Category Archives: Commentary

purple flower

AGC Photo Competition

Hello All AGC fans! We are proud to announce our first ever competition. We have decided to have a photo contest, and we encourage each of you to participate!
The prompt is: “How do you incorporate green chemistry into your life?”

Please submit a single shot and a brief explanation of how you do this by March 1st 2012 to msassanpour@advancinggreenchemistry.org
There will be four winners! By submitting your photo to this contest you agree that AGC can use your submission on our website and on other green chemistry materials (don’t worry, we’ll give you full credit and publicity!).

 

Now, of course, here are the list of prizes:

1. Gift package from Dirty Beauty, nature-based skincare. Check out their facebook here!
2. Hand-decorated floral green box from Susan Li’s etsy store SusiesBoxes. Check out her facebook page here!
3. Hand-made steampunk candle-holder made of real clock parts from Lisa Schultheis’ etsy store earthluv.
4. Made by Mieka Olive Oil Soap. Check out Made by Mieka’s facebook page here!

Etzkorn solo photo

Green Chemistry at Virginia Tech Part III

For my third and final interview in the Virginia Tech series, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Felicia Etzkorn (pictured left), pioneer of the green chemistry course at Virginia Tech. The green chemistry course was her idea back in 2003. She and her colleague, Dr. Tim Long, decided to team-teach it just for fun. A couple of years later Dr. Etzkorn decided she was going to approach it more seriously. As a result, she had to write a course proposal for Virginia Tech’s course catalogue. The course was approved by three different curriculum committee levels. Afterwards, she developed course material and lectures, and taught the class for three years, from 2007 – 2009. She is excited to be teaching it again this Spring 2012.

 

Dr. Etzkorn also applies her passion for green chemistry to the local Blacksburg community. She designed a green science experiment for middle school students. Under the program, she brings the students into one of the labs at Virginia Tech to let them make their own polymer of lactic acid. The procedure allows them to make polylactic acid derived from soybeans, similar to a process used for biodegradable plastic containers for salads.

 

 

The students got a chance to come to Tech and get to do the experiment using solvent free polymerization and a non-toxic catalyst. First they had to stir and heat the mixture to get the polymer following lab procedures. Then the students made small toys by pouring polymer into clay molds they made in art class (pictured right – the brown items: shells, lips et.c are the PLA polymer, the grey figures are clay molds.). Since it does biodegrade the students were even encouraged to compost it. They were really enthusiastic about green chemistry.

 

 

Dr. Etzkorn also studies neural tube defects in mice with Dr. Hrubec, her collaborator. In the experiments, the control mice start getting neural tube disorder at a shocking rate of 20%, leading to many control experiments to see what was causing it. One suspect turned out to be from our every day tap water: epilepsy and bipolar disorder medication Cardamazepine. Dr. Etzkorn explains: “We cannot get any water that doesn’t have it to some extent and the mice are very sensitive to these agents.” The second suspect is a quaternary ammonium compound used to sanitize the lab. More experiments have yet to be conducted to determine the culprit.

 

AGC congratulates the diverse work that Dr. Etzkorn does with green chemistry and environmental health sciences and wishes her success in the future.

 

EPA Research Chief Paul Anastas Announces Plan To Step Down.

InsideEPA.com

Posted: January 5, 2012

EPA’s research chief, Paul Anastas, who has led the agency’s controversial chemical risk assessment program, is leaving the agency next month.

Anastas, the assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and agency science advisor, announced his plans in email to all ORD staff Jan. 5. Anastas will be returning to Yale University, where he is on leave from his position as a professor of green chemistry.

“With deeply mixed emotions, I am writing to inform you that I will be stepping down from my position . . . in mid-February in order to return to my colleagues and students at Yale University and — most importantly — to my wonderful family in New Haven, Connecticut,” Anastas writes.

Anastas is the second high-level EPA official to leave the agency in the past few months. Late last year, EPA toxics chief Steve Owens left the agency for a position in the private sector. While Anastas did not announce who will assume his EPA responsibilities, informed sources have suggested that Ramona Trovato, ORD associate assistant administrator, may serve as the office’s acting assistant administrator.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told EPA staff in an email that the agency will announce a “formal transition” in the coming weeks. “In the meantime, I assure you that science will remain the cornerstone of all of our Agency’s efforts and EPA scientists will continue to set the standard for cutting edge research and study — work that will yield a healthier, cleaner environment for all Americans,” she wrote Jan. 5.

