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Green Chemistry: The Nexus Blog

28 Posts authored by: Savannah Sullivan

When consumers think about chemistry and chemicals, more often than not household items such as cleaning supplies and personal care products are the first to come to mind. Chemical formulators are the chemists who identify the functions a product needs to deliver and the chemicals that, upon combination, can provide the needed function. The industry uses hundreds of chemicals to formulate the products we use everyday—this industry produces “household care products (over US$80 billion worldwide p.a.) such as detergents, cleansers, polishes, air fresheners, and insecticides, plus personal care products (over US$200 billion worldwide p.a.) such as deodorants, cosmetics, fragrances, toothpaste, and shampoo.” Greener raw materials are becoming somewhat more available for formulators, but recently the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s® (ACS GCI) Formulators’ Roundtable, an industrial collaboration between member companies and the ACS GCI, took a important step towards catalyzing important innovation in this industry.


The important step was the release of a recent paper, “Opportunities for Greener Alternatives in Chemical Formulations.” The Roundtable collaborated on this paper with Professor Philip Jessop of Queen’s University, where he is the Canada Research Chair of Green Chemistry. He also serves as Technical Director of GreenCentre Canada and as an ACS GCI Board Member. A primary goal for the development of this paper was to initiate a conversation between the formulation industry and academia. “Academic researchers can help industry make its operations and products greener, but only if the academics know what is needed,” said Jessop, the lead writer of the publication. “This research will give guidance for choosing greener alternatives to encourage the incorporation of changes that will benefit not only the entire value chain from manufacturing to consumer, but the environment as well.”


The paper outlines ten specific chemical categories where more green innovation is needed, along with a list of general requirements (for example, replacements should not contain any toxic heavy metals) that replacement technologies should meet to be truly greener and avoid regrettable substitution (where a chemical is replaced by another, only to find out that the replacement has as many or more negative attributes than the original chemical). These opportunities and suggested requirements were developed and reviewed by all member companies of the Roundtables, and were selected because of potential concern and/or the existing “greener” alternatives are inadequate. So what are the opportunities? And how might they affect products you use? See the following quick list, and read even more detail on the concerns and criteria for change in the Roundtable’s open source paper:

  • Antimicrobials
    Bacteria are everywhere, and your formulated products are no exception—except for the fact that antimicrobial preservatives are incorporated into products to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi, which could destroy the function of the product if not controlled. Whether it’s skin sensitization or lack of biodegradability, most of the common preservatives are associated with some sort of health or environmental concern. The Roundtable is seeking holistically greener alternatives, meaning, for example, low toxicity, not causing antimicrobial resistance, and yet are still functional.
  • Solvents
    Solvents have many uses in the chemical industry, the formulations sector included. All types of solvents are used to dissolve various components when mixing ingredients for a product, or can be incorporated into the product itself to carry fragrances. A priority for the industry is to have solvents that have minimal heath and environment impact, but also are derived from renewable resources. Most to all solvents are currently petroleum-based, so the industry aspires to move towards biobased alternatives to, for example, lower the global warming potential of formulated products.
  • Small Amines
    Small amines are versatile ingredients that can serve many important functions in a household product—they can cut grease, stabilize other ingredients (so the product can be homogenous), etc. However, most small amines have the potential to form a by-product (nitrosamines) that has been shown to be carcinogenic. The Roundtable seeks replacements that can avoid these byproduct reactions.
  • Chelants and Sequestering Agents
    Chelants and sequestering agents are important ingredients for cleaning products and scale inhibitors, as they bind to various metals that contribute to scale or other things you may want to remove from your shower, surfaces, etc. The current issues faced by the industry is that some of the most effective chelants present some toxicity concerns and many of the existing alternatives are not effective on scales most often encountered by consumers.
  • Boron Alternatives
    If you’ve ever done laundry, you might be familiar with Borax? Boron compounds have long been important for a wide variety of cleaning and bleaching products. While most boron containing products are safe for humans (i.e. likely no skin irritation upon contact), it does present some toxicity issues to plants and mammals (which is a problem for a product that is often incorporated into water streams which can then make their way to the external environment). It is also one of the least abundant light elements on the planet, therefore eventually presenting some potential supply concerns.
  • Fragrance Raw Materials
    Fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, often have issues associated with them including respiratory sensitivity, bioaccumulation, and more. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment Program and the International Fragrance Association both have standards and guidelines that the Roundtable seeks to have adopted throughout the industry.
  • Corrosion Inhibitors
    Corrosion, whether it’s affecting the appliances in our home or at a large company, is a huge problem (according to the paper, the annual cost of corrosion is $276 billion in the US, largely from replacing corroded steel). Many of the inhibitors on the market have a host of concerns, including lack of biodegradability, bioaccumulation, and energy-intensive production methods. The Roundtable aspires for corrosion inhibitors to become safer and more sustainable across the board, including becoming biobased (like solvents).
  • Replacements for Alkanolamides
    While the word alkanolamide might be unfamiliar to most, their use is not—these compounds are widely used to stabilize foam and increase effectiveness in various soap products, including most detergents. Unfortunately, they present the same byproduct issues as mentioned above in the small amines category, so the Roundtable identifies this as an opportunity for great improvement.
  • Surfactants
    Surfactants are hugely important to almost every sector in the chemical industry, perhaps most prevalently in formulations. They are the surface-active ingredients in products that allow for the breaking down of the interface between water (usually the base of detergents), oils, and dirt. There are such a wide variety of surfactants and therefore a wide variety of impacts. Because of their wide-use in high volumes, the industry is always looking for greener alternatives.
  • Ultraviolet Screens
    It’s officially summertime here in Washington, DC, and that means sunscreen. Ultraviolet screens or filters are the often nano-scale inorganic components incorporated into lotions to block your skin the negative effects of too much ultraviolet exposure from the sun. Currently, there is a slight trade-off present in using many of these protective products—many of these screens have been predicted to be persistent (in terms of bioaccumulation) and potentially present toxicity risks.




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Summer is upon us, and for many that means getting out on the water. Sailboats, powerboats, canoes, all are great choices for enjoying the open blue and we're not the only species that enjoys our boats. There are a host of organisms that love the underside of boats (algae, seaweed, barnacles, diatoms), but unfortunately most boat enthusiasts don't love these organisms. As this marine life builds homes on the boat hull the drag on the boat increases and the speed decreases, causing for greater fuel use, emissions to the atmosphere, and costs. To address these concerns, antifouling chemicals were introduced.


Antifoulants are any chemical used to inhibit the growth of this marine life on boats, and they are typically incorporated with the paint. Fifty years ago, a compound called tributyltin oxide (TBTO) came in to prominence in the antifouling scene. While wildly effective for the function it was to serve, over time it was determined that TBTO is quite persistent (with a half-life of more than 6 months in seawater) and chronically toxic to marine life. In the 1980’s many countries and organizations began to ban or severely restrict the use of TBTO as an antifoulant. In the United States, TBTO got its very own restrictive act, the Organotin Antifoulant Paint Control Act of 1988, and the US EPA and US Navy were charged with researching alternatives.


