 1973, the first call from a mobile phone was made on a device that had a twenty minute battery life. Today, you can search the internet (do people even make calls anymore?) for almost 15 hours straight on some phones without running out of juice. In this race for higher capacity, longer lasting batteries the sustainability and safety of the materials hasn’t always been the focus. As the pressure to create and use sustainable materials increases, academic researchers and companies alike are investing more in greener energy storage technologies.

 

batteries free.JPG

With the July reveal of improvements to the Tesla Model S, better batteries have been all the rage. But even Tesla’s batteries aren’t perfect; the car battery is still the size of a mattress and requires a variety of metals. According to the National Academy of Engineering, these blends limit the risk of thermal runaway reactions, but may cut the battery lifespan short.

 

Although lithium ion batteries are commonly used, their challenges include the risk of explosion during transportation or use - as in the case of a popular gift last year - and the manufacturing poses health concerns for workers. Additionally, because of the potential for explosion, lithium ion battery production is expensive. This limits the viability for their incorporation into electric cars and other large devices. The environmental cost of mining these materials also leaves something to be desired.

 

Here’s where green chemistry comes in. These challenges only reveal the plethora of opportunities for innovation. Chemists the world over have been diligently working to develop solutions for better energy storage. In the last year there have been publications ranging from batteries that can be folded like origami to graphene-based supercapacitors.

 

The most common approach to new, more sustainable battery development has been fairly straightforward: replace lithium with a similar, but less hazardous material like sodium. The dual benefits of sodium are its greater abundance and lower risk of explosion when compared to lithium for battery use. In the world of start-ups, developing new batteries is a promising field for those seeking investment. U.K.-based Faradion’s sodium ion battery technology is just one example of entrepreneurship that has caught the attention of the press and researchers alike.

 

lithium ion battery.JPG

 

Of course, sodium and lithium have differences, so scientists at the University of Texas, Austin are working on an eldfellite cathode to allow for more efficient diffusion of sodium ions. Although it requires tweaking our current battery model, the appeal of making sodium work for batteries is high; it is hugely abundant and inexpensive to process.  Sodium has also been used in new flow batteries with aqueous electrolytes, like those with nearly 100% efficiency being developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Other metals being explored as alternatives to lithium include aluminum, iron and calcium.

 

Teams funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) take a wide range of innovative approaches to advance high-impact energy technologies. The agency will provide up to $400 million in funding for energy technologies in 2016. Promising start-ups receiving funding from ARPA-E include a small business called 24-M that is working to combine lithium ion with nanotechnology. They hope to significantly reduce cost while eliminating the need for organic solvents and improving recyclability. As new batteries are developed, such a degree of focus on design is key to ensuring safety and sustainability.

 

At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a collaboration between NASA and the California Institute of Technology, big things are happening in metal hydride/air technology. In addition to using fewer non-renewable metals, reducing our dependence on petroleum products is an important driver for many research groups. To promote adoption of electric vehicles, an ARPA-E supported project in progress at the JPL seeks to develop a new aqueous, low cost battery. A different motivation for similar technology - wearable electronics like this flexible zinc-air battery that uses a non-precious metal catalyst - are creating another push for better battery development.

 

Other research groups are moving away from traditional battery models altogether. A paper to be published in Green Chemistry, “Biomass-derived binderless fibrous carbon electrodes for ultrafast energy storage” hints a very different future for batteries. Perhaps instead of metal-dependent batteries, the key to sustainable energy storage is in renewable, biobased materials. This route could address many of the challenges associated with traditional batteries, like eliminating the need for and environmental impact of mining associated with battery materials.

 

With ever-increasing demand for longer lasting, less expensive batteries it’s impossible to say which energy storage technology will take the lead. While it may be one of these ideas currently in development, with green chemistry-inspired innovation batteries in the future could make our lithium ion-powered cell phones seem as ridiculous as the shoebox-sized phones of the 1970’s seem now.

 

 

 

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

 

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

There has been a lot of activity around green chemistry this year, and we’d like to take the time to highlight some of the biggest stories – the top fifteen of 2015 – to demonstrate the accomplishments of the field. These stories, in no particular order, come from research labs and Capitol Hill alike.

 

capitol.JPG1. Nearly forty years after the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted there's been an update to national chemical regulation. The U.S. Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. If you fancy some denser reading, here’s the Senate Congressional Record. The Environmental Defense Fund had glowing remarks about the passing vote.

 

2. In December, Colorado State University chemists announced the development of the first fully recyclable polymer. If innovation is looking where others aren’t, this Colorado State University research group hit the nail on the head.

 

slowchemistry.JPG

3. This year, green chemistry was frequently mentioned as a part of efforts by large retailers as they take greater action to address potentially hazardous chemicals in their products. Target and Walmart, for example, made the news via their partnership with Forum for the Future. Although Target and Walmart got the most press because of their size they are far from the only retailers making a shift towards stricter supply chain regulations. Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson and Unilever are just a few other brands that are working together for safer consumer products.

