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28th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference


Knowledge Transfer and Common Metrics: How Can We Achieve Circular Polymers?

This full-day workshop will take place on Sunday, June 2nd.

There are many different approaches to ‘closing the loop’ of circularity in the field of polymer chemistry, whether that be focused on healable/recyclable products, biodegradability, renewable feedstocks, or breaking down material to its constituent parts through depolymerization. This topic touches upon three conference tracks; The Circularity of Chemicals/Materials, Sustainable Product Design and Polymers. While there is excellent cutting-edge research being performed in this area, there are also barriers to development outside academic publication. The principles of green chemistry could help us address, through collaboration, how best to overcome such barriers through sharing of experiences, and ideas and holding discussions around metrics. Artificial intelligence (AI) has great potential to aid life cycle analysis (LCA) and to establish a universal, interdisciplinary standard of open metrics and terminology. It is crucial that we start to open the conversation around this fast-growing field using workshops at events such as GCE conferences which have the prestige and the global reach to make meaningful progress.

A significant part of this symposium would be a workshop around establishing universal green metrics and terminology. It would be of great interest to discuss how AI can aid us in this important aim and in keeping with the conference’s theme. Perhaps the greatest insight on this topic could be gleaned from those working within modelling and data collection. It is significant that this workshop includes a panel of diverse voices from as many aspects of the circular economy as possible such as academia, industry, suppliers, manufacturers, data analysts, policymakers. Something that can often be lacking within academic settings is external participation and voices, which can hinder efficient knowledge transfer outside of a university setting. Transfer of knowledge and established best practice is something that we hope to bring to our session by asking a range of speakers and/or panel members for the workshop element of the symposium. We hope that networking opportunities will naturally come from these discussions.


9:00 am –9:15 am
Welcome and Introduction
9:15 am – 9:45 am
Alaaeddin Alsbaiee (BASF)

Polyurethane, a highly versatile and extensively utilized polymer class, plays a pivotal role in a wide range of industries, including construction, furniture, automotive, electronics, appliances, footwear, and packaging. In 2021, its global market volume reached 24.7 million metric tons, with a market value of USD 75.19 billion in 2022. Despite its immense popularity, the recycling of polyurethane thermosets particularly remains challenging due to their remarkable chemical resistance and resilience, which poses implications for plastic pollution and sustainability efforts. This talk will provide an overview of polyurethane thermosets and their current recycling challenges and practices while shedding light on potential future directions toward closing the loop for polyurethane thermosets.

9:45 am – 10:15 am
Jonathan Hirst (University of Nottingham)

AI and digital tools will be a critical part of making chemistry, including polymer chemistry, more sustainable. We have recently published AI4Green: a web-based application, available as open-source code and free to use: As users plan and record their reactions in the AI4Green electronic lab notebook (ELN), green and sustainable chemistry is promoted by the automatic calculation of green metrics (Figure 1) and the color-coding of hazards, solvents, and reaction conditions.

We are working on functionality for AI4Green that will give a broader assessment of sustainability, using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). The chemical inventory data required to give good predictions would come from real-world plants. However, these data are usually commercially sensitive. To fit with an open-source philosophy, we have assembled non-proprietary data pertinent to process engineering, e.g., the configuration and enumeration of unit operations, the thermodynamics of reaction processes, energy requirements of operational machinery, and the resultant carbon dioxide emissions. Utilizing machine learning and molecular descriptors we have predicted the necessary unit operations for a given compound, in order to furnish an assessment of both energy demands and carbon emissions. Alongside these developments, we have been constructing a chatbot, using a large language model, to assist the non-expert user with LCA terminology.

10:15 am – 10:45 am
Kyle Chin (Rocky Tech)

 Plastics have become an indispensable part of modern society, driving unprecedented advancements in both technological fields and everyday conveniences. Since the advent of synthetic polymers, more than 9.5 billion tons of plastics have been produced worldwide. Plastic materials are valued for their excellent properties, such as barrier properties, durability, flexibility, stability, lightweight nature, and cost-effectiveness. Industries like medical, automotive, and packaging heavily rely on plastics, finding them irreplaceable by any other materials. However, we are currently facing a significant challenge: the plastic crisis. In this presentation, we will discuss how RockyTech has been tackling this pressing issue. We will present our advancements in material innovation and the challenges we face as a startup operating with limited resources. Our technology focus is twofold: firstly, upcycling of existing plastics, a process which involves transforming used and discarded plastic materials into valuable new products through compatibilization and property enhancement, thereby extending their lifecycle and reducing waste. Secondly, we are at the forefront of producing innovative recyclable thermoset composite materials. These materials are not only designed for recyclability from their inception but also aim to minimize environmental impact through a significantly reduced carbon footprint. By adopting these approaches, RockyTech is not just contributing to a more sustainable environment but is also leading the way in redefining plastic materials, underscoring our commitment to ecological responsibility and innovation in the circular economy of plastics.

10:45 am-11:00 am
Networking Coffee Break
11:00 am-11:30 am
Gregg Beckett (NREL)

Biogenic feedstocks, including those derived from lignocellulosic biomass, exhibit distinctly different chemical functionality than building blocks derived from fossil carbon, namely substantially increased oxygen content. Towards a circular bioeconomy, this difference in chemical functionality presents an opportunity to redesign new chemicals and materials that serve as performance-advantaged bioproducts, which have been defined as “bio-based molecules that do not resemble existing petroleum-derived molecules in structure, and that offer a performance advantage over existing products” (Bailey and Fitzgerald, 2016). This talk will highlight examples from our collective efforts using computational and experimental tools to identify bio-based molecules that could lead to a performance-advantanged property, including in feedstock sourcing, manufacturing, in-life use, or end-of-life recycling.

11:30 am-12:00 pm
James Hendrick (IBM)

The discovery, development and deployment of new materials provides business opportunities as well as drives advances in high value applications ranging from microelectronics to medicine.  As progress in computational chemistry and AI systems continue, there influence on materials discovery including the creation of new polymer-forming reactions and catalysts discovery will become more pervasive. We have developed a broad class of highly active organic catalysts that span many orders of magnitude over a large palette of monomers. Fundamental mechanistic and theoretical investigations together with AI-assisted insights have created new pathways to well-defined macromolecular architectures. To overcome the time to market challenge, the merging of automated synthesis, high-throughput characterization, and predictive AI into a single pipeline offers the opportunity to dramatically accelerate materials development at a fraction of the traditional cost.   

12:00 pm-12:30 pm
Erica Nunez (Ocean Foundation)

The international governance landscape is increasingly focusing on upstream solutions to plastic pollution. With the ongoing negotiations for the UN plastics treaty, the development of the Science Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and to Prevent pollution, and others, my talk will give a brief overview of the science-policy interface in regards to chemicals and give a few of the outcomes from those meetings that would be relevant to the attendees. 

12:30 pm-1:30 pm
Networking Lunch
1:30 pm-2:30 pm
Panel Q&A Discussion
2:30 pm-3:15 pm
Roundtable Discussion (Part 1)
3:15 pm-3:30 pm
Networking Coffee Break
3:30 pm-5:00 pm
Roundtable Discussion (Part 2)