With this kind of history and these restrictions coming into play, it comes as no surprise that green chemistry and antifoulants have a bit of a relationship. TBTO was soon eliminated from all antifouling products and some replacements involving copper hit the market. Though this has since become what many consider to be a “regrettable substitution,” a replacement that has equal or worse effect compared to what it was replacing. Washington State in United States is now phasing out the use of copper as an antifoulant due to its toxicity effect on marine life.


Fortunately innovation is never too far away in the green chemistry space. There are several categories of alternative technologies including biocide-based (zinc or organic based), non-biocide-based (many are silicone based), and physical removal (ultrasonic sound). In the mid-1990’s the US EPA awarded one of its Presidential Green Chemistry Awards to a company (Rohm and Haas Company, now a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company) that developed an organic alternative (,5-dichloro-2-n-octyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one (DCOI)) that has essentially zero bioaccumulation threat. DCOI has a half-life in seawater of one day, a stark contrast to TBTO’s six-month half-life, and is also significantly less bioavailable compared to earlier technologies in sediment and water.


Water is an important resource, both to us as scientists and as residents of Earth. As chemists we have a huge opportunity in many research areas to not only improve our interactions with our planet’s water in terms of toxicity impact (using the antifoulant story as an example), but in every aspect of our use of water as chemists. Green chemistry is the lens through which we can identify these opportunities for sustainable water-related innovation, and since every chemist uses water in one way or another, you can start looking through the lens today.




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Universities can be a major resource for industrial innovation, especially when the two collaborate to generate new knowledge and impact. Engaging with academia is key to the strategy of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s Pharmaceutical Roundtable. Year after year, the Roundtable delivers on this priority by providing grants for academic-industrial research collaborations ($1.5 million since 2005) and hosting events that act as a bridge between university research and company application. To kick off their 10-year anniversary celebrations, the Roundtable hosted an all-day catalysis symposium in conjunction with their Spring Meeting in Basel, Switzerland.


Roland Thieme, the Head of Chemical Development and Supply at F. Hoffmann-La Roche (the co-host of the symposium), and Juan Colberg, Senior Director at Pfizer and co-chair of the Roundtable, opened the symposium. Their introduction illustrated how the title of the event, “Green Chemistry Makes a Difference: Innovations leading to a more sustainable pharmaceutical industry,” summarizes the mission of the Roundtable—to catalyze the implementation of green chemistry and engineering in the global pharmaceutical industry. For 10 years, the Roundtable has executed on this mission based on their strategic priorities (to inform and influence the research agenda, provide tools for innovation, act as an education resource, and collaborate globally) and, since 2007, a set of key research areas. These research areas are topics that all companies were consistently encountering and seeking greener alternatives for. They were determined via a brainstorming and voting process by the Roundtable, which resulted in three categories the group would target for the next eight years in their initiatives: reactions currently used but better reagents preferred, more aspirational reactions, and solvent themes.


A theme that persists throughout most of these key research areas is catalysis, a fundamental pillar of green chemistry. The Roundtable seeks to not only further employ catalyst technologies in pharmaceutical science, but ensure that the approaches are greener than what currently exist (such as moving away from use of precious metal catalysts). With the goal of triggering innovation in approaches to and applications of catalysis technologies, the symposium in Basel featured six professors based in Europe who are leaders in the field and hosted nearly 20 posters from students, academics, and industry professionals.


Basel Symposium.jpgSymposium speakers from left to right: Marc Taillefer, Uwe Bronscheuer, Katalin Barta, Benjamin List, Janine Cossy, and Michael North.


“The Roundtable convenes events like this symposium to foster discussion between academic and private sector around potential greener commercial approaches, by influencing the new technology research agendas. We are very excited to host these distinguished speakers, as each address important and innovative approaches to make organo, enzymatic, and transition metal catalysis in pharmaceutical science more sustainable. These professors are discussing some of the biggest problems facing the industry with respect to catalysis such as limited supply, toxicity, cost, and solvent volume. One example is the strides made around minimizing the use of precious metals by looking to more sustainable options like iron, nickel and copper--metals that are obtained via cleaner mining processes and provide lower supply risk from more stable mining conditions. Additionally, catalytic methods to access renewable raw materials from biomass were highlighted, establishing sustainable alternatives to petroleum products needed to make life-saving medicines” said the Roundtable co-chairs.


The first talk was from Professor Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute—Mülheim (Germany), who discussed an approach to enantioselective synthesis called “asymmetric counteranion directed catalysis.” This technique can be applied to several reactions (such as alylation, phosphylation, etc.), many of which are frequently employed by the pharmaceutical industry. List was followed by Professor Katalin Barta of University of Gronigen (Netherlands). She focused on strategies for the conversion of biorenewables through sustainable catalysis with earth abundant metals. The approaches Barta presented not only provide catalytic innovations for the industry, but will lead to renewable-based (rather than petroleum) starting materials the industry depends on everyday as reagents and solvents. Professor Marc Taillefer of ENSC Montpellier (France) wrapped up the first half of talks with his work, which utilizes copper and iron catalysts that allow for a wide range of transformations (achieving C-C, C-O, and C-N bonds) under significantly milder conditions than traditional approaches.


Between the talks and during meals throughout the day, attendees were able to peruse the poster session highlighting work ranging from one-pot cascade reactions to ball-milling as a solventless reaction. “I genuinely believe that society cannot continue at current consumption levels, and as chemists we can address this by moving towards new, sustainable approaches, such as batch to flow processes. This symposium has brought together a lot of people from many companies, yet is small enough so that everyone can talk to everyone and discuss real-world problems and solutions,“ said G. Kemeling, the Editor in Chief of ChemSusChem.


After lunch, the symposium attendees flowed back into the auditorium to hear Professor Uwe Bornscheur of University of Greifswald (Germany) discuss enzyme discovery, engineering, and application in biocatalysis. Bornscheur walked the audience through the history of how enzymatic processes have been able to replace chemical routes, and used his work to show a broad range of enzyme-catalyzed reactions that are efficient, highly selective, and can be achieved under mild conditions with less by-products than equivalent chemical routes. Professor Janine Cossy of ESPCI Paris (France) followed with a talk filled with approaches to cyclization and coupling that replace palladium catalysts with a variety of alternative and greener catalysts (such as the more abundant iron). The molecules she focuses on (macrocyclic) are currently under-exploited by industry (accounting for only 2% of orally available molecules on the market, currently useful for anti-tumoral activity), but her work can deliver steps to these molecules with more benign chemistry. The symposium closed with Professor Micheal North from University of York and the Green Chemistry Centre for Excellence (England). His talk highlighted his group's bimetallic catalytic approach that allows for transformation of carbon dioxide to cyclic carbonates, as well as applications of these carbonates as green solvents. By making use of waste CO2 and moving towards flow chemistry, the research is delivering ethylene carbonate and propylene carbonate as possible solvent replacements for DMF, DMSO, and other toxic media sometimes present in pharmaceutical science. Another emphasis of North's talk was the importance of outreach, to both student groups and industry, which the Centre incorporates into each of their project areas.


