Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; Washington, D.C.; www. epa.gov) recognizes “green chemistry” achievements — innovative technologies that reduce hazards to humans and the environment, as well as the leading scientists who contribute to this end. These achievements turn potential problem areas into opportunities by developing safer and environmentally sustainable processes, which is an important goal for the chemical process industries (CPI). Details about the award and selection criteria can be found on the EPA’s website.
The winners of the 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, in each of five categories, are described here (Source: EPA).
Designing Greener Chemicals and Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change Award — Newlight Technologies (Costa Mesa, Calif.; www.newlight.com) has developed and commercialized a new process that allows thermoplastic polymers to be manufactured from methane more cost effectively than from petroleum-based raw materials. A newly developed biocatalyst can produce nine times more product for the same amount of catalyst input as compared to earlier technologies. In the AirCarbon process*, air and methane are mixed with the biocatalyst to produce polymer at ambient operating conditions. A number of leading companies have adopted AirCarbon within two years of scaleup, to make a variety of products, including bags and containers, cell phone cases and furniture.
Greener Reaction Conditions Award — Dow AgroSciences, LLC (Indianapolis, Ind.; www.dowagro.com) was honored for development and commercialization of its aqueous microcapsule suspension product, Instinct. This technology reduces leaching of nitrates from fertilizers to ground and surface waters, thereby retaining applied nitrogen longer at plants’ roots for better crop yield, and reducing potential emissions of nitrous oxide
Greener Synthetic Pathways Award — CB&I (The Woodlands, Tex.; www.cbi.com) and Albemarle (Baton Rouge, La.; albemarle.com) developed the AlkyClean* solid-acid alkylation process. In the process, Albemarle’s AlkyStar catalyst is combined with CB&I’s novel reactor scheme*, to produce high quality alkylates without the use of liquid acid catalysts, making the process safer with a lower environmental impact.
Academic Award — Paul Chirik, professor at Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.; www.princeton.edu) was recognized for his work in developing a new class of hydrosilylation catalysts* that are based on metals such as iron and cobalt, which are more readily available and whose use results in a lower environmental impact than the existing platinum-based catalysts.
Small Business Award— Verdezyne (Carlsbad, Calif.; verdezine.com) won this award for developing a yeast fermentation technology that focuses on the production of dicarboxylic acid chemical intermediates. The process uses renewable resources, such as fatty acid feedstocks from vegetable refining. In addition to using plant-based rather than fossil-based feedstocks, the process is considered to be safer because it eliminates the need for high temperatures and pressures, as well as the use of nitric acid.
* For more on these topics, see www.chemengonline.com, including The 43rd Kirkpatrick Award: Winner Announced, December, 2015; Iron-based catalyst shows promise for alkene hydrosilylations, May, 2012; New Developments Take Shape for U.S. Refiners, May, 2016
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