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Message From The Director

Honored Contributor
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Contributed by David Constable, Ph.D., Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

The pace of activities has thankfully slowed just a bit over the past month, although we are down another person with Ann Lee-Jeff’s departure to assume her role at Teva as a Sr. Director, Product Stewardship. I was sorry to see Ann go; she was an experienced hand and did a great job engaging with business. But I’m very happy that she found a Product Stewardship role and it’s a great career move for her. We are actively looking for a replacement and we have had some great applicants, so I’m looking forward to getting someone on-board to pick up where Ann left off.

I had the opportunity to attend the Gordon Conference on green chemistry a few weeks ago. The good news about that event is that most of the people in attendance were different than those in attendance when the Conference was in Hong Kong in 2014. I say this is good news because I’d like to think that green chemistry is becoming better known and accepted after 20 years or so, and seeing different people means more are thinking about green chemistry and engineering research and development. The conference is preceded by a symposium for students and there clearly were a significant number of students who were actively engaged throughout the Conference.

Since I’ve been the director of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®, I’ve had the privilege of attending many green chemistry conferences and symposia, at international, national and regional meetings. What I’ve observed is that the alignment of research and development activities as presented in many of these symposia with the principles of green chemistry and engineering is not always very good — it’s more of a mix. Of course, if you take a longer view, the trend is that the degree of alignment is improving over time. Still, we have a way to go. This is a topic that I would hope to discuss more comprehensively at some point, but take this one quick example: hydrogen peroxide. Many people promote hydrogen peroxide as a green reagent without considering the life cycle environmental, safety, and health hazards associated with its production and use, so I would encourage you to read Ashley Baker’s article in this issue. We should include a systems, life cycle view in our consideration of what is “green,” regardless of whether or not the substance we are making is green or has a human benefit.

Yes, I see there has been progress in green chemistry and engineering, but there’s still a lot of opportunity for improvement.

Last week the Chemical Manufacturers Roundtable held another workshop for the AltSep technology roadmap for less energy-intensive separations. The workshop brought together another 34 outstanding researchers from industry and academia to map out research needs that would allow us to achieve a vision for the conceptual design of separation processes in the 21st century. Now comes the hard part of synthesizing the first 3 workshop outcomes and planning the remaining workshops to fill in the gaps.  This has been an exciting project and I am thrilled by the progress that has been made. Robert Giraud of Chemours and Amit Sehgal of Solvay continue to perform Yeoman’s work and I continue to be grateful and inspired by their commitment; this project would not have proceeded as quickly or as well without them driving it.

Work on the 2017 Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference continues apace. We are grateful for our Conference advisory committee and our program chairs’—David Leahy (BMS) and Amit Sehgal (Solvay)—work to date. We are looking forward to another outstanding conference next year and please don’t forget to respond to the Call for Symposia  which closes on October 7th.

These are just a few of the things that are on my mind at the moment and there is actually a lot more that is happening in green chemistry and engineering at the Institute and elsewhere, and that is surely a good thing.

As always, please do let me know what you think.


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