Could. May. Might. Potentially.
Those terms are fixtures in many of today’s science news stories. I used them countless times in a thirty-something-year career in daily journalism. The ifs, buts, and other qualifiers are mainstays in mature scientific disciplines, let alone new fields with big expectations but still-emerging practical applications. You know, science’s answer to those popular axioms: Big hat, no cattle. Big snake, no rattle. Big boat, no paddle.
But it is refreshing to see that practical applications already have taken place with nearly all the research that was recognized today as the best in using "green chemistry" approaches to address pollution problems. Every year, the coveted Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are an opportunity to appreciate the sweeping practical impact of this exciting field. The Challenge Awards Program provides national recognition for outstanding chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use, and that have been or can be utilized by industry to achieve its pollution prevention.
The 2006 awards, announced Monday by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Chemical Society (ACS), are excellent examples. Over the past 11 years, the winners' work has led to the elimination of 750 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, according to the EPA. Those innovations have conserved 550 million gallons of water, and prevent release of 280 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
Nominations are judged by an independent panel of technical experts convened by the ACS. The Presidential-rank awards are given to select individuals and organizations that have made dramatic science contributions with identifiable applications that result in less pollution, waste or both in a manufacturing process.
The 2006 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge awards will be presented to Galen Suppes, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri-Columbia; Arkon Consultants of Irving, Texas; NuPro Technologies of Winston Salem, North Carolina; Merck & Company of Rahway, New Jersey; Codexis, Inc. of Redwood City, California; and S. C. Johnson, & Son, Inc. of Racine, Wisconsin.
For more information on the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards: http://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry
Academic Galen J. Suppes, Ph.D. Department of Chemical Engineering University of Missouri-Columbia Biobased Propylene Glycol and Monomers from Natural Glycerin
Galen J. Suppes, Ph.D.
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Missouri-Columbia
Biobased Propylene Glycol and Monomers from Natural Glycerin
The economics of biodiesel fuel depend heavily on finding new markets for the glycerin produced as a byproduct. Biodiesel firms in the United States are expected to produce one billion pounds of glycerin annually. A high-value use for glycerin could reduce the cost of biodiesel by as much as 40 cents a gallon.
Galen J. Suppes, Ph.D. and his team have developed a highly efficient process to convert natural glycerin to propylene glycol, used in everything from brake fluid to cosmetics to foods. Propylene glycol has a U.S. market of approximately 2.4 billion pounds per year, and is currently made almost exclusively from petroleum.
Suppes’ technology uses an existing waste steam (glycerin from biodiesel); replaces a petroleum feedstock with a biobased one for a popular chemical (propylene glycol); costs less; and paves the way for propylene glycol to displace ethylene glycol, one of the most widely distributed toxic chemicals in our society. Pilot plant tests will be completed by the end of January 2006; the first commercial facility (50 million pounds/year) is expected to begin production by October 2006.
Small Business Arkon Consultants Irving, Texas NuPro Technologies Winston Salem, North Carolina Environmentally Safe Solvents and Reclamation in the Flexographic Printing Industry
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Environmentally Safe Solvents and Reclamation in the Flexographic Printing Industry
Flexographic printing is used on everything from food wrappers to secondary containers,
such as cereal boxes, to shipping cartons. The ink on a flexographic printing plate reacts when exposed to light, forming cross-links and capturing an image. After exposure, printing plates are immersed in a developing solvent to remove any unreacted ink. The developing, or washout, solvent is typically a mixture of chlorinated, saturated cyclic or acyclic hydrocarbons.
Most traditional washout solvents are volatile, hazardous air pollutants subject to stringent reporting requirements; they also raise worker safety issues and create problems with recycling and disposal. Arkon Consultants and NuPro Technologies together have developed a safer chemical processing system: safer washout solvents and Cold Reclaim System™ recycling machinery to maximize the reuse and recycling of solvent. The system uses filtration and centrifugation instead of vacuum distillation, saving energy and reducing the accident potential of traditional solvent recovery systems.
Focus Area 1 Merck & Co., Inc. Rahway, New Jersey Novel Green Synthesis for
Focus Area 1
Merck & Co., Inc.
Rahway, New Jersey
Novel Green Synthesis forβ-Amino Acids Produces the Active Ingredient in Januvia™
Sitagliptin is the active ingredient of Januvia™, a new treatment for type 2 diabetes. Merck expects to file for regulatory approval of Januvia™ in 2006. In anticipation of commercializing sitagliptin, Merck redesigned its synthesis. A critical step of the new, highly efficient synthesis for sitagliptin is a unprecedented transformation: an asymmetric reaction without temporary, protective modification of the molecule.
The new synthesis has only three steps, creates 220 pounds less waste for each pound of sitagliptin manufactured, and increases the overall yield by nearly 50 percent. Over the lifetime of the drug, Merck expects to eliminate the formation of at least 330
million pounds of waste, including nearly 110 million pounds of aqueous waste. The technology discovered, developed, and implemented by Merck for the manufacture of Januvia™ is an excellent example of scientific innovation resulting in benefits to the environment.
Focus Area 2 Codexis, Inc. Redwood City, California Directed Evolution of Three Biocatalysts to Produce the Key Chiral Building Block for Atorvastatin, the Active Ingredient in Lipitor
Focus Area 2
Redwood City, California
Directed Evolution of Three Biocatalysts to Produce the Key Chiral Building Block for
Atorvastatin, the Active Ingredient in Lipitor
Codexis uses directed evolution to create biocatalytic microorganisms. It has applied that
technology to a major pharmaceutical ingredient. Using recombinant technology, Codexis selects those microorganisms that are the best biocatalysts for a particular reaction and then crosses them with each other to produce another generation of biocatalysts.
Repeating the selection and crossing through multiple generations, Codexis maximizes the efficiency of the biocatalyst. Using this method, Codexis designed, enabled, and developed an innovative green process to produce the hydroxynitrile that is the key chiral intermediate in the synthesis of atorvastatin (Lipitor®) on a commercial scale. Previous commercial processes were significantly more wasteful of both material and energy. The new route uses readily available feedstocks and two particularly clean biocatalytic reactions under neutral conditions. The process is operated by Lonza to manufacture this hydroxynitrile for Pfizer’s production of atorvastatin calcium.
Focus Area 3 S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Racine, Wisconsin Greenlist™ Process to Reformulate Consumer Products
Focus Area 3
S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Greenlist™ Process to Reformulate Consumer Products
SC Johnson formulates and manufactures a wide variety of consumer products. To evaluate the environmental and health effects of their formula ingredients, SC Johnson developed the Greenlist™ classification system. SC Johnson is now using Greenlist™ to choose the most sustainable, effective ingredients and to reformulate multiple products to make them safer and more environmentally responsible.
Greenlist™ covers more than 90 percent of the raw materials SC Johnson currently uses. SC Johnson used Greenlist™ to remove a particular volatile organic compound (VOC) from Windex®. They developed a novel new formula containing amphoteric and anionic surfactants, a solvent system with lower VOCs, and a polymer for superior wetting. Their formula cleans 30 percent better and eliminates over 1.8 million pounds of VOCs per year. SC Johnson sets performance targets using Greenlist™ and has applied the process to other products, including Saran® Wrap, Raid®, Glade® aerosol, and a Glade® all-purpose cleaner. Furthermore, the company has phased out all bleached paperboard packages and PVC bottles.