Many observers have been expecting Anastas to leave, though late last year he denied any plans to depart. “I have no plans to leave. I am honored to be working with the people of ORD and am enjoying it immensely,” Anastas told Inside EPA Nov. 21. “Like all Presidential appointees, I serve at the pleasure of the President.”

But in the Jan. 5 email, Anastas writes, “While after mid-February, I will no longer be serving in an official capacity, I will continue to be part of the broader pursuit of sustainability through my work and research at Yale University. I have said before that while I can’t always guarantee the win, I will always guarantee the fight. I have fought beside you in taking the necessary steps to protect the health and environment of the American public.” Read more…

 

 

U.S. EPA to fund “Centers for Molecular Design”.

Funding Opportunities

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

Centers for Sustainable Molecular Design

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2012-STAR-C1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.509

Solicitation Opening Date: December 27, 2011
Solicitation Closing Date: April 25, 2012, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: James Gentry (gentry.james@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8093
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contacts: Nora Savage (savage.nora@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8104
José Zambrana (zambrana.jose@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8057

Table of Contents:
SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
Synopsis of Program
Award Information
Eligibility Information
Application Materials
Agency Contacts
I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION
A. Introduction
B. Background
C. Authority and Regulations
D. Specific Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
E. References
F. Special Requirements
II. AWARD INFORMATION
III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
A. Eligible Applicants
B. Cost Sharing
C. Other
IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
B. Content and Form of Application Submission
C. Submission Dates and Times
D. Funding Restrictions
E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION
A. Peer Review
B. Programmatic Review
C. Funding Decisions
VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
A. Award Notices
B. Disputes
C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Access Standard STAR Forms (Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page)
View research awarded under previous solicitations (Funding Opportunities: Archive Page)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Synopsis of Program:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications for an interdisciplinary center focusing on the sustainable molecular design of chemicals.  The aim of the center will be to develop a set of parameters and strategies that will establish design criteria regarding the properties of chemicals that will lead to the development of intrinsically less hazardous substances when compared to those currently used in society.  These newly acquired criteria and design principles will direct researchers towards the generation of novel chemicals that will minimize, and preferably eliminate, associated potential environmental and human health impacts that may occur during the life cycle of that chemical. The advent of these novel chemicals and their respective discovery of correlations between a chemical’s inherent properties and their adverse impacts require the development of improved methods for the design of next generation chemicals.

The Center will explore methods, establish knowledge bases, and develop guidance for eliminating and avoiding those attributes or properties of a chemical that most significantly influence their potential impacts. It is also anticipated the guidance for improved design and understanding of inherent chemical properties resulting from research supported under this Request for Applications (RFA) will enable continual improvements in the quality of life without detrimental impairment of public health or the ecosystem. Furthermore, the developed guidance and capability to reduce a substance’s ability to manifest hazard will result in substances which are in direct accordance with the principles of sustainability.

Note:  The term “chemicals” broadly refers to any and all types of materials, including individual chemicals, compounds or mixtures of compounds, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and nanomaterials.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: Up to approximately two (2) awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $10 million total for all awards
Potential Funding per Award: Up to a total of $5 million, including direct and indirect costs, with a maximum duration of 4 years.  Cost-sharing is not required.  Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

Eligibility Information:
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and hospitals) located in the U.S., state and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply.  See full announcement for more details.

Application Materials:
To apply under this solicitation, use the application package available at Grants.gov (for further submission information see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and other Submission Requirements”).  The necessary forms for submitting a STAR application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site, the Forms and Standard Instructions Download Page. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one week to complete the registration process.  This registration, and electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, call 1-800-490-9194 or send a webmail message to the NCER Contact Us page at least 15 calendar days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions.  In your message  provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available.  Alternate instructions will be emailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this Request for Applications (RFA), including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Agency Contacts:
Eligibility Contact: James Gentry (gentry.james@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8093
Electronic Submissions: Todd Peterson (peterson.todd@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-7224
Technical Contacts: Nora Savage (savage.nora@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8104
José Zambrana (zambrana.jose@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8057

Full Announcement HERE.

turner

Green Chemistry at Virginia Tech Part II

For my second interview in the Virginia Tech series, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Richard Turner. Like Dr. Long, he worked in the chemical industry and saw that most of the companies that practice green chemistry do so for regulatory and financial reasons. While working in the private sector Dr. Turner worked on plastics made without solvents – in ‘melt phase reactions.’ Melt phase processes eliminate energy consuming steps or the need to add something else to the waste stream.  They are inherently more environmentally friendly. They work by placing solids (which don’t react very fast) into solution so that the molecules can have the mobility to find each other and react.

