Green chemistry refers to a number of processes and practices that minimize the toxic or hazardous effects of chemicals in the environment, the lab, or the manufacturing plant. One way to go green is to cut down on the use of dangerous solvents in reactive processes, thereby reducing waste and improving lab safety. Though sometimes a less toxic catalyst or reagent can be employed from the outset, reused, or made inert eventually, another way to get a chemical reaction is to apply physical force instead. Called mechanochemistry, it involves the application of mechanical engineering to chemistry. Instead of adding a solvent, agitation is used to achieve chemical synthesis.
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Bioresearch students at the University of Colorado, Boulder will be able to do new in depth research into the conversion of biomass to various chemicals and fuels, thanks to a new bioresearch grant from the NSF. The NSF grant was awarded to the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2, a joint research renewable energy facility used by CU-Boulder, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
In the research science world, green is a gradient, it is a starting place from which to move in a more sustainable direction. It’s also a gradient that researchers are willing to pay more for. Over 95% of the researchers we surveyed at an on campus life science marketing event said they would be willing to pay more for green chemistry products.
Do you think of chemical engineers as life scientists? How about petroleum engineers? Surely there's nothing biological going on in a tank of gasoline? Not now perhaps, but millions of years ago that black ooze we call crude oil was alive, in the form of plant and animal matter. Hurrying the chemical breakdown of living matter into something we can burn in our cars is the challenge for some of today's brightest chemical engineers who work on turning algae into fuel in an efficient, sustainable green chemistry process.
On March 24, UC Berkeley's Center for Green Chemistry held its first interdisciplinary national conference, sponsored by the Canadian non-profit Philomathia Foundation. The event sold out. Speakers included faculty from across the UC Berkeley campus (including the Chancellor), as well as: