#GCandE Daily Newsletter

#GCandE Daily Newsletter

Opening image for GCE

Wednesday June 20, 2018

Good morning, #chemfans.

Welcome to your daily guide to green chemistry's big event: the annual Green Chemistry & Engineering conference. C&EN reporters Carmen Drahl and Melody Bomgardner, along with C&EN veteran and Portland transplant Rudy Baum, are still busy keeping you up to date. Scroll down for more, plus an exclusive Q&A with today's keynote speaker, Julie Zimmerman.

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Biofuels have their advantages, but chemists haven't figured out what to do with a major byproduct of biofuel manufacturing: glycerol. George Washington University's Adelina Voutchkova-Kostal has an idea that kills two birds with one stone. Under the right conditions, glycerol can be a renewable source of hydrogen that converts CO2, a waste product in its own right, to formic acid, an eco-friendly chemical feedstock and de-icer. Through that same process, glycerol becomes lactic acid, itself a valuable starting material for bioplastics. Voutchkova-Kostal recently published a homogeneous catalytic process her team optimized for this reaction (Chem. Comm. 2018, DOI: 10.1039/c8cc03157f). On Tuesday, she described the chemistry with homogeneous catalysts and how the homogeneous catalysts can be immobilized to afford heterogeneous catalysts that can be used under continuous-flow conditions. Voutchkova and her colleagues have filed a provisional patent application on the chemistry. —Carmen Drahl

Suppose you're a chemist who'd like to use a greener solvent and isn't sure where to start. Let this Solvent Selection Tool be your guide. AstraZeneca researchers developed this tool as a proprietary technology and later donated it to the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Pharmaceutical Roundtable, which took the resource public for the first time. Meeting attendees experienced live demos at an evening reception. —Carmen Drahl

When it comes to the manufacturing supply chain, there's often an available alternative to chemicals that are hazardous or persist in the environment. But how can a material supplier or a brand get a complicated global manufacturing base to make a change? On Tuesday, Robert Buck of Chemours presented an instructive case study: The firm's search for a greener replacement for the fluorinated chemicals used in durable water repellent coatings on clothes and shoes. He told attendees that the company didn't anticipate the many questions it would face about their biobased substitute, including whether it was made from palm oil and if the palm oil supply chain is traceable. The company also had to do some digging to find out about its customers' precise performance requirements and show its biobased product had those features. He noted that supply chains often include companies that will not discuss what chemicals they use, why or how they use them, or why they do not wish to use the suggested greener replacement. Later in the same session, Scott Echols of ZDHC, a foundation working to eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals in the textile industry, talked about replacing the solvent dimethylformamide. The companies involved in ZDHC issued a request for research proposals to find replacements. But Echols said one barrier keeping alternatives from being used is that some suppliers will claim to have replaced a restricted chemical, but air or wastewater testing shows that it is still being used at a manufacturing site. One solution is to get many brands and suppliers to act together to press for change, Echols said. —Melody Bomgardner


Greening biopharma.
Peptides, oligonucleotides, and antibody-drug conjugates are natural. But that doesn't automatically make them green. Green Chemistry & Engineering for Peptides, Oligos & ADCs will explore safer coupling reagents and strategies for cutting down on the chromatography required to make these drug ingredients.

9:45 AM TO 12:50 PM, Broadway I/II, Hilton Portland Downtown

Putting green chemistry under the sink.
Soaps, detergents, shampoo. Their formulations involve a myriad of ingredients. In the workshop Charting the Course to Sustainable Chemistry in the Supply Chain, we'll learn how to navigate these products' complicated supply chains even when not all the players agree to the same sustainability goals.

9:45 AM TO 1:20 PM, Skyline I, Hilton Portland Downtown

Speedy start-ups.
Start-ups and small- and medium-sized businesses are often more nimble than big corporations when it comes to rolling out sustainable solutions. At least that's the premise of Accelerating Development of Sustainable Products & Processes through Start-Ups and SMEs. Find out what entrepreneurs have learned about the opportunity and risks of being small but fast.

9:45 AM To 12:30 PM, Broadway III/IV, Hilton Portland Downtown

Not Shark Tank, but close.
Local green chemistry entrepreneurs will showcase their companies and pitch to potential investors at the Chemical Angel Network's pitch event tonight. Buy your ticket now to see the action up close and network with green chemistry entrepreneurs and investors.

6:00 TO 9:00 PM, Skyline II, Hilton Portland Downtown


How green is your cleaner?
Does your laundry soap need to be made from plant juice to be sustainable? Or are there other ways to make cleaners cleaner? "All natural" isn't on the labels of some of the biggest brands because they say natural ingredients aren't the only—and may not even be the best—way to make cleaning products gentler consumers of the planet's resources. Read more

All about that (bio)based.
Renewable building blocks could provide plastic's convenience without using fossil resources. However, efforts to scale up a separate biopolymer supply chain have yet to go very far. Read more

Can anything unseat PET?
Most of today's plastic beverage bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), but some companies aim to make a dent in the PET market with polymers made from sugar. Read more