In his own labs on campus, Dr. Turner has a few projects in melt phase rather than in solution as described above. His lab is also trying to make polymers that capture carbon dioxide. He describes:

“Carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere is going to be an increasingly large issue – we have to invest in the research now to learn how to capture and sequester the carbon dioxide. Polymer particles have huge surface areas, with ligands that can capture CO2. The sorbent (“a material used to absorb liquids or gases,” according to Wikipedia; yes, I had to look it up) and ligands capture CO2 and then moves it to reactor where it releases it, concentrating the CO2.”

Dr. Turner is also on the science advisory board of the company, Novomer, which was featured in a previous article on converting oranges to plastic. He works on biodegradability and reducing the overall energy footprint. “We have to make sure we do really tough and detailed analysis of our choices.”

In the classroom, Dr. Turner teaches a course called: “Future Industrial Professionals in Science and Engineering”. The course caters to scientists and engineers who want to go into industry. He divides the class into groups who run individual projects; this year all the projects were sustainability driven. There were three projects in total: the first worked to extend the shelf life of food; the second worked to improve battery life; the third worked to make a better membrane for reverse osmosis.

Outside of his own class, Dr. Turner was impressed with Tech’s sustainability. He discussed the accomplishments of the College of Natural Resources and the Environment, while also noting the strong Renewable Resources Group.

AGC applauds Dr. Turner’s hard work with sustainable chemistry, and hopes it serves as inspiration to other chemists.

 

Caffeine strengthens connections between neurons in a little-known area of the brain.

NIEHS Environmental Factor – January 2012: Intramural papers of the month:

A recent study published by NIEHS scientists suggests how and where caffeine might act in the brain to increase cognitive function. Previous research shows that caffeine acts by blocking the inhibitory effects of adenosine on cyclic adenosine monophosphate AMP production in the brain. This study represents the first demonstration of long-lasting synaptic plasticity induced by in vivo exposure to caffeine, as reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience.As a widely consumed stimulant, caffeine’s effects on synaptic transmission in the CA2 area of the hippocampus, where adenosine A1 receptors are highly enriched, were not known. Rats were divided into three groups and given doses equivalent to two large cups of coffee, a highly caffeinated energy drink, or a dose that exceeded most people’s daily consumption. All doses of caffeine strengthened the connections between neurons of CA2, but not in other areas of the hippocampus, a brain structure important for learning and memory.These results provide a pleasingly simple explanation for the common daily human experience. Adenosine levels increase in the brain during the day, inhibiting the production of cyclic AMP. Although these effects recover during sleep, caffeine accelerates recovery by blocking any residual adenosine action and strengthens the activity of CA2 synapses of the hippocampus. This discovery also raises exciting new questions about the role of CA2 neurons in brain function.Citation: Simons SB, Caruana DA, Zhao M, Dudek SM. 2011. Caffeine-induced synaptic potentiation in hippocampal CA2 neurons. Nat Neurosci; doi:10.1038/nn.2962 [Online 20 November 2011].

via Environmental Factor – January 2012: Intramural papers of the month.

Chemists build a better biodiesel process.

Thitsartarn, W, and S Kawi. 2011. An active and stable CaO-CeO2 catalyst for transesterification of oil to biodieselGreen Chemistry http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c1gc15596b.

Synopsis by Wim Thielemans, Dec 20, 2011

Scientists in Singapore develop a new chemical catalyst with fewer drawbacks than current versions to help make biodiesel production more attractive and sustainable.

A modified version of a well-known but inefficient chemical catalyst can propel faster, cleaner reactions that turn plants into diesel fuel better than existing methods.The new calcium-based catalyst is more reactive, stable and easier to recover from the final product, the Singapore researchers report in the journal Green Chemistry. While the catalyst may solve a major stumbling block in the effort to produce biodiesel, the process will need more testing in industrial settings.

