Twenty-seventh Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Metrics for the Closed-Loop Chemistry Enterprise

Organizer: David J. C. Constable, Science Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute, Washington, DC, USA

One of the major goals of green and sustainable chemistry is to promote the sustainable use of chemicals, the design and development of more efficient and less risky ways of effecting chemical transformations (new chemistries) and new chemical synthetic processes, and safer products.

In order to design more sustainable chemistries and synthetic routes, systematic, multivariate, and regular assessments of green and sustainable chemistry performance should be established throughout the development cycle of a new chemical or product. To do this, key green and sustainable chemistry measures must be agreed and tools to facilitate chemical, chemistry and process assessment must be developed.

Life cycle environmental impacts should also be included as part of a continuing assessment of any product and the process used to make them. The inclusion of life cycle metrics is especially important for supply chain management in light of the growing trend to outsource manufacturing and the desire to ensure that sustainability impacts are not exported outside of the company. Systems thinking and life cycle thinking are critical departure points for metrics that enable the circular economy.

This symposium intends to highlight approaches to systemically and systematically measuring, comparing and evaluating products and processes using key green and sustainable chemistry and engineering metrics. It will also explore the opportunities and challenges encountered in implementing green and sustainable chemistry and engineering concepts within a research and development framework and in the context of a circular economy.

Closing the Loop on Critical Elements

Organizers: David J. C. Constable, Science Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute, Washington, DC, USA; Xianlai Zeng, Associate Professor, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

There is a growing list of elements that are considered strategic metals; they are rare, expensive, and heavily relied upon for electronics, energy and chemistry. The current methods of extracting, purifying and using these metals is unsustainable and as these materials approach impending extinction from the supply chain while escalating environmental and socioeconomic costs across the world, it is critical to identify low-cost and abundant alternatives, or sustainable technologies to recover, recycle and reuse these elements. In general, there have been few chemistry alternatives that could recreate the performance of these metals in a variety of fundamental applications. This session will showcase innovators who are creating alternative chemistries and chemical technology approaches that can increase the sustainable reuse and recycle of these critical elements, or provide comparable functional, commercially viable materials for a variety of applications.

Linking Chemical Design to Toxicity/Hazard/Alternatives Assessment

Organizers: Amy Cannon, Executive Director, Beyond Benign, Wilmington, MA, USA; Dalila Kovacs, Professor, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, USA; Saskia van Bergen, Green Chemist, Washington State Department of Ecology, Lacey, WA, USA

Toxicology concepts are essential in designing safe chemical products that have reduced hazards. There are many efforts to provide chemical designers with tools for understanding and predicting toxicity, while maintaining the function and efficacy for which the product was designed. Toxicology data enables scientists to better predict hazards at the molecular level, therefore avoiding the use and generation of hazardous chemicals. These tools and strategies are being developed and implemented in industry and academia.

Toxicology concepts and principles, including investigative or predictive methods, have traditionally been absent from the chemistry curriculum. As a result, professional chemists lack skills in designing chemical products with inherently reduced hazards. These knowledge and skill gaps are being addressed in educational programs both in industry and in academia with the goal of better preparing scientists to implement safer design strategies at the research stage of a product life-cycle.

This half day session will highlight systematic approaches toward addressing safety data gaps, understanding hazard and alternatives assessments, and predicting toxicological endpoints through molecular design, and will focus on education initiatives both in universities and within industry, via professional development programs.

Leveraging Partnerships in Start-Ups and SMEs

Organizers: Paul D. Thornton; Laura M. Reyes, Career Development Leader, Chemical Institute of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are critical for commercialization of green and sustainable chemistry technologies across the global chemical enterprise. Small businesses are well-suited to bring innovative chemistry solutions to the marketplace, but these companies must navigate the diverse technical and business challenges of commercialization with limited resources.

Entrepreneurs in green chemistry have identified that effective partnerships are often central to their company’s successes. Despite their importance, the types of partnerships and external resources that are available to start-ups may not always be obvious. Additionally, entrepreneurs must assess which partners and expertise will best complement their current position and development challenges, keeping in mind the overall vision for their start-up.

This symposium will highlight how diverse start-ups and SMEs based in green chemistry technologies have sought out and leveraged different partnerships to successfully address commercial and development challenges and advance their businesses. Topics may include navigating relationships with universities and non-profit agencies, developing partnerships that address critical technical or business needs, leveraging and protecting intellectual property, and discussing the role of multinational corporations in advancing early-stage companies.

Deepening the Green and Sustainability Position of Industrial Chemical Processes

Organizers: Mark Benvenuto, Professor of Chemistry, Chairman of the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, MI, USA; Heinz Plaumann, Quantum Qik, LLC, Detroit, MI, USA

A large number of papers have been published which propose to improve the profile of some chemical process or product. Many suggest an improvement for one commodity that is manufactured on a scale that many chemists and engineers might claim is large – such as any pharmaceutical commodity – but that is tiny compared to the production of true commodity chemicals. Virtually nothing has been published about greening the major industries and the production of their commodities. Perhaps obviously, a relatively small change in a greener direction for any major industry would result in noticeable improvements in all the major indicators by which we measure global climate change and industrial progress – such as extremes of temperature, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, electrical usage, and waste production, for example. Ultimately, there has been little discussion of how to improve the chemical processes that are the largest in our world. This symposium seeks to address this.

Entrepreneurs Driving the Circular Economy – Opportunities and Challenges

Organizer: Janine Elliott, Sr. Program Officer, VentureWell, Hadley, MA, USA

The GC&E community often demonstrates a more applied mindset than other sciences; after all, a concern for environmental systems led most us to the field of green chemistry because we understand the resources used in production and toxins released at disposal. However, this level of systems thinking has not necessarily been applied to the other systems involved in translating an innovation out of the lab and into the market.

