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Winning achievements in ‘green chemistry’

By Chemical Engineering |

For the past 19 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; Washington, D.C.; www.epa.gov) has been honoring innovative technologies that reduce hazards to humans and the environment. These achievements are of great interest since developing safer and environmentally sustainable processes is an important goal for the chemical process industries (CPI).

Chemical technologies that are nominated for the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are judged on three selection criteria: 1) the technology must be innovative and of scientific merit; 2) the technology must offer human health or environmental benefits; and 3) the technology should have a significant impact — either by being broadly applicable to the CPI, or by having a strong impact in a narrowly defined area.

The winners of the 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, in each of five categories, are described here (Source: EPA):

Designing Greener Chemicals Award — The Solberg Company (Green Bay, Wisc.; www.solbergfoam.com) replaced fluorinated surfactants in its firefighting foam concentrate with a blend of non-fluorinated surfactants and sugars. The new foams eliminate the significant health and environmental concerns associated with the fluorinated surfactants, which are considered to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT). The new foam concentrates have achieved full regulatory compliance with fire-protection standards and are considered to be as good as, or even superior to the fluorinated materials.

Greener Reaction Conditions Award — QD Vision Inc. (Lexington, Mass.; www.qdvision.com) received this award for developing high-quality quantum dots that are used for energy-efficient display and lighting products, and for manufacturing them using a “greener” process. The synthesis is estimated to use about 40,000 gal/yr less solvent and replaces organo-cadmium and organo-zinc building blocks with less hazardous precursors.

Greener Synthetic Pathways Award — Solazyme Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.; www.solazyme.com) was honored with this award for its work in producing novel oils derived from microalgae. The manufacturing process is expected to have a lower environmental impact than currently produced oils based on petroleum or plant products. Solazyme has demonstrated that its oils and lubricants reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions compared to using regular vegetable oils, and the oils are being tested and sold for a variety of applications including food, fuel and industrial products.*

Academic Award — Shannon Stahl, professor at the University of Wisconsin (Madison; www.wisc.edu) was recognized for his work in developing safe, aerobic oxidation methods for use in pharmaceutical synthesis.

Small Business Award — Amyris (Emeryville, Calif.; www.amyris.com) won this award for engineering yeast to make farnesene — a hydrocarbon building block that can be used to make a renewable replacement for petroleum diesel fuel.*

Dorothy Lozowski, Editor in Chief

* For more on these topics, see several Latest News items on www.chemengonline.com, including Solazyme: Commercial production of renewable algal oils at Iowa facilities, January 31, 2014; First shipment of bio-based farnesene is made, February 1, 2013; and Amyris and Total form joint venture for fuels, December 5, 2013

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