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Volume 88 Issue 26 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: June 23, 2010

2010 Green Chemistry Awards

Honors: Presidential challenge awards recognize innovations that promote sustainability
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Green Chemistry, Sustainability
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: Green Chemistry Awards, Sustainability, Hancock Award
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SPEAKERS
EPA's Jackson (left) and ACS's Francisco congratulated the winners at the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony.
Credit: Steve Ritter/C&EN
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SPEAKERS
EPA's Jackson (left) and ACS's Francisco congratulated the winners at the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards ceremony.
Credit: Steve Ritter/C&EN

To change the currently unsustainable trajectory of global society, scientists and engineers are manipulating matter in new ways to create chemical products that are cleaner to manufacture, safer for people and the planet, and more economically tenable than those now in use.

A set of these innovative technologies has just been honored with Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. The awards ceremony, held on June 21 in Washington, D.C., closed out the first day of the 2010 Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference.

The competitive awards program, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and sponsored in part by the American Chemical Society, provides national recognition for incorporating the principles of green chemistry and green engineering into the design, manufacture, and use of chemical products and processes to help achieve federal pollution-prevention goals.

Speaking during the ceremony, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson noted that for 15 years the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge winners and nominees have been "taking the hazard out of chemicals as they produce technologies that touch just about every aspect of our lives."

Most of these changes go unnoticed by consumers, she said. Yet this year's winning technologies are responsible for eliminating 198 million lb of hazardous chemicals from use, saving 21 million gal of water, and cutting 57 million lb of carbon dioxide releases, according to EPA statistics.

At the awards proceedings, John P. Holdren, assistant to President Barack Obama for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, read a congratulatory letter from the President.

"With the right incentives and environmental ethics in place, science and technology—and chemistry in particular—can catalyze new approaches to improving our prosperity, even as we enhance and preserve our nation's greatest natural resources," Obama wrote.

GREEN ROW
Credit: Steve Ritter/C&EN Multimedia by Ty Finocchiaro/C&EN
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GREEN ROW
Credit: Steve Ritter/C&EN Multimedia by Ty Finocchiaro/C&EN

Among the 2010 award winners is chemistry professor James C. Liao of the University of California, Los Angeles, who received the Academic Award for creating genetically engineered microorganisms that convert CO2 into higher alcohols—those with more than two carbons. These compounds are more valuable than ethanol as biofuels and chemical feedstocks. Start-up company Easel Biotechnologies, in Costa Mesa, Calif., is commercializing the process.

Biotechnology firm LS9, based in South San Francisco, garnered the Small-Business Award for its Renewable Petroleum strategy, which is designed to serve as a surrogate for a petroleum refinery. The approach uses a set of genetically modified microorganisms that convert plant sugars into different alkane, olefin, fatty alcohol, or fatty ester products.

Dow Chemical and BASF teamed up to take the Greener Synthetic Pathways award for improving the environmental profile of propylene oxide production. The companies' hydrogen peroxide-based commercial process significantly reduces wastewater generation, energy use, and capital costs relative to traditional routes to propylene oxide, one of the world's largest volume chemicals.

Merck & Co. and Codexis received the award for Greener Reaction Conditions for revising the commercial synthesis of sitagliptin, a chiral β-amino acid derivative that is the active ingredient in Merck's type 2 diabetes drug Januvia (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1188934). The improvements are the result of an engineered transaminase enzyme that converts a precursor ketone directly to the desired chiral amine, increasing the yield while reducing the number of production operations and overall waste.

Environmental products and services company Clarke, based in Roselle, Ill., took home the Designing Greener Chemicals award for creating Natular, a slow-release tablet form of the insecticide spinosad. This new formulation overcomes degradation problems that had rendered spinosad ineffective in aquatic environments and provides an improved method for mosquito control.

In congratulating the winners, ACS President Joseph S. Francisco said the awards not only celebrate each year's advancements in green chemistry but also "illustrate the steadfast commitment of the members of the global chemical enterprise toward developing a sustainable future."

GREEN FUTURE
ACS's Francisco (far left) and Jacobs (far right) applaud Hancock award winners Allen (second from left) and Ghanta (second from right), with help from Hancock's wife, Diane (center).
Credit: Matt Mendelsohn/EPA
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GREEN FUTURE
ACS's Francisco (far left) and Jacobs (far right) applaud Hancock award winners Allen (second from left) and Ghanta (second from right), with help from Hancock's wife, Diane (center).
Credit: Matt Mendelsohn/EPA

The 2010 Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Student Awards in Green Chemistry, sponsored by the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry and the National Institute of Standards & Technology, were also presented at the ceremony. This year's recipients are Laura J. Allen, a graduate student in chemistry professor Robert H. Crabtree's group at Yale University, and Madhav Ghanta, a graduate student in chemical engineering professor Bala Subramaniam's group at the University of Kansas.

Each award includes $1,000 and a certificate and is named in honor of Hancock, an early proponent of green chemistry who died unexpectedly in 1993 during his tenure as director of the National Science Foundation's Chemistry Division. ACS Executive Director and CEO Madeleine Jacobs presented the awards to Allen and Ghanta.

Allen was lauded for her research to replace toxic and more costly second- or third-row transition-metal catalysts with safer and less expensive first-row transition metals or alkali metals, Jacobs explained. For example, in the β-alkylation of secondary alcohols with primary alcohols, Allen used potassium hydroxide, a simple alkali-metal base catalyst, in place of a transition-metal catalyst while avoiding the use of protecting groups and maximizing efficient use of all reagents, leaving only water as a by-product.

Ghanta was singled out for his research on improving ethylene oxide production, Jacobs noted. Ethylene oxide manufacturing emits the most CO2 as a by-product of any chemical process. By using a methyltrioxorhenium catalyst and hydrogen peroxide oxygen donor in a biphasic methanol-water solvent system, Ghanta created a high-yield method that is less energy intensive than the standard route to ethylene oxide and produces no measureable amount of CO2.

 
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