This symposium sits at the nexus of translating chemistry research to product development, entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship, and circular economy: root challenges are many, and solutions abound. Topics will span the innovation pipeline, from the classroom to commercialization. For example:

  • What curricula are available that leverage Design and/or Systems Thinking for the chemical sciences? What can be learned from the co-working and maker movement to be applied to “molecular makerspaces”?
  • How might innovators think more strategically in early stages about industry analysis, and design with an eager end-customer in mind? How might they redesign the value chain instead of optimizing for a single part?
  • Where have Lean Startup principles or other business methodologies succeeded, failed, or adapted as it applies to chemical innovations?
  • What additional market or economic analysis is required for commercialization of an invention for the circular economy?
  • Multi-billion dollar companies may be in a stronger position to embrace circular operations, so what are the opportunities and pitfalls for resource-strapped startups eager to utilize circular economy principles?
  • What are the implications for their business models? Who is funding the “small fish,” and why?

Though only some of the GC&E attendees may ever decide to form a venture, the opportunities to see the “big picture” will inform more actionable research and empower students and faculty to think more strategically about the impact they would like to have on getting green chemistry out into the world.

Carbon Dioxide: Closing the Loop on the Ultimate Raw Material

Organizer: Joseph Sabol, Chemical Consultant, Racine, Wisconsin, USA

More than 35 Gt of carbon dioxide (10 Gt as carbon) from industrial processes is produced each year, with about half accumulating into the oceans and on land and about half retained in the atmosphere. Adverse consequences from lowering the pH of the oceans and trapping infrared radiation are well documented and unabated release of carbon dioxide will continue to accentuate environmental concerns. Various proposals to treat carbon dioxide as waste and inject into deep wells are met with skepticism and daunting engineering challenges. In the spirit of “closing the loop” this symposium addresses use of carbon dioxide as a raw material to return the elements back into process streams. Every waste product should be an input to another process stream, although energy can be required. Burning additional fuels as the energy source to reduce carbon dioxide essentially defeats the purpose and solar direct electron transfer, photovoltaic, thermal heat, or bio-based systems, such as algae, to capture the energy needed to reduce and incorporate carbon dioxide as a raw material.

The Future is Garbage: Waste Biomass as a Renewable Feedstock

Organizers: Tony Bova, CEO, mobius, Knoxville, TN, US; Anna Zhenova, MS, Ph.D. Student, University of York, York, UK

The desire for a “clean” feedstock stream is a common crutch for chemists, often leading us to ignore an abundant, energy-advantaged renewable feedstock: organic waste. This half-day symposium will highlight current and emerging trends in organic waste valorization, and welcomes presentations from researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and educators across all spheres. Topics could include processing of organic waste, conversion of industrial biomass, municipal, or water waste streams to mixed and single-stream feedstocks, commercialization of emerging waste-to-chemical and waste-to-material technologies, and the development of educational curricula around organic waste valorization and integrated biorefinery design. The presentations will demonstrate that a future where waste is a valuable resource is already emerging.

Practice gaps to be highlighted and addressed in this symposium:

  • Waste as a Resource – The World Bank projects post-consumer urban organic waste production of 2.4 million tons per day by 2025. This number easily doubles with the inclusion of pre-consumer organic waste. Using pre- and post-consumer waste as a feedstock reduces energy usage, land usage, and landfill load. From agricultural byproducts to restaurant waste, this session invites presentations from researchers making trash into treasure.
  • Industrial Relevance – Effective chemical technologies for the valorization of organic waste must be able to exist outside of the laboratory. However, many chemists are not involved in seeing their technologies beyond the laboratory scale. This symposium invites presentations that will offer insight for the effective demonstration of commercial viability for waste-to-value chemistries through the use of case studies from successful startups or partnerships between academia and industry.
  • Education – Green chemistry education is critical to helping the next generation of chemists develop the right mindset. This session invites presentations to highlight emerging trends in incorporation of waste valorization into chemistry education.

Regenerative Design of Chemical Products and Materials for Consumer Goods

Organizers: Martin Wolf, Director, Sustainability & Authenticity, Seventh Generation, Inc., Burlington, VT, USA; Tom Burns, Staff Scientist, Novozymes North America, Inc., Franklinton, NC, USA

The current consumer goods market represents significant environmental impact. As environmental awareness has evolved, a continuum of sustainability practices has been proposed that goes from reduction of negative environmental impacts on one end, to environmental sustainability and environmental restoration, to system regeneration and the creation of truly positive environmental impacts on the other end. The basics of “Regenerative Design” are to develop systems and products that create “even better conditions to support the life-enhancing qualities of ecosystems.”

This symposium will consider ways using regenerative design principles and frameworks for reducing overall impacts and improving sustainability profiles of consumer goods and related products.

A particular focus of this symposium will be on systems and processes related to personal care and home care consumer products.

Advances in Process Intensification

Organizer: Aydin K. Sunol, Professor, University of South Florida, Florida, USA

Process intensification encompasses any chemical processing development that leads to a substantially smaller, greener, safer and more energy efficient technology. It is a key futuristic direction already making significant impact in the evolution of the chemical industry. This symposium seeks to assess the state-of-the-art and future developments in this exciting area of process intensification.

Topics include, but are not limited to: process integration, multiphase reactors, chemical looping processes, membrane processes, hybrid processes, micro-reactor systems, High-G reactors, critical region technology and forced unsteady state operations.

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