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U.S. EPA Honors Green Chemistry

By Chemical Engineering |

For the 12th straight year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized efforts in developing less-toxic alternatives to existing technologies and reducing or eliminating waste in the manufacturing process. The 2007 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, which are described briefly below (Source: EPA), were presented earlier this summer at a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. The recipients join a respectable roster that EPA says has collectively led to the elimination of over 940-million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, over 600-million gallons of water, and over 340-million pounds of carbon dioxide.

Greener Synthetic Pathways Award — Development and Commercial Application of Environmentally Friendly Adhesives for Wood Composites:Adhesives used in manufacturing plywood and other wood composites often contain formaldehyde, which is toxic. Professor Kaichang Li of Oregon State University, together with Columbia Forest Products and Hercules Inc., has developed an alternate adhesive made from soy flour. The environmentally friendly adhesive is stronger than and cost-competitive with conventional adhesives. During 2006, Columbia used the new, soy-based adhesive to replace more than 47-million pounds of conventional formaldehyde-based adhesives.

Greener Reaction Conditions Award — Direct Synthesis of Hydrogen Peroxide by Selective Nanocatalyst Technology: Hydrogen peroxide is an environmentally friendly alternative to chlorine and chlorine-containing bleaches and oxidants, but it is expensive, and its current manufacturing process involves the use of hazardous chemicals. Headwaters Technology Innovation (HTI) has developed an advanced metal catalyst that makes hydrogen peroxide directly from hydrogen and oxygen, eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals, and producing water as the only byproduct. HTI has demonstrated its new technology and is partnering with Degussa AG on future ventures.

Designing Greener Chemicals Award — BiOH Polyols: Foam cushioning used in furniture or bedding is made from polyurethane, a man-made material. One of the two chemical building blocks used to make polyurethane is a “polyol,” which is conventionally manufactured from petroleum products. Cargill Inc. has introduced BiOH polyols, which are manufactured from renewable, biological sources such as vegetable oils. Foams made with BiOH polyols are comparable to foams made from conventional polyols. As a result, each million pounds of BiOH polyols saves nearly 700,000 pounds of crude oil. In addition, Cargill’s process reduces total energy use by 23% and carbon dioxide emissions by 36%.

Small Business Award — Environmentally Benign Medical Sterilization Using Supercritical Carbon Dioxide: Sterilizing biological tissue for transplant is critical to safety and success in medical treatment. Common existing sterilization techniques use ethylene oxide or gamma radiation, which are toxic or have safety problems. NovaSterilis has invented a technology that requires neither hazardous ethylene oxide nor gamma radiation and instead uses carbon dioxide and a form of peroxide to sterilize a wide variety of delicate biological materials such as graft tissue, vaccines and biopolymers.

Academic Award — Hydrogen-Mediated Carbon-Carbon Bond Formation: A fundamental aspect of chemistry involves creating chemical bonds between carbon atoms. Chemical processes commonly used to make such bonds usually generate significant amounts of waste. Professor Michael J. Krische, from the University of Texas at Austin, has developed a broad new class of chemical reactions that make bonds between carbon atoms using hydrogen and metal catalysts. This new class of reactions can be used to convert simple chemicals into complex substances, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and other important chemicals, with minimal waste.

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