Biodiesel production is gaining in importance as petroleum supplies become more limited and concern about climate change grows. Biodiesel can be used in unmodified diesel engines. Its use results in near-zero carbon dioxide emissions, if estimates consider plant growth, which extracts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Biodiesel is generally produced from plant oils. Plant oils are star-like molecules with three arms. To turn the plant oil into biodiesel, the three arms need to be removed from the center. The separated arms then form the biodiesel.

Unfortunately, this transformation does not happen readily without chemical help. Chemists must use other molecules, called catalysts, to speed up this reaction.

Current catalysts make the reaction go faster, but they have various drawbacks that hamper their use on the large scale of a commercial biodiesel process. These drawbacks include: large amounts of catalyst may be needed; high temperatures are necessary to propel the reactions; the catalyst may be less stable if it is used for a longer time; it can be difficult to remove the catalyst from the final product; and the solid catalysts may be slow to dissolve into the biodiesel product.

Calcium-based catalysts – which are cheap and abundant – can break up the star-like plant oils. Unfortunately, they dissolve into the biodiesel and removing them generates large amounts of wastewater.

To solve this problem, researchers from Singapore made a new and very reactive calcium-based catalyst with high stability. The catalyst was formed from a solution containing calcium and cerium – a metal found in a number of minerals. By making the solution less acidic, the catalyst precipitates out and is recovered by filtering and drying.

The ratio of calcium and cerium was varied to see which combination would give the best catalyst performance. Cerium alone does not work very well.

The best catalyst found could be reused up to 18 times with more than 90 percent of plant oils separated into their arms. Very low amounts of the catalyst dissolved into the biodiesel.

This work is certainly promising as it may make biodiesel production more sustainable and cheaper. Of course, the catalyst will need to be tested in an industrial process. Read more science at Environmental Health News.

 

Shake it up: A greener method for upset tummy medicine.

André, V, A Hardeman, I Halasz, RS Stein, GJ Jackson, DG Reid, MJ Duer, C Curfs, MT Duarte and T Friščić. 2011. Mechanosynthesis of the metallodrug bismuth subsalicylate from Bi2O3 and structure of bismuth salicylate without auxiliary organic ligands. Angewandte Chemie International Edition http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201103171.

Synopsis by: Audrey Moores and Wendy Hessler, Dec 15, 2011

This sounds like a kitchen recipe: mix A with B, add a few drops of water, a pinch of salt and then shake. Except, researchers followed these simple directions in a laboratory to make the main ingredient in the popular stomach and intestinal remedy sold under the brand name Pepto-Bismol.

To make the drug this new way, they mixed the two main dry ingredients then added the rest and vigorously shook the paste in a special shaker. The breakthrough – an important step forward in the emerging field of mechanochemistry – uses less energy and solvent than the current way the drug is produced. And it creates no harmful by-products.

This discovery is showing that using simpler chemistry methods can improve processes as complex as drug synthesis and also aids understanding of how drugs work.

 

Context

The image of chemistry is intimately linked with the idea of mixing together liquids. But a new field of chemistry – namely mechanochemistry – proposes to make molecules by mixing solids without adding copious amounts of liquid solvents.

In mechanochemistry, the reagents are loaded into a small cylinder with two metal or ceramic balls. This cylinder is shaken very fast to allow proper mixing. The advantages of this technique are multiple. The products are collected pure, the reactions proceed faster than in solution, and less energy is required to perform the mixing compared to what is needed to heat large amount of solvents.

Variations of this method include addition of a few drops of solvent or a very small amount of salts. This permits the use of slower shaking, thus reducing energy use even more.

Pepto-Bismol is a popular stomach and intestinal relief medication. It is composed of a metal called bismuth and aspirine. To be active, bismuth and aspirine have to form chemical bonds together.

Currently, the drug is made by mixing water solutions of these two ingredients. After reacting, the excess water is removed, which costs energy, time and money. Previous efforts to find simpler, less wasteful, mechanical ways to manufacture the compounds have failed.

This bismuth-aspirin drug has been used for more than a century, yet chemists do not know exactly what its chemical structure looks like when the active ingredients combine. This has limited understanding of how the drug functions in the stomach.