 

4. An article in Nature introduced a sub-field of green chemistry, the concept of the Slow Chemistry Movement. Referred to in this article as lazy man’s chemistry, low energy-input solid-state methods hold potential as an area for discovery.

 

5. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable. Dr. Juan Colberg, Co-Chair of the Roundtable stated, “As we look ahead with our collaboration, the Roundtable will continue to sponsor exciting research and development in green alternatives. By working together, we can help develop processes that are more sustainable, environmentally sound and cost effective.” The Roundtable has developed a common solvent selection guide, process mass intensity calculator, a reagent guide, provided over $1.5 million in grants, and more. The roundtable also held three events, like this free research symposium, over the course of 2015.

 

                                                                     

 

6. The Green Chemistry Education Roadmap project was initiated to help focus and coordinate individual and regional efforts to move the field of green chemistry forward. In September, the ACS GCI hosted a visioning workshop and is currently organizing a larger roadmapping workshop to take place in 2016.

 

endangeredelementsci.JPG7. In chemistry, what it means to “go mainstream” isn’t always clear-cut. These graphics created by Compound Interest are undoubtedly a good sign for green chemistry.

  1. Endangered elements
  2. 12 principles

 

8. The Green Chemistry Innovation Portal was launched by ACS GCI and GC3. This website is a multi-faceted tool to connect and expand the green chemistry community.

 

9. This well-circulated report, released in May, provided a foundation for the business case for safer chemistry. Although it doesn’t provide definitive answers to all of our questions about the market for green chemistry, it does create a starting place for future studies and might catch the eye of potential investors. Based on this report, evidence that green chemistry products show higher sales growth was certainly a hot topic in the news.

 

10. Twenty years ago, the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards were established to “promote the environmental and economic benefits of developing and using novel green chemistry.” According to the U.S. EPA over 1,500 nominations have been made so far, and a new category for innovations that mitigate climate change was added this year. The PGCCA will be joining the ACS GCI in Portland next June for the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.

 

11. In June, the US Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred® program published a report that demonstrates the positive correlation between U.S. job growth and biobased products. The report was accompanied by a handy infographic that helps show the viability of the U.S. bioeconomy.

 

parisclimatetalks.JPG12. Representatives from various sectors of the chemical industry were active at the Paris Climate Summit. In particular, Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council, made forward-looking statements about the industry’s responsibility and role as the world moves forward to prevent further environmental harm. The group also put forth their plans to help meet each of the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations Environment Programme.

 

13. Separation processes account for over a third of the energy used in chemical manufacturing. To address this, Alt Sep (Sustainable Separations Processes) Project was initiated by the ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable. Sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the project is rooted in a collaborative partnership between the ACS GCI and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), this initiative aims to fundamentally change the way we apply separation technologies in chemical manufacturing. There are also opportunities for the community to get involved.

 

14. In April, Scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California achieved a breakthrough for the environment. Through a combination of nanowires and bacteria to mimic photosynthesis, researchers found a solar energy-powered way to convert carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products. Conversion of carbon dioxide and other materials to chemicals through biosynthetic routes has been gaining traction all year. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Image credit: energy.gov

 

lawrence berkeley.JPG

15. The Guardian hosted a “making green chemistry mainstream” event in New York City this September to address challenges and overwhelming opportunities in green chemistry. A series of articles covering the event provided unprecedented coverage of the field by a global publication.

 

 

 

What would be your top green chemistry stories from 2015? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is once again holding the only business plan competition exclusively devoted to green and sustainable chemistry and engineering. Early stage, pre-revenue companies and innovators who are reimagining chemistry for a sustainable future are encouraged to apply. All it takes for the chance to win the $10,000 grand prize is a great idea, an Executive Summary and a short video about the green business concept.

siotex400.jpg

Winning ideas have included anti-corrosion coatings, a triple-green alternative to fumed silica, and innovative lithium-ion battery technology. Several past winners leveraged their success at the GC&E Business Plan Competition to win awards at the Rice University Business Plan Competition – the largest graduate-student level business plan competition in the world.

 

For the GC&E Business Plan Competition, a panel of judges selects semi-finalists based on their proposed solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Semi-finalists who are accepted to compete will develop a full business plan and participate in the competition’s social media crowdfunding campaign. In addition to the chance to win prize money and market your company to the green chemistry community, the competition provides access to a free webinar on how to create a business plan, intellectual property law experts, early stage investors, networking with industry leaders and more in the green and sustainable chemistry space.

 

Don’t miss this opportunity to receive business plan training and high-end constructive comments, and to make valuable business connections. And of course, the chance to win BIG money.

 

Applications are due April 8th, 2016 5:00 p.m. EDT (GMT -4)

For more details on how to apply, please visit the GC&E Business Plan Competition website.

 

All semi-finalists will be required to submit a full business plan and attend the final competition, which will take place July 15, 2016 on-site at the 20th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Portland, Oregon.