"To make it dirt cheap, make it out of dirt. Preferably local dirt."
—keynote speaker Don Sadoway, MIT, on grid energy storage solutions

"You need to have a very clear goal in mind and a matching benefit to the company that supplies the solution, such as a large purchaser making a commitment to purchase the reformulated product."
—workshop attendees Bridget William, EPA Safer Choice program, and Bart Engendahl, cofounder of start-up Remooble


Keynote speaker image

Julie Zimmerman

Professor and senior associate dean of chemical and environmental engineering, forestry & environmental studies at Yale University

Deputy director for the Yale Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering

Today's plenary talk by Julie Zimmerman of Yale University is titled, "Nourishing the Green ChemisTREE." At Yale, Zimmerman focuses on applying green chemistry and engineering principles to the innovative design of products, processes, and systems; assessing benign alternative chemicals and materials; designing and analyzing policy for sustainability, particularly related to water use and corporate environmental behavior; and developing water treatment technologies for developing communities.

C&EN caught up with Zimmerman to get a preview of her plenary lecture and to get her take on how academic and corporate attitudes toward green chemistry and engineering have evolved over the past decade. This email interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the meaning of the title of your talk, "Nourishing the Green ChemisTREE"?
In a recent paper (Green Chem. 2018, DOI: 10.1039/C8GC00482J), a team of which I was proud to be a part did a metareview of the field of green chemistry. Using a metaphor that has been used previously—the Petroleum Tree, for example [which shows as its leaves the many products made from crude oil]—we constructed the Green ChemisTREE. The twelve "branches" of this tree are the twelve principles of green chemistry. The tree's leaves are the areas of scientific discovery over the past 20 years since the principles were first published in 1998.

While there have been literally hundreds of reviews within the field of green chemistry, we believe this is the first metareview [an analysis organized by activity within each principle that discusses tools and metrics available, as well as future challenges for the field]. It shows an astounding productivity in terms of scientific discovery that will likely amaze anyone who looks at it. However, taking the metaphor of the tree another step, every tree needs to be nourished, or it will die. Trees need light (awareness and education) and nutrients (funding and diverse perspectives). And no tree is alone in the forest. What are the other trees that interact with and influence the health of the Green ChemisTREE? Green engineering? Toxicology? Policy? Business?

What are the main points you hope attendees will take away from your lecture?
The scientific advances—as represented by the leaves—are astounding, but the purpose of a tree is not simply to grow leaves. It's to enable an ecosystem and a habitat. It's not our goal just to do science. It's our goal to enable and empower a sustainable world.

Having a healthy tree and a healthy forest requires more than leaves. Our field requires more than folks just publishing papers. It requires an infrastructure and a community, with some people playing very different roles ranging from communication, to advocacy, to financial investment.

In a 2015 Science editorial you cowrote with Paul Anastas, "Toward Designing Safer Chemicals," you wrote, "If traditional analyses can be coupled with integrated systems approaches, then the knowledge gained about the nature of complex systems may well lead to the design of chemicals that are compatible with life" (DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6736). What are the main barriers scientists face today that prevent them from moving past the thinking that "chemical A has consequence B" toward "chemical A has possible consequences across all of system B"?
Most scientists are still trained in reductionism. Reductionism first, last, and always. No wonder—reductionism has transformed the world in the past 200 years and brought about modern life. However, it has also been one big part of bringing about unintended consequences.

Sustainability is a complex nesting of systems in systems that doesn't lend itself to a reductionist-only approach. Yet we still try to fit the square peg of quantitative metrics into the round hole of sustainability. This is a difficult transition for people to make. People are not used to this. It's out of their comfort zone. It doesn't fit with existing models. The experts in the old ways of thinking are not the experts in the new ways of thinking. Intellectual inertia is a bear.

One of your interests is policy design and analysis for sustainability, particularly related to water use and corporate environmental behavior. What kinds of policy design are most effective in influencing corporate environmental behavior?
Just as there needs to be innovation in our science, technology, products, and processes, there also needs to be innovation in our policy and methods of policy-making. In the same way that we need to apply systems thinking to product design and molecular design, we need to apply it to policy design. In that way, the question becomes not, "How do you influence corporate behavior?" but rather, "What is the set of incentives, rewards, and drivers where the interests and desires of corporations, consumers, public health advocates, environmentalists, and the environment are aligned rather than structured as a zero-sum game?"

From your perspective, how have attitudes, both academic and corporate, toward green chemistry and engineering changed in the past decade?
There's so much green chemistry taking place within business throughout the supply chain that goes unspoken. However, I'm lucky enough to work with a large number of corporations across industry sectors and investors, so I get to see what many people don't get to see. In business, big companies use green chemistry to do what they've always done, but do it better. Small disruptive companies use green chemistry to do a better thing. Those that view the principles of green chemistry and engineering as a system rather than isolated criteria are being far more transformative.

In academia, there are thought leaders and institutional leaders who are now in place to implement the ideals they espoused decades ago. The thought leaders will displace the old guard, but in academia, that's a slow process because many of the rewards and incentives are a function of the status quo. While I'm never happy with the kinetics of this transformation, I know that intellectual and practical thermodynamics are on our side.


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