 

What did they do?

A group of researchers from Cambridge, United Kingdom, wanted to improve the existing synthesis of a pharmaceutical group of compounds called bismuth salicylates. The most well-known variety is bismuth subsalicylate, the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, an over-the-counter medicine used to treat nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and other stomach and intestinal symptoms.

They were looking for a way to make the desired bismuth subsalicylate using a method that was more energy efficient, faster, yielded fewer harmful byproducts and used less solvent than the current way to make the drug.

Instead of first dissolving the two key ingredients – bismuth oxide and aspirine – in liquid solvents and then mixing the two fluids together, the researchers chose a simpler method. They mixed the dry powders in a mechanochemical mill.

It was not the first attempt to produce this drug in such a simple fashion, but past trials were met with little success. This time, the research group added a few drops of water and a pinch of salt. During ingredient shaking, the presence of the water and the salt enabled the formation of the drug in very high yields.

They tested different ratios of bismuth oxide and aspirine, different volumes of water and a variety of salts. After each attempt, they identified the products produced during the reaction.

 

What did they find?

The researchers first added a few drops of water to the bismuth oxide and aspirine powders. This helped the reaction and products did form, but none were the active ingredient bismuth subsalicylate they were looking for.

They redid the experiment adding a little bit of salt with the water to the powders. A series of different salts were tested. They discovered that potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate were very efficient in promoting the reaction and afforded the desired drug in high yields.

The reason why the addition of water and salt is required is not completely understood, but the researchers believe that it helps the molecules organize and “find their place” in the final molecular architecture.

 

What does it mean?

By testing a new method of mixing ingredients, this group of chemists was able to produce a commercially important drug using less energy and solvent. They also are the first to identify the chemical structure of a compound similar to bismuth subsalicylate.

The discovery of this new synthetic method is important because it opens the way toward more energy efficient and less polluting drug fabrication. The chemists only had to mix two essential ingredients with tiny amounts of water and nitrate salts – less than 5 percent. Interestingly, these salts do not seem to mix with the final product, which allows for easy separation in the end. Also, this new process generates only water as a by-product. It is thus compatible with drug synthesis.

The secondary discovery of the compound’s chemical structure may seem surprising. Although it has been known for more than a century that the ingredient in Pepto-Bismol is active, the actual way it works is still unclear. In fact, no chemist had isolated and identified the three-dimension chemical structure of any bismuth salicylates. It is a little bit as if engineers were trying to understand the way an engine works without having the knowledge of the shape of its mechanical pieces.

In this study, the researchers were able to decipher the structure of a compound very close to the ingredient bismuth subsalicylate found in over-the-counter medicine. This is a vital step towards understanding the biological activity of this much-used drug. This discovery was possible because the method afforded an unusually pure product, another common advantage of mechanochemistry.

The use of mechanochemistry at a production scale has been demonstrated, for example, on the synthesis of an anti-inflammatory drug/carrier composite. This new discovery may thus lead to a more optimal production of Pepto-Bismol and other medicines. Read more science at Environmental Health News.

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Polymer Clay Jewelry Chemistry

This interview was inspired by my latest infatuation with my etsy shop. My inspiration for starting an ‘store’ on etsy was Inedible Jewelry. They are a polymer clay jewelry business in the lovely city of Charlottesville, making replicas of everyday foods with PVC. The ladies of Inedible Jewelry, Jessica and Susan Partain, are at our local farmer’s market every weekend selling their latest miniature creations.  Taking the opportunity to see their studio and learn more about the chemistry behind polymer clay, I set up an interview with Jessica Partain in her workshop (see picture to left).

I interrupted her in the middle of placing holiday orders, in her studio filled with doll-house sized desserts, drinks, fruits, vegetables, etc. The main material used to make these bit-sized creations is PVC.  I started the interview asking about the chemical concerns with PVC over the past decade. Jessica explained: “While the formulation of PVC itself has not changed, both of the polymer clays that I work with (97% Premo, 3% Sculpey, both manufactured by polyform products) were reformulated in 2008 to be phthalate-free and lead-free.” Phthalates, which are also endocrine disruptors, used to be a concern for the sculptors before the reform because baking the clay would release them, consequently allowing them to be  inhaled by the artist. Jessica also explained: The clay she uses is also ASTM certified, making the product safe. “They’ve run it past medical experts and biochemists looking specifically for potentially harmful interactions between the material and the artist.” This made me proud of my fellow medical experts and biochemists, doing good in the world.