John Tucker, a senior scientist at Amgen and co-chair of the Roundtable, closed the day's events with a summary of how these talks had already instigated much inspiration and conversation for future innovation. Whether it was the elegant cascade reactions facilitated by enzymes or the replacement of unsustainable metal catalysts, the symposium offered a wide array of technologies that have the potential to transform the industry. As the Roundtable looks to their next ten years they aspire to continue delivering on their strategic priorities, and bridge academic and industrial communities throughout the world to make their science more sustainable. The 10-year anniversary celebrations will continue throughout the year, with the next events taking place at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in the Washington, DC area (USA) and the 250th ACS National Meeting and Exposition in Boston, MA (USA). The Roundtable will also be releasing an update of their key research areas, discussing new focus areas, as well as actions and progress to date. For more information, please visit the Pharmaceutical Roundtable’s website and for Roundtable updates and announcements, follow ACS GCI on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn).


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As the global population increases (trending towards 9 billion people by 2050), it is anticipated that food production will need to increase by 70 percent to meet global demand. Sustainable agricultural practices will increasingly be needed as the industry seeks to minimize its human and ecological health impacts while scaling and providing for this demand. One of the biggest areas that chemistry influences agriculture is pesticides. Greener pesticide technologies are catching on more and more, and in particular, biopesticides (a market that is projected to grow to $4.5 billion in 2023).


Early pesticides were typically highly toxic materials (e.g., Arsenic) or synthetic organic compounds (e.g., DDT). Some of these conventional technologies faced government phase-outs (due to their toxicity, persistence, or insolubility) or pest resistance. Public concern over pesticides had a strong influence in shifting away from some of the more toxic pesticides over the last several decades. In general, since then consumers have been pushing chemical markets towards natural products (though it is important to remember that not all natural products are safe).


Biopesticides are a certain type of natural product that are used to control pests, plant diseases, and weeds. The two major categories of biopesticides: biochemical and microbial. Biochemical pesticides control pests with naturally occurring substances such as insect pheromones, plant extracts, and plant or insect growth inhibitors. Microbial pesticides use microorganisms as the active ingredient (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoans). (Transgenic crops (also known as plant incorporated protectants) are also technically considered to be biopesticides, where scientists modify a plant’s genetic material with specific pesticidal proteins, but will not be addressed in this post). The primary advantages of these biochemical and microbial bioproducts are that they are usually less toxic than conventional pesticides, affect only the target pest, can be used in very small quantities, and can decompose quickly. On the flip side, they typically have shorter shelf lives, limited persistence, and can be slower acting.


The U.S. EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (PGCCA) has been granted 13 times to innovators who have developed greener pesticides. Seven of these technologies are considered biopesticide-related or are processes that support the bioproducts’ pipeline. For example, in 1997 two professors from Michigan State University won the academic award for developing genetically engineered microbes and a process for synthesizing catechol (a building block for many pesticides that is usually derived from petroleum-based benzene). Another notable award is the 2001 Small Business Award to EDEN Bioscience Corporation (since then the technology has been acquired by Plant Health Care, Inc.). The team developed and commercialized harpins, a new class of proteins produced by plant pathogenic bacteria. Without altering the plant’s DNA, harpins can activate the natural defense mechanisms of the plant, fight disease and pests, and trigger the plant growth systems. This technology is not only considered non-toxic, but is produced via an essentially waste-free water-based fermentation process.


Another challenge that biopesticides can face is that they can unknowingly affect a broader spectrum of non-target species. One example is spinosad, Dow Agroscience’s 1999 Designing Greener Chemicals PGCCA Award. The product is developed through a particular soil microorganism. It was highly effective on specific species, and had a favorable environmental profile with low tendency to leach, persist, bioaccumulate, or volatize. (In 2008, Dow Agroscience won again for a spinosad development—spinetoram, a more effective equivalent biopesticide for tree fruits and nuts). While spinosad was significantly safer for humans, in the early 2000’s it was discovered that it was intrinsically toxic to pollinators.


It is clear that biopesticides are a key tool for more environmentally benign agricultural practices, but not without some issues to always be aware of. Like all greener chemistry innovations, there is a constant thrust for continuous improvement and deeper understanding of what hazard means in this field. In addition to products to be applied directly to plants, there are biopesticide treatments being developed for seeds and soil amendments. Through multidisciplinary collaborations (between chemists, entomologists, toxicologists, etc.) these products can continue to grow in safer, holistically understood ways and support more sustainable agriculture.




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This month we have dedicated The Nexus to green chemistry and public health, and at the nexus of these issues is the pharmaceutical industry and their innovation processes. As an industry dedicated to developing products that can save people’s lives, typically the primary priority in the innovation process has been ensuring that the drug works rather than guaranteeing that the synthesis will lead to the most efficient or safest possible manufacturing process. Therefore what often goes unrecognized in the drug discovery phase is that huge amounts of waste can be generated in pharmaceutical production processes, and that waste (including volatile organic solvents) can be toxic or difficult to manage. With nearly 25-100 kg of waste being produced for each kilogram of drug in a pharmaceutical plant’s optimized process (a metric known as process mass intensity), there is much room to reduce the impact of the manufacturing process on public health and the environment.


Greener chemistry and engineering is an upstream approach to addressing waste, pollution, and resource issues through toxicity reduction, biodegradability, energy efficiency, and more. For 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sponsored the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA), in partnership with the American Chemical Society, and it is the premier recognition for sustainable innovation in chemistry. Five awards are given every year to highlight greener groundbreaking science in the chemical enterprise. Winners are chosen if their developments reduce waste, improve efficiency, are commercially viable, and are equally or more cost effective. Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical science has been one of the more active sectors in this sphere, having received 11 awards thus far.


At the time of the inception of the award some companies were beginning to green their pharmaceutical processes, but there was no comprehensive strategy across the industry to understand their relative waste footprint or incorporate greener practices. Most improvements were driven by Manufacturing or Environmental Health & Safety departments, rather than Research & Development. While there many instances of more sustainable processes prior to the mid-1990s, one of the most widely cited examples of greener chemistry is the first pharmaceutical PGCCA recipient in 1997—BHC Company (now BASF Corporation) and their virtually waste free synthesis of Ibuprofen (an active ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relievers). The original process required six stoichiometric steps and wasted more than half of the material introduced in the process. The greener innovation generated the same active ingredient but required only three catalytic steps, doubled the utilization of the inputs, and introduced a byproduct recovery step.


By 2005, after 10 years of the PGCCA, four more awards had been given in the pharmaceutical industry. Lilly Research Laboratories (1999) eliminated huge amounts of chromium and solvent waste from an epilepsy drug process, and in 2000 Roche Colorado Corporation (now CordenPharma Colorado) removed two hazardous waste streams and 11 materials from their process for an antiviral agent (Cytovene) for immune-compromised patients (including those with AIDS). Pfizer (2002) transformed their process for the active ingredient in Zoloft (a depression treatment) that dramatically reduced waste and solvent use, and doubled their yield, and Bristol-Myers Squibb (2004) created an alternative synthetic approach to Paclitaxel (active ingredient in the cancer drug, Taxol) so that it no longer needed to be harvested from the ecologically sensitive Pacific yew tree.


