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‘Green’ chemistry winners

| By Dorothy Lozowski

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards — a program that is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA; Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and co-sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS; The awards aim to recognize and promote achievements that reduce hazards to people and the environment, while also attaining economic benefits. The following five outstanding achievements have been named as the 2021 Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners.*

Greener Synthetic PathwaysMerck & Co., Inc. ( received this award for developing a more sustainable process for manufacturing gefapixant citrate, which is a medication for chronic cough. Merck was able to achieve a higher yield process with a six-fold reduction in raw material costs, while also replacing an alkylation step that involved hazardous materials. Merck implemented a measurement tool called process mass intensity (PMI) as a measure of process efficiency for biopharmaceutical production. The initial process had a PMI of 366, and the improved process registered a PMI of 88, an improvement by more than a factor of four.

Greener Reaction Condition — This award went to Bristol Myers Squibb ( for developing a new, sustainable class of chemical reagents for solid-phase synthesis that are derived from limonene, a waste product from discarded citrus peels. A key element in this technology is the use of phosphorus reagents instead of the traditional oxidation reaction. This change reduces the amount of reagent and solvent required and is said to improve the stability of the reagent and intermediate products. The need for specialized technology and shipping and storage has also been eliminated, since the phosphorus reagents are more tolerant to air and moisture.

Designing Greener ChemicalsColonial Chemical, Inc. ( received this award for developing surfactant blends that are derived from plant-based materials, are biodegradable, and have shown the potential to replace ethylene oxide (EO) containing surfactants. The process uses only water as a solvent and consumes less energy than processes using petroleum-based raw materials. The surfactants are functionalized alkyl polyglucosides (APGs) that are said to provide cleaning performance that is equal to or better than alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), while avoiding the environmental issues associated with APEs.

Small Business — This award recognizes XploSafe LLC ( for its novel sorbent that can capture ammonia, phosphate and nitrate from contaminated water. Various metal oxides, which can adsorb various nutrients, are combined and the material can be turned into granules and used as a time-release fertilizer. The technology offers cost and utility advantages over standard biological and chemical treatment solutions. Hydra Water Technologies, a spin-off from XploSafe, manufactures the material under the name PhosRox.

Academic — This honor was awarded to a team led by professor Srikanth Pilla of Clemson University ( for creating the first lignin-based non-isocyanate polyurethane foam. The lignin-based foam can be chemically recycled, and the catalyst can also be recycled. The innovative process to make this foam uses non-toxic, biobased reagents, and does not use diisocyanates.

D. Lozowski

Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director





* Source: EPA; More details about the award process and the winners can be found on the EPA’s website,