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Awarding ‘green’ innovations

By Chemical Engineering |

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; Washington, D.C.; www.epa.gov) has recently announced the winners of this year’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. This recognition is given for innovations that create business opportunities from solutions to potential environmental problems — endeavors that are well worth recognizing and taking note of. The 2017 winners, in each of five categories, are listed here (Source: EPA).

Designing Greener Chemicals — The Dow Chemical Company (Midland, Mich.; www.dow.com) and Paperfabrik August Koehler SE (Oberkirch, Germany; www.koehlerpaper.com) were recognized for creating a thermal printing paper that uses a physical change, rather than a chemical one to create an image, thereby eliminating the need for compounds such as bisphenol A and bisphenol S. The new, patented thermal paper technology incorporates an opaque layer with a polymer that collapses air voids in the paper coating during printing. These voids allow an underlying dark-colored layer to be seen. The paper has been tested in practice and a large-scale commercial introduction is expected this year.

Greener Reaction Conditions — Amgen Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.; www.amgen.com) and Bachem (Bubendorf, Switzerland; www.bachem.com) were honored for process improvements in the manufacture of a peptide drug, Etelcalcetide, used for secondary hyperparathyroidism in adults with kidney disease. While the volume of manufacture for peptide drugs is often small, the expected demand for this drug is high, and so the inefficiencies in the manufacturing process were problematic. The two companies redesigned the process, resulting in a five-fold increase in capacity and a 56% decrease in manufacturing time, while reducing the amount of solvent needed by 71% and completely eliminating an ion-exchange operation.

Greener Synthetic Pathways — Merck & Co., Inc. (Rahway, N.J.; www.msdresponsibility.com) received this award for process improvements in the manufacture of an antiviral drug candidate, Letermovir. Improvements to the process were made by implementing a novel catalyst that decreases raw material costs by 93%, increases the yield by over 60%, and reduces the amount of waste generated. It is estimated that the refined process will decrease the carbon footprint by 89% and water usage by 90%.

Academic Award — This honor went to professor Eric J. Schelter of the University of Pennsylvania (scheltergroup.chem.upenn.edu) for his work on recycling rare-earth-element mixtures. These materials are frequently used, as mixtures, in consumer applications. Schelter’s group has developed a simpler, “greener” technology to separate rare-earth elements from consumer products, based on their solubility characteristics and using tailored organic compounds. A grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy is supporting further work to develop the technology.

Small Business Award —This award was given for an advanced vanadium redox flow battery that was commercialized by UniEnergy Technologies LLC (Mukilteo, Wash.; www.uetechnologies.com). The technology originated from work by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). This third-generation vanadium redox flow battery, the UniSystem, offers a higher energy density and much broader operating temperature than prior chemistries. The new vanadium electrolytes (chloride-based) exhibit improved stability over sulfate-based systems. ■

Dorothy_LozowskiDorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director

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