Jessica and Susan have also always used a separate toaster in a well-ventilated room for their polymer baking, making creations such as the cupcake earrings to the right. They use a separate toaster to ensure that they would not combine their cooking with their polymer. One concern that still remains is when the clay is burnt, from baking for too long or from baking at too high a temperature – releasing toxic HCl gas.

As a loyal customer, I asked her: “What do you do with annoying customers like myself, who also ask all these difficult chemistry questions before a purchase.” She answered: “Well, you are one of two people asking me these questions in past 22 years; and the other person who asked did not have much basis for her questioning.” I felt like a major nerd at that moment – 8 years of intense science back ground can do that to you.

Although most customers do not ask about the chemistry behind polymer clay, many worry about the metals used in the jewelry. I then asked “Is this because they are worried about the toxic chemicals in metals?” That was strike two for Nerd Mana. The real reason is because many people are allergic to certain metals. To combat this problem, Inedible Jewelry uses 925 Sterling Silver for their necklaces.925 indicates the silver is 92.5% silver, and 7.5% copper. Jessica explained that the copper allows for 925 Sterling Silver to hold its shape because 100% silver is too malleable. All her metals are nickel free to avoid allergic reactions that lead to inflammation.

AGC loves the work of Inedible Jewelry and is impressed with their knowledge of chemistry and toxicology as it applies to their work. We all have a necklace with a polymer clay pendant. So far our collection includes: a peppermint, a gingerbread man, and a rainbow cake (mine!). The equally festive peach pies are pictures to the left where each miniature peach slice is crafted by hand.

 

Written by Mana Sassanpour

 

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Green Chemistry at Virginia Tech Part I

Being a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, it is a little hard for me to write this article on all the innovation and leadership that is happening at Virginia Tech in the field of Green Chemistry (note: the two schools are notorious rivals). However, this is one topic on which I must concede: Tech just does it better.

To begin my series of Green Chemistry interviews with faculty and staff at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (also known as Virginia Tech, VTech, and Tech), I interviewed Dr. Timothy Long. Dr. Long’s dedication to greener chemistry can be seen in both his teaching and in his research. I had the privileged opportunity to discuss his background, career at Tech, and plans for the future.

After receiving his PhD in chemistry, Dr. Long spent nine years in the chemical industry, where his passion for greener processes developed. He described: “they (industry) were very aware of green chemistry, motivated by economics and affordability.” Once exposed to this mentality, Dr. Long got passionate and wanted to see how to apply this mentality to his research and teaching. When he came to VTech twelve years ago he wanted a more sustainable way of doing things. He described: “I want to weave the principles of green chemistry into my teachings and research.”

A major contribution from Dr. Long’s lab is the more sustainable production of PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive used in many forms of tape and sticky notes). Previously, these compounds used petroleum-derived precursors that had terminal ester bonds. Dr. Long’s polyesters have that same ester bond but in the middle of the polymer. This structural change allows the compound to be made without solvent, while also allowing biodegradability. Killing two green chemistry birds with one stone.

Virginia Tech offers a course in green chemistry taught alternatively by Dr. Long and Dr. Etzkorn. It is a 4000 level class for undergraduates which caters to mainly to chemistry, biology, and business majors. Each semester the course has 45 students. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach to green chemistry as it integrates the science and concepts with society. It seeks to understand how chemistry is perceived in the wider community. While there is no green chemistry minor at Tech, the engineering school has a green engineering minor. Dr. Long also wants to make the green chemistry course mandatory for chemistry graduates. Currently he is submitting a proposal for a nanoscience degree at the University that would incorporate fundamentals of toxicology, essential for our upcoming chemists.

Dr. Long described the passion of Tech’s students to be more sustainable, commenting on their successful Earth Week each year and the increasing amounts of activity on campus. Tech is also hosting the World Polymer Conference next year – which is geared to making a more sustainable, healthy, and safer world.

AGC wishes Dr. Long success in all these ventures and applauds his success thus far.

Interview by: Mana Sassanpour, AGC