Beyond the awards, green chemistry activity was continuing to build in the industry. Pfizer had developed an in-house and cross-departmental green chemistry program and this model began to be replicated by other major players in the industry. Furthermore, it was at this time that the ACS Green Chemistry Institute founded the Pharmaceutical Roundtable. Eli Lilly, Merck & Co., Inc., and Pfizer were the initial members and the mission of the group was to catalyze the implementation of green chemistry and engineering in the global pharmaceutical industry. They came together to identify critical challenges faced by the industry and created strategic priorities to address them (informing and influencing the research agenda, creating tools for innovation, engaging as an education resource and collaborating globally).


Now, after 20 years of PGCCA, most major pharmaceutical companies are adopting green chemistry in some fashion and are incorporating greener practices in their drug discovery stage so that their processes are safer and the final products can be scaled more efficiently.  The ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable has 15 members (and growing), and these are the companies that are dominating the PGCCA. Three more industrial pharmaceutical awards have been given; two exclusively to Merck & Co., Inc. (in 2005 and 2006), one to Codexis, Inc. (2006), and one to both companies for a collaborative innovation (2010)—both companies are Roundtable members. As academic-industrial partnerships became even more of a goal in the industry, we have started to see notable academic developments with commercial potential. In 2012, Codexis, Inc. collaborated with Professor Yi Tang from University of California, Los Angeles to create a single-step biocatalytic process to synthesize simvastatin (a cholesterol drug). And just last year, Professor Shannon Stahl of the University of Wisconsin-Madison won for his aerobic oxidation developments for pharmaceutical synthesis, which utilize oxygen from air to oxidize through a new catalytic, mild condition, and highly selective method (replacing the need for hazardous inputs such as chlorinated solvents).


There has been dramatic growth in green innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, and from discovery to scale, it is clear to see that the chemistry done at every phase of drug development has huge implications for public health and the sustainability of the industry. There have been many successes and increased adoption throughout all aspects of companies’ processes, but there are still huge gains to be made. Improvements to process mass intensity are still needed, the dominance of batch processes over flow chemistry holds strong, and the inclusion of generic companies in this green paradigm has yet to fully blossom. There are some companies who are starting to work with suppliers to integrate green chemistry throughout their supply chain, but it is not yet the norm. Outsourcing of the drug discovery phase is growing in the industry, so increasingly a company strategy focused on green and sustainable innovation is needed, as well as continued partnerships with academia to further the research agenda. With these needs, we can surely expect the continuation of green developments in the pharmaceutical industry and we can count on the PGCCA to keep recognizing the top innovators who can deliver on these needs—keep an eye out this summer, when the 2015 PGCCA awards are announced in July to see the next wave of innovation and learn how their science can change the world.




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Once again, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is holding the only business plan competition exclusively devoted to green and sustainable chemistry and engineering. Early stage, pre-revenue companies who are reimagining chemistry and innovating for a sustainable future are encouraged to apply with their green business idea.


Judges will be looking for possible solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges like reducing our dependence on critical elements in chemical processes, transforming renewable or waste feedstocks into valuable chemicals, reducing hazardous chemical inputs in products and processes, minimizing energy use and emissions, and more.


Round One requires all applicants to submit an Executive Summary and pitch video.

Applications are due February 25, 2015 5:00 p.m. EDT (GMT -4)

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


Semi-finalists who are accepted to compete in Round Two will develop a full business plan and participate in the competition’s social media campaign. In addition to the chance to win prize money and market your company to the green chemistry community, the competition provides access to experienced entrepreneurs, industrial leaders, intellectual property law experts, and early stage investors who are involved in green and sustainable chemistry. All semi-finalists will also be expected to attend the final competition, which will take place July 15, 2015 on-site at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in the Washington, DC.


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


Learn more about the 2014 Business Plan Competition winner and their progress since the competition!




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Earlier this year, the ACS GCI held their business plan competition as part of the annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference. There were four finalists, all of which convened in Washington, DC to pitch their companies for the title and $10,000 grand prize. The teams were scored on their business plans and final presentations in addition to a score for social media. The ACS GCI believes that everyone has a stake in the success of innovative technologies that will change the way business is done to be more sustainable. So all semi-finalists participate in a crowdfunding campaign for the competition that not only boosts the grand prize winnings, but helps market their technology and spread the message of how green chemistry can and will change the world.


The 2015 competition is now open—click here for details on how to apply or sponsor the entrepreneurs who can make our chemical enterprise more sustainable!


The winner of the 2014 competition was SioTeX, a start-up firm developing a drop-in replacement for fumed silica, a popular additive for paints, tires, and plastics. Headquartered in San Marcos, Texas, SioTeX will produce and distribute Eco-Sil, an environmentally friendly alternative to fumed silica manufactured from rice hulls, a renewable resource. Lisa Taylor (VP of Sales and Marketing) and Ash Kotwal (VP of Manufacturing) represented the start-up at the competition. Even before they arrived, they had solidified a lead with their social media score (receiving nearly 75% of the crowdfunding votes, directly raising over $2,300). On-site the duo continued to represent their company well, delivering a succinct and well-organized pitch, highlighting their science and business opportunity. Read about their experience at the competition and what has happened in the six months since:


SioTeX decided to participate in the 2014 ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Business Plan Competition due to our energy-efficient production method that reduces pollution and utilizes rice hulls as a raw material source. The business plan competition was dedicated to green chemistry and engineering and focused on sustainability-oriented entrepreneurship. This focus aligns with the SioTeX objective of transforming the specialty silica industry through the use of sustainable manufacturing practices.

The competition proved to be a valuable experience by providing additional validation of our innovative technology and further demonstrating the company’s ability to effectively communicate its corporate strategy. Additionally, it was beneficial to network with professional and student members of the American Chemical Society. Their feedback regarding our business plan and presentation was positive and constructive. Other than receiving the Grand Prize, our favorite part of the business plan competition was helping the Green Chemistry Institute raise awareness about green chemistry and engineering through the crowdfunding aspect of the competition. We are so grateful that we were given the opportunity to present our company. The competition helped SioTeX move forward by providing supplementary funding for startup expenses as well as meaningful connections with relevant academic and industry representatives.


Our greatest challenges as a startup company have been related to raising money, establishing the company infrastructure, scaling production, and building relationships with potential customers. To overcome these challenges, SioTeX established an interdisciplinary team that is supported by excellent mentors and consultants. To complete the seed round of investment, it was critical to compete in multiple business plan competitions, establish connections with angel investor networks, and effectively communicate the opportunity that our business strategy provides. When establishing the company infrastructure, we relied strongly on our existing relationship with Texas State University and leveraged it to establish our pilot plant on campus. SioTeX is currently in the process of scaling production of Eco-Sil from the laboratory to the pilot plant. We have found that it requires creativity, patience, and a systems thinking style to reduce variability and produce a quality product.


