The sustainable use of materials, including the (re)design of products to maximize their sustainability, is an area of immense and rapidly growing environmental and economic importance. It also impacts the greater goal of enabling a much larger fraction of the world’s population to achieve the high standard of living that technology now confers upon the residents of developed nations, without exceeding the Earth’s capacity to supply the necessary raw materials and absorb the inevitable byproducts of activities required to generate technology.
The University of California, Santa Barbara has created an interdisciplinary initiative to integrate sustainability considerations into research in the chemical sciences and engineering, including assessment/minimization of environmental impact and assessment/optimization of economic feasibility, cultivation of public awareness, and social acceptance of sustainability goals. A team of researchers from chemistry and biochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental science, technology management, and communication is collaborating to increase efficiency, reduce the environmental impact, and improve social acceptance of alternative chemical technologies.
As the focal point for this effort, the University has established a cluster of four endowed research Chairs: the Mellichamp Academic Initiative Professorships in Sustainability. The Chairholders pursue overlapping and complementary interests in green chemistry, sustainable manufacturing, catalytic processing, and the economics of new technologies.
"Going forward, the chemical industry is faced with a major conundrum - the need to be sustainable (balanced economically, environmentally, and socially in order to not undermine the natural systems on which it depends) - and a lack of a more coordinated effort to generate the science and technology to make it all possible."
Committee on Grand Challenges for Sustainability in the Chemical Industry, The National Academy of Science 2005
12 PRINCIPLES OF GREEN CHEMISTRY
Pollution Prevention at Source
Less Hazardous Chemical Synthesis
Designing Safer Chemicals
Safer Solvents & Auxiliaries
Design for Energy Efficiency
Use of Renewable Feedstocks
Reduce the Use of Derivatives
Catalysis (Chemical & Biological)
Design for Degradation
Inherently Safer Chemistry
12 PRINCIPLES OF GREEN ENGINEERING
Inherent rather that Circumstantial
Prevention instead of Treatment
Design for Separation
Output-Pulled vs. Input Pushed
Durability rather than Immortality
Meet Need, Minimize Excess
Minimize Materials Diversity
Integrate Materials & Energy Flow
Design for Commercial "Afterlife"
Renewable rather than Depleting
CHEMICAL INDUSTRY SUSTAINABILITY
The US chemical industry is a cornerstone of American manufacturing, and the scale of chemical production is immense. The chemical industry produces commodities (large-volume, low-cost basic organic building blocks, such as ethylene, methanol, etc., as well as inorganics such as ammonia...
In the 20th century, the invention of the Haber-Bosch process for converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, together with the Green Revolution that dramatically improved agricultural yields, eliminated natural limits on bioavailable nitrogen and enabled an expansion...
REDUCING DEPENDENCE ON CRITICAL METALS AND MATERIALS
The precious metals (Ru, Rh, Pd, Os, Ir, Pt) make highly effective catalysts in a wide range of chemical reactions, due to their readiness to change oxidation states and their reluctance to form recalcitrant oxides. Unfortunately, they are also some of the least abundant elements in the Earth’s crust...
AND FRESH WATER
Many chemical industry practices are highly energy- and water-intensive. For example, the Haber-Bosch process (described above), which produces 500 million tons of ammonia-based fertilizer annually, consumes 1-2 % of the entire world energy supply. Light olefins (ethylene and propylene) are...
USING RENEWABLE RAW MATERIALS
The vast majority of synthetic carbon-based materials are currently made from a handful of petroleum-derived building blocks, including ethylene, propylene, butenes, benzene, toluene, xylene and methanol. These components are converted, using chemistry, into polymers...
REDUCING RISK THROUGHOUT THE SUPPLY CHAIN
Reduced risk of exposure and minimal environmental toxicity are important dimensions of sustainable chemistry. Cradle-to-grave life cycle assessments and fate and transport studies must be employed to quantify potential emissions of chemicals at different life cycle stages...
INTEGRATING PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCE
Replacement of conventional technologies by more sustainable versions is by no means automatic or rapid. New approaches must be cost-competitive; in manufacturing, this often means considering large existing capital investments, as well as supply risks. Changing or uncertain regulatory...