Interesting and innovative examples of green chemistry research and development
Green chemistry seeks to develop products and processes that respect the environment. This may involve reducing the waste that a process creates, using renewable materials, reducing the energy required to form a product, etc. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launches an annual challenge for the most innovative inventions in green chemistry. green chemistry in many of the products you buy and use.
Here are some interesting achievements in sustainable chemistry:
Plastics developed from environmentally friendly renewable sources, as well as some modern plastics are biodegradable. The combination of innovations reduces our dependence on petroleum products, protects humans and wildlife from unwanted chemicals in old plastics, and reduces waste and impact on the environment.
- Scientists at NatureWorks in Minnetonka, Minnesota, make food containers from a polymer called polylactic acid, made using microorganisms to convert cornstarch to a resin. The resulting polymer is used to replace the rigid petroleum-based plastic used in yogurt containers and water bottles.
Medical progress of green chemistry
Pharmaceuticals are expensive to produce in part because of the complicated and demanding synthesis mechanisms required to produce certain drugs. Green chemistry seeks to streamline production processes, reduce the environmental impact of drugs and their metabolites, and minimize the toxic chemicals used in reactions.
- Professor Yi Tang of the University of California has developed an improved synthesis process to make Zocor®, the brand name for the drug Simvastatin, used to treat high cholesterol. The previous process used dangerous chemicals and released a large volume of toxic waste. Professor Tang’s process uses a modified enzyme and a low cost feedstock. Codexis then took the mechanism and optimized the enzyme and synthesis process so that the drug could be made safer, cheaper and with less environmental impact.
Research and development
Scientific research uses a number of techniques that use dangerous chemicals and release waste into the environment. New, greener processes keep research and technology on the right track, while making it safer, cheaper and less wasteful.
- Life Technologies has developed a one-step, three-step synthesis method for polymerase chain reaction (PCR), used in genetic testing. The new process is more efficient, it consumes up to 95% less organic solvent and releases up to 65% less waste compared to the conventional protocol. With the new process, Life Technologies eliminates approximately 1.5 million pounds of hazardous waste each year.
Paint and pigment paint
Green paints go far beyond eliminating lead from formulations! Modern paints reduce toxic chemicals released when paints are dry, substitute safer pigments for certain poisonous colors, and reduce toxins when the paint is removed.
- Procter & Gamble and Cook Composites and Polymers have formulated a blend of soybean oil and sugar to replace paint resins and petroleum-based solvents. Formulations using the mixture release 50% less hazardous volatile compounds.
- Sherwin-Williams has created water-based acrylic paints that contain low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Acrylic paint is made from a mixture of acrylics, soybean oil and recycled PET bottles.
Many of the processes used to make products either relay toxic chemicals or could be streamlined to reduce the use of resources and the release of waste. Green chemistry seeks to develop new processes and to improve conventional production methods.
- Faraday has developed a plating process to manufacture high performance chrome coatings from trivalent chromium instead of highly toxic hexavalent chromium.