Following the competition, the founding members of SioTeX have been diligently working to launch our business. Since the competition, we have had several major successes, including completing our seed round fundraising efforts, beginning construction of our pilot plant, manufacturing our first batches of high quality Eco-Sil samples, and establishing relationships with potential future clients. SioTeX successfully pitched our business plan to several investor groups and raised the capital necessary to launch the company. Our technical team has been busy engineering and constructing the pilot plant in addition to producing Eco-Sil samples for our primary target markets. We are conducting initial prospecting within several markets and have received interest from a number of companies regarding qualification testing of Eco-Sil in their formulations. Ash Kotwal, Vice President of Manufacturing for SioTeX, represented the company at the Greater San Marcos Partnership’s Innovation Summit in November, where SioTeX was nominated as a finalist for the Second Annual Burdick Award.


SioTeX has many objectives and milestones outlined for the 2015 calendar year. We will continue to produce samples of Eco-Sil in our pilot plant and increase sales efforts within our initial target markets. We will be pursuing an additional round of funding in 2015 in order to construct our full scale production plant. The technical team’s focus will be on engineering and scaling logistics essential for the successful establishment of our production plant. We will also remain focused on cultivating and developing partnerships with raw material suppliers.


As the producer of an eco-friendly alternative to fumed silica, green chemistry and engineering are essential to our company’s founding principles and objectives. SioTeX is focused on combining green technology, efficient and energy saving processes, recycling, and the utilization of bio-waste to create a valuable product. We recognize the global need and demand for sustainable technologies and the solutions that green chemistry can provide across industries. SioTeX values and incorporates the principles and practices of green chemistry into all aspects of our production process. As our company grows, we hope to continue to improve our efficiencies and sustainable practices. We are very appreciative to the ACS GCI organizers for selecting our company to compete in the business plan competition. SioTeX looks forward to following the efforts of ACS GCI in addition to following the competition entries in 2015.”


If you would like to apply for the 2015 competition or sponsor the next generation of innovative green chemistry and engineering entrepreneurs, visit the GC&E Business Plan Competition website and/or contact Savannah Sullivan.




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The theme of this month’s Nexus Newsletter is metrics. But what are metrics? And why did we choose to dedicate an entire issue to them? Broadly speaking, metrics are systems of measurement used to track and evaluate performance. They are helpful for comparing outcomes with benchmarks you establish, and measuring your progress toward your goals and objectives. You might monitor your expenses to see if you’re living within your budget, log your workouts to observe improvement, or count the number of hours you sleep per night to avoid a deficit. You design and use metrics for important goals in your personal life, so why not use them to advance your chemistry?


Here at the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® we believe that understanding and embracing metrics are the very first steps to greener chemistry and engineering. We also believe that it’s not enough to just know the metrics; one must integrate them into one’s studies or work. Since evaluating chemistry is not as easy as starting your stopwatch before a run, the other articles in this month’s issue are overviews of various metrics and tools that can provide a deeper understanding of your chemistry and improve best practices. There are many ways to use such metrics to “green” your chemistry, whether by gaining insight into the potential environmental and health impacts of your products and processes (hazard*, risk*, and life cycle assessments), how to use resources and energy more efficiently in your chemistry (process mass intensity), or how to select greener inputs (alternatives assessments, and solvent and reagent guides).


It’s important to remember that no single metric can optimize the impact of your science. Chemistry and engineering are so integral to modern life that individual choices often affect multiple objectives, so you may face trade-offs between goals. For example, you can assess both the hazard of a chemical and the risk of exposure (occupational and beyond), but you will not fully understand safety if you consider one without the other. So it’s also important to remember what you’re working toward with your chemistry, and always keep that goal in mind.


Metrics offer a new way of seeing and thinking for problem solving, and when used well can provide you the information needed to make major decisions. For greener chemistry and engineering, these decisions could range from determining how to minimize the use of petroleum derived products or how to reduce water consumption. The trade-offs arise when you then have to decide which outcome is a higher priority and which is more feasible.


Chemistry, and thus life, will always demand resources, have some level of hazard, and create waste. Metrics and green chemistry are becoming more holistic and increasingly contextualizing our science within the broader concerns of society. They are the first steps to realizing that everyone’s science, from the most fundamental to the widely applied, has an impact. And everyone, from bench to big picture, makes important decisions every day that can promote a more sustainable future.


*Check out our November issue for the first installment in a series on hazard and risk.



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Chemistry has historically been considered a discipline that could guarantee you a job. When chemistry is everything, how could it ever be otherwise? Unfortunately, in recent years in the United States we have begun to observe "otherwise." In 2012, an American Chemical Society Presidential Commission issued a report on the current state of graduate education in the chemical sciences. Leading experts from academia and industry concluded that current educational opportunities for graduate students do not provide sufficient preparation for their careers. Following this Commission report, in 2013 the ACS conducted a survey of members who had recently graduated with different chemistry degrees, from bachelor’s to PhD graduates. At that time, unemployment had risen to nearly 10% and median starting salaries remained static. The major recommendation stemming from this survey was that chemistry departments should partner with campus career centers to develop a comprehensive suite of career resources targeted to the needs of graduate students at all levels in chemical sciences.


So what direction is chemistry and therefore career opportunities moving towards? Students are still learning the basics in their general, organic, etc. classes, but the fact of the matter is that our students have been doing the same experiments since World War II. The chemical enterprise however (which is expected to grow to more than $14 trillion by 2050), has not stagnated the same way our undergraduate and graduate programs have. Currently more than 50 percent of American chemistry graduates go on to pursue careers in industry, yet only 26 percent of graduate students responding to the 2013 ACS survey reported that their advisors provided information about non-academic career paths to a considerable extent. As ACS Director of Education, Dr. Mary Kirchhoff, explained, there are many skills to be gained by paying closer attention to industry environments, “When students have the opportunity to work in industry, they learn important safety protocols, polish their communication techniques, and develop teamwork skills.”


As we begin to observe trends in industry and feel the pressures of a growing, consumptive global population we see another wave of needs for the chemistry education community: green chemistry and engineering skills. The markets reflect this (as evidenced by the report from Pike Research stating that the green chemistry market opportunity will grow by more than 3400% from $2.8 billion in 2011 to $98.5 billion by 2020). As chemistry continues to further integrate into our modern lifestyles and the public becomes more aware of how it affects society, it is vital for education to reflect this changing landscape. Dr. Jim Hutchison, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon describes green chemistry as "use-inspired" because it exists within the context of making products better and processes more efficient. Improving lives is an implied endeavor of the field, and to do this chemists need an understanding of the impact of chemicals and the entire life cycle of their processes and products to determine how to design for sustainability. Increasingly chemists need to be able to work across disciplines and collaborate with engineers, but companies are finding that graduates often don’t arrive with the awareness or capacity to do so.


This is not a new demand in the community, but the call is getting louder. For years green chemistry leaders have organized on this issue, championing the need for chemistry curricula to accurately reflect genuine career opportunities and growing sustainability needs. For example, in 2007, there was a workshop titled “Exploring Opportunities in Green Chemistry and Engineering Education” hosted through the National Research Council Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Three major speakers, a panel, and a series of breakout sessions were dedicated to assessing the status of green chemistry and engineering education, and why educators incorporate these topics (or not).


Most current faculty members do not have green chemistry experience and face a very crowded curriculum, but if we are to truly shift the way chemistry is taught and address this career gap for graduates, change isn't needed just from academia. Fortunately over the years we have begun seeing larger and more organized initiatives to invigorate green chemistry education on all fronts from educators, students, organizations, and industry.


One of the most robust efforts to train educators is the University of Oregon’s Green Chemistry in Education Workshop. It is a five-day workshop to help educators incorporate green chemistry experiments and concepts into their teaching without further crowding their curriculum. More than 250 educators have completed this workshop, and they have reported increased engagement from students in addition to personally feeling reinvigorated and empowered by this principle-based and creative approach to teaching chemistry. Hutchison, a founder and coordinator of the workshop, describes it as a win-win for the universities; not only are educators seeing diverse benefits, the departments experience less waste, positive publicity, and opportunities for faculty scholarship.



The 2014 cohort of chemistry professors at the U of O Green Chemistry in Education Workshop.


On the other end of the classroom there are the students and recent graduates, and they have also begun organizing for greener science and education. This year has seen the launch of the Network of Early-career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers (NESSE), an organization dedicated to mobilizing the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers to integrate sustainability into their work. NESSE is building interest and power among students and young professionals to take proactive steps to change the way science is done, and plans to provide programs and training through several avenues. Whether it’s creating and supporting interdisciplinary campus groups or coordinating a mentor program, NESSE is a free network providing early-career scientists the platform and resources to fill the gap that their education does not address.



NESSE launch event at 2014 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference.


“NESSE will play an important part by mobilizing the next generation to say to educators and industry that we need updated curricula not only for jobs but for the wave of sustainable change that needs to come,” said Dr. Jennifer Dodson, Chair of NESSE and Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at University of York. With respect to raising awareness and increasing knowledge of green chemistry, some student groups such as University of Toronto’s Green Chemistry Initiative and University of York’s greenSTEMS (both are NESSE members) have already seen success with organizing workshops, outreach, and activating students across disciplines. “It’s not going to happen everywhere overnight, but it will create key places and examples of how to bring about change for more sustainable science and education,” said Dodson.


Echoing this call for cross-disciplinary education and further illustrating the need, the 2012 ACS Commission report elaborates that much of industry uses a matrix structure where scientists have two homes—one in their discipline with similar chemists and one in a program/project with a variety of professionals (engineers, business people, sustainability experts, etc.). For years, the ACS has provided opportunities for students to learn green chemistry and engage with industry through programs such as the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy (a week long program for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to learn about this rapidly growing field), the SCI Scholars (10-week industrial internship opportunities for rising sophomores and juniors), and of course the offerings for Students & Educators through the ACS Green Chemistry Institute.


gcsummerschool.PNG2014 ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy


Programs like the ones discussed thus far not only provide much needed exposure but help students create valuable connections for their career. As this community continues to grow and the need for sustainable scientists becomes increasingly relevant, concrete actions from industry are now needed. “We don’t currently see industry calling for green chemistry skills in their hiring—if they truly do value these skills, they need to be explicit in recruiting and hiring chemists and chemical engineers,” said Kirchhoff.


While it is true there is no groundswell from industry for green chemistry education at this time, there are proactive companies and industrial coalitions that aim to catalyze the flow of sustainable scientists through their practices and programs. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Industrial Roundtables (Chemical Manufacturer’s, Formulators’, Hydraulic Fracturing (coming soon), and Pharmaceutical) are one example of groups of companies coming together to change the way chemistry is done in their sector. Many companies who are members also have green chemistry programs (for example, Merck’s Green Chemistry team) which are using green metrics, changing science, and highlighting the need for sustainable scientists.


Amgen, a member company of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable, is one company that has taken their green chemistry team beyond their firm and into the community. A key program of Amgen’s has the team going to local colleges to give green chemistry seminars to undergraduates so they are exposed to the concepts as early as possible. “The most rewarding aspect is the excitement you build in the students,” said Dr. John Tucker, a senior scientist at Amgen. “There is great concern for sustainability in this generation and green chemistry can activate future scientists. It doesn’t matter what sector you go into, it doesn’t matter what science you do, green chemistry can be applied to any scientific endeavor and will make you a better scientist.”


Tucker has spent 10+ years in the pharmaceutical industry working specifically on green chemistry and is involved with Amgen’s outreach program. His green chemistry background set him apart when he switched jobs and he emphasized how industry values scientists who are adept at cross-disciplinary collaborations; increasingly green chemistry is an example of these skills and a key differentiator when hiring new scientists. “Academia needs to propagate green chemistry across all universities—it should be from California to Maine, and I’m hopeful that it will happen in the next 5-10 years—but we can do better in industry by indicating within hiring practices and job descriptions that we prefer green chemistry skill sets,” said Tucker, "and of course, engaging the local communities."


To coalesce and further mobilize the green chemistry community, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® is beginning to work with the community to develop an educational roadmap that would define and clarify methods of incorporating green chemistry into the curriculum. The overarching goal is to create an enduring, multi-year strategy to find and implement solutions to key green chemistry education needs. Someday all chemistry will be green chemistry and this will require all hands on deck from educators, students, industry, and more! To learn more check out Need for a Green Chemistry Education Roadmap. To get involved with the roadmap or share your thoughts feel free to comment here or email Jenny MacKellar (




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A paper titled “Implementing Green Chemistry in Chemical Manufacturing: A Survey Report” by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s Chemical Manufacturer’s Roundtable was published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering on September 2, 2014. In order to assess how green chemistry has permeated chemical manufacturing, in 2012 the Roundtable conducted a survey which garnered 96 responses from a cross-section of stakeholders (including industry, trade associations, etc.). The respondents to this survey cited the following as the green chemistry principles employed with regular use: prevention, less hazardous chemical synthesis, designing safer chemicals, safer solvents and auxiliaries, and inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention. The Roundtable identified that currently the most common metrics companies are using to track green chemistry progress is water use and carbon footprint. Click here to access the paper and learn more.


With these results and looking ahead the Roundtable is working to identify best process metrics, track green chemistry limplementation, define research needs for industrial application, and promote collaboration across the chemical enterprise. Member companies of the Roundtable include Ajinomoto North America Inc., Arizona Chemical LLC, Dixie Chemical Co., DuPont, Penn A Kem LLC, Solvay USA Inc., and Sigma-Aldrich. To learn more and inquire about membership, please visit the ACS GCI Chemical Manufacturer’s Roundtable website and email




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The ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference technical programming was organized into thematic tracks this year. Each track was able to be followed throughout the conference so as to provide a deeper understanding of the theme, which reflected a important component of green chemistry innovation. One theme this year was “New Chemical Feedstocks,” organized by Julie Zimmerman of Yale University, which was dedicated to major trends in the development of alternatives sources to fossil fuel for chemicals and technologies.


Professor James Clark of University of York organized and chaired a session titled “From Waste to Wealth: Chemicals from Discarded Food and Trash.” Deriving valuable chemicals from various wastes (or waste valorization) is a key field of research that seeks to erode chemistry’s dependence on fossil fuels. According to Clark, “waste valorization is a vital part of a future sustainable society and we need to develop technologies for getting chemical and material value from waste, and not just energy.” He also chairs the “Food waste valorization for sustainable chemicals, materials, and fuels” through the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, where the goal is to bring a critical mass of researchers and stakeholders to harness to potential of food supply chain waste. Stemming from this line of work, this GC&E session dove into different waste streams that are being utilized for a wide range of materials.


Mark Mascal, a Professor of Chemistry at University of California—Davis, set the stage for the Waste to Wealth session by discussing important considerations for bioderived molecules and their processes with his presentation “5-(Chloromethyl)furfural (CMF) is the new HMF: Functionally equivalent but more practical in terms of its production from biomass.” HMF (or 5-hydroxymethyl furfural) is considered to be a very important platform chemical for pathways to a wide range of materials and fuel. It can be made from fructose in high yields, but is quite variable from any other feedstock. Mascal’s talk focused on the discussion of CMF as an alternative to HMF due to its ability to be derived from many different feedstocks (sugars from various biomass and waste), its stability, and the opportunity for it to supply key markets in the future (such as levulinic acid, which is a U.S. Department of Energy Top 12 Value Added Chemicals from Biomass). Mascal has worked to create a continuous process, which has now been scaled to pilot and is moving towards large scale demonstration.


The audience continued to have the opportunity to learn from a diverse set of people and topics showing how waste can be turned into valuable chemicals and materials, and as Clark recapped “with real examples, but also showing real challenges.” Another example of the wide range of technologies that can be supported by waste materials was illustrated by Zhiguang Zhu of Cell-Free Bionnovations (a company that also competed in the 2014 ACS GCI Business Plan Competition). Zhu discussed Cell-Free’s high-power and high-energy-density biobattery running on renewable sugars derived from biomass, eventually seeking to derive the sugars from cellulose. Hayman Abdoul, a graduate student at the University of York, discussed his work to create materials derived from alginic acid (via brown algae) to be used as super-adsorbents for the removal of bulky dyes from waste waters. In addition to these talks, the other subjects discussed ranged from an overview on “Biomass valorisation, sustainable materials, and the methanol economy” (as presented by Robin White, a project scientist at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies E3—Earth, Energy, and Environment) to University of Milan’s Nicoletta Ravasio’s talk on “Valorization of rice bran and other agro-industry wastes by extraction of oil and esterification over solid catalysts.”


The session wrapped up with Michalis Koutinas, a Lecturer at Cyprus University of Technology, who gave a talk on the bioprocess development for the production of ethyl lactate from dairy waste. Koutinas’ research presented a framework for ethyl lactate (used in pharmaceutical preparations, flavorings, and as a solvent) from cheese whey. By the end of the entire session it was clear that in the case of biobased chemicals, one person’s trash will someday be another person’s treasure. The take home message from Clark is “waste is a resource and we need many more good examples of this to make industry and government wake up to the opportunity.”


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On July 15, a paper titled “Sustainable Chromatography (an oxymoron?)” by the medicinal chemistry subgroup of the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Green Chemistry. Flash chromatography is a significant source of solvent waste in both industrial and academic synthetic organic labs. The paper discusses approaches for making flash chromatography more sustainable and less time consuming and alternatives to traditional flash chromatography. The authors also present opportunities for avoiding chromatography altogether with the aim of presenting ideas for reducing waste generation during synthesis. A high-level compound isolation decision tree was created to assist chemists in avoiding chromatography or mitigate the waste generated from chromatographic purification. Furthermore, the paper is packed with practical ideas for laboratories to reduce their waste, ranging from how to replace solvents like DCM (dichloromethane, a toxic and highly volatile solvent commonly used in chromatography) and how to reuse pre-packed columns.

Check it out!



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New this year, the ACS GCI Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference technical programming was organized into thematic tracks. Each track was able to be followed throughout the conference so as to provide a deeper understanding of the theme, which reflected an important component of green chemistry innovation. One theme this year was “New Chemical Feedstocks,” organized by Julie Zimmerman of Yale University, which was dedicated to major trends in the development of alternative sources to fossil fuel for chemicals and technologies.

The session that kicked off this theme, “Building new chemical platforms from biological systems,” was chaired and organized by Professor Richard Wool of University of Delaware. According to Wool, "One of the greenest approaches to making eco-friendly materials is to let the materials be grown under circumstances that remove CO2 from the air by photosynthesis powered by the sun with little additional energy cost to process and bring the materials to market." Aligning with this, the GC&E session was devoted to how various sustainable bio-feedstocks and polymers can be modified for the synthesis and processing of materials the world depends on every day.


Seven talks comprised the session, and it began with Robert Mathers, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University, who presented his talk “Bio-renewable alternatives to petroleum-based polyesters using continuous flow.”  With the goal of using design criteria that can maximize the degree of sustainability and the potential for commercialization of polyesters, Mathers is working with several approaches to achieve 80% biobased content, reduce waste, design for degradation, etc. and use continuous flow to streamline the process. He started by discussing the simple Fischer Esterification reaction (a useful reaction because it is reversible, thereby allowing for biodegradability), which he was able to demonstrate with citric acid and glycerol to start a polyester network (and only liberated water as a byproduct). Overall this 100% biobased, self-catalyzing reaction exhibited a low waste ratio, and degradability; Mathers went on to describe other reactions and additional steps his group has taken to utilize biobased oils as starting materials and new processes that can eliminate halogenated waste and organic solvents, and isomerize via continuous flow to produce polyesters.


Throughout the morning attendees were privy to a wide range of discussions—from the topic of upcycling raw materials streams into highly functional polymers (as presented by Rick Tabor, a Research Associate in Stepan Company’s Synthesis Group) to utilizing lignin, a waste stream from papermaking that is typically incinerated, as less toxic alternative to styrene (as presented by Kaleigh Reno, a graduate student in Wool’s group). Some talks dug into applied, drop-in solutions for industrially relevant needs. For example Meg Sobkowicz-Kline, an Assistant Professor of Plastics Engineering at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, presented her talk “High speed reactive extrusion processing for renewable polymer blends.”


Attempting to address various concerns surrounding plastics such as toxicity, petroleum-derived raw materials, and degradation, Sobkowicz-Kline’s lab seeks to understand how to reactively combine commercial bioplastics to improve properties and create further viable alternatives to traditional plastics. Currently they are working to blend two bioplastics, polyamide 11 (PA11) and poly(lactic acid) (PLA)—PA11, a thermoplastic from castor oil, could allow for extended use of PLA, which can be brittle and not perform well with hot foods. The interchange reactions they have achieved thus far can be done in conventional processing equipment using some traditional condensation chemistry metal catalysts (eventually working towards enzymatic catalysis); as they proceed with their research, they hope to soon create an industrially relevant, strengthened bioplastic.


Other presenters included Madhu Kaushik (a graduate student at McGill University) who presented on “Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) as supporters, reducers and chiral inducers;” Mark Schofield (an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Haverford College) who presented his talk “Chemical modification of sophorolipids for the synthesis of novel biomaterials;” and C. Stewart Slater (a Professor of Engineering at Rowan University) presented “Shear-enhanced membrane processes for efficient biomass concentration in the design of biorefineries.”


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Last week the ACS GCI Roundtables hosted the 4th Annual ACS GCI Roundtable Poster Reception, dedicated to green chemistry in industry. The event was co-located with 18th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Bethesda, MD, and was welcomed by the four roundtables, Chemical Manufacturer’s (ChMR), Formulators’ (FR), Hydraulic Fracturing (HFR), and Pharmaceutical (PR). While the conference convenes a broad audience of more than 400 people, the Roundtable Reception hosts a more focused audience of about 120 people drawn largely from industry but includes selected esteemed colleagues from government and non-government organizations, and academia performing highly relevant research.


There were government officials (EPA, USDA, Dpt of Commerce, Dpt. of State, etc.), industry professionals, and academics in attendance whose work is dedicated to addressing challenges in the chemical industry and developing green chemistry solutions. The evening is centered around the invited poster presenters, whose work is on display throughout the evening to inspire conversation. The exclusive event is meant to foster collaborations across the value chain to develop innovative, more sustainable products and processes in various sectors of the chemical industry.


2014RTReception.jpgRoundtable co-chairs at the reception with David Constable, ACS GCI Director
(L to R) Amit Sehgal of Solvay (ChMR), Danny Durham of Apache (HFR), Phil Sliva of Amway (FR), Dave Long of ACS GCI Board (HFR), John Tucker of Amgen (PR), Juan Colberg of Pfizer (PR), David Constable, and Samy Ponnusamy of Sigma Aldrich (ChMR)


This year’s reception was sponsored by Flotek Industries' Florida Chemical, ILSI Health and Environmental Sciences Institute, and LAUNCH (a platform that was founded by NASA, NIKE, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and The U.S. Department of State to identify and foster breakthrough ideas for a more sustainable world). The night began with opening remarks from ACS GCI Director David Constable, John Tucker, a senior scientist at Amgen and newly elected co-chair of the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable, and David Acker the VP of Business Development at Flotek-Florida Chemical. It was followed by an announcement from LAUNCH about their 2014 challenge. John Frazier, Nike's Senior Director of Chemical Innovation, and Nancy Jackson, a current Franklin Fellow at the State Department (on loan from Sandia National Laboratories) unveiled that the focus of the LAUNCH competition this year is green chemistry. To learn more, please visit their website.

Overall, with food and conversations flowing for hours, the night was a hit. With the objective being to expand attendees' network in order to advance the research, development, and marketing of industrially relevant, greener alternatives, over 90% of the event's survey respondents indicated that the reception met or exceeded this objective. With new partnerships already underway from the reception, we are already looking forward to next year's event!



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On Wednesday, June 18, the ACS GCI hosted the final round of the 2014 Green Chemistry and Engineering Business Plan Competition. Four semi-finalists arrived at the 18th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Bethesda, MD to present their business plans to a panel of expert judges and compete for a $10,000 prize. The day was much anticipated after months of preliminary activities which included an executive summary round, a business plan round, and a social media round.


With the intent of enabling new technologies and providing entrepreneurship-related educational opportunities for the green chemistry community, the ACS GCI put out a call in early 2014 for executive summaries from early-stage green chemistry and engineering companies. From more than a dozen applications, the four semi-finalists were selected:

  • Cell-Free Bionnovations: high energy density sugar-powered biobatteries for portable gadgets that are biodegradable and refillable
  • Circa Group: decreasing dependence on oil & gas by bringing a new waste cellulose-based solvent to market
  • SioTeX: transforming an industry by replacing fumed silica with a low-cost and ecofriendly solution
  • U.S. Bioplastics: cost competitive biobased plastic packaging from sugarcane waste


The semi-finalists were then provided a free subscription to Business Plan Pro and a free webinar on the software led by Dr. Dan Daly, the Director of Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs. With this new toolbox, the teams then had to complete a full written business plan and prepare a twelve minute presentation for the in-person final round (which together, constituted 70% of their final score).


In an effort to raise awareness of green chemistry and emphasize the important role chemistry plays in all of our lives, the third and most unique component of this competition was the social media score (which was the remaining 30% of the teams’ final score). We ran a crowdsourcing campaign called “Change the World with Green Chemistry,” which allowed for anyone in the world to have a stake in this competition. This platform enabled individuals from all backgrounds to learn how these new technologies are changing the world and then vote for the one(s) they want to see come to market.


By the time the final competition rolled around, the campaign generated more than $3,000. The teams were well-practiced and ready to present to the expert judges: Dr. Eric Beckman (Professor of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and Co-Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation), Dr. Dan Daly, and Joe Indvik (Co-Founder, COO, and President of SparkFund); these three judges also sat on an afternoon panel, "Science, Sustainability, & Entrepreneurship." After watching all four presentations and grilling each team with hard-hitting questions, the judges deliberated and selected SioTeX as the grand prize winner!


SioTex  Daly with check (3).jpgDan Daly presents the grand prize to Ash Kotwal, Lisa Taylor, and Gary Beall of SioTeX.


“The ACS GCI Business Plan Competition provided additional validation of our innovative technology and further demonstrated the team's ability to effectively communicate our corporate strategy,” said Ash Kotwal and Lisa Taylor. “Being announced as the Grand Prize Winner during the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference also gave us a greatly appreciated opportunity to network with academic and industry professionals throughout the remainder of the proceedings.”


SioTeX makes a product called Eco-Sil from rice hulls, an alternative to fumed silica. The product can be used in paints, plastics, and tires, a market which SioTex reports is worth $1.5 billion in annual sales. The company was created by Haoran Chen, a graduate student in the Ph.D. program at Texas State University, after he developed the technology. Chen currently serves as the company's CTO with his team, Marcus Goss (COO), Ash Kotwal (VP of Manufacturing), Lisa Taylor (VP of Sales and Marketing), Cesar Rivera (CCO), and George Steinke (CEO). They are looking forward to constructing their pilot plant this fall to scale production of Eco-Sil.


We look forward to watching SioTeX and the other competing companies develop, and to preparing for next year’s competition which will be hosted at the 19th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in July 2015!


Thank you to all who participated in the competition! And a huge thank you again to our three judges/panelists who helped review the applications and make the day a huge success. We also would like to thank Dr. Michael Lefenfeld (President of SiGNa Chemistry) and Dr. Rui Resendes (Executive Director of Green Centre Canada) for their assistance in developing the competition.




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