Airports are busy, especially during the winter. As passengers wait to board, delays get longer when airplanes need to be dowsed with thousands of gallons of deicing fluids that help them fight the frigid winter. But as soon as the plane takes off, most of the liquid is gone from the surface of the aircraft and ends up polluting freshwater streams and lakes.
In an endeavor to make a more efficient product immune to ice for such demanding industries and consumers, Sushant Anand, UIC assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Rukmava Chatterjee, a UIC Ph.D. student, have developed a longer-lasting alternative to conventional deicers. They say it could also benefit other industries.
As our world faces existential threats such as climate change and ocean plastics, educators play a critical role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to build a healthier and more sustainable future for our planet. Green chemistry is an upstream, preventative, solutions-oriented approach to creating a healthier future. Through the application of green chemistry, scientists and innovators can prevent the generation of pollutants and toxic compounds before they’re ever released into the environment or exposed to humans and animals, rather than cleaning up those pollutants afterward.
To enable and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators to work sustainably, green chemistry must be taught widely in science and chemistry education programs. Cue the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC), a joint initiative by Beyond Benign and the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute.
Being developed in collaboration with educators from across the U.S. and the world, the GCTLC will be a central online space where teachers, industry leaders and students can share best practices and resources, connect and collaborate, receive mentorship and feedback, and help each other through peer-to-peer learning.
In this Q&A, GCTLC Program Manager Dr. Jonathon Moir shares the goals, structure, and progress of this exciting new community.
With many human-made chemicals, problems regarding public health and the environment become apparent only years after their widespread use. A team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University now propose a way to change that. In an article in the journal Chemosphere they present a method for (re)designing safe and sustainable chemicals. Their paper is part of a special issue on hazardous substances in the circular economy, to be published in June.
Chemists have discovered a way to use light and oxygen to upcycle polystyrene — a type of plastic found in many common items — into benzoic acid, a product stocked in undergraduate and high school chemistry labs and also used in fragrances, food preservatives, and other ubiquitous products.
This lesson introduces students to Green Chemistry, the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and/or the generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry is a pro-active approach to pollution prevention that teaches chemists how to develop products and materials in a manner that does not use hazardous substances, thus avoiding much waste, hazards and associated costs.
The goal of this lesson is to introduce students to the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and how they relate to a chemical process. These principles provide a framework for scientists, engineers and chemistry students to use when designing new materials, products, processes, and systems. The Principles focus on sustainable design criteria and have proven to be the source of innovative solutions to a wide range of problems.
Through this lesson, students will also use weight and measurement to understand the concept of a recipe as it is applied to a chemical process and think critically about that process and how it might be improved. Students will be asked to use a wasteful, inefficient procedure to make glue and be challenged to improve the procedure-during which they will unknowingly use the 12 Principles.
Before starting this lesson, students should have been introduced to the periodic table and properties of matter. The estimated time for this lesson is 50-60 minutes.
Johanna Brown is a chemistry teacher at Pullman High School in Washington. A passionate educator with an eye toward the future, Johanna has made green chemistry lessons an essential part of her students’ curricula, and she’s also supported other teachers in their green chemistry education.
We talked to Johanna about her background in education and how green chemistry has made her students more engaged in the classroom. As Earth Day approaches, we’re celebrating the connection between green chemistry principles and our ongoing commitment to being stewards of our environment. As Johanna says, “every day is Earth Day.”
Disposal of food packaging is a major cause of environmental pollution worldwide. More than 350 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year, and 85% of the garbage dumped in the oceans is plastic, according to estimates. Brazil is the fourth-largest producer, accounting for some 11 million metric tons per year. To make matters worse, most plastic packaging is derived from non-renewables such as petroleum.
Given all these drawbacks, reducing the use of fossil fuels to produce plastic is the target of a great deal of research around the world. Many scientists are working on the development of biodegradable packaging materials that also prevent contamination by microorganisms and extend shelf life so as to reduce losses.
A study conducted by a research team called the Composites and Hybrid Nanocomposites Group (GCNH) at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Ilha Solteira has produced an important contribution to this effort. It was supported by FAPESP, and an article reporting its findings is published in the journal Polymers.
The researchers made their bioplastic (or “green plastic”, as it is also known) from type B bovine gelatin easily found in retail stores in the form of a colorless powder.
“Gelatin was one of the first materials used in the production of biopolymers. It’s still widely used owing to its abundance, low cost and excellent film-forming properties,” said chemist and materials scientist Márcia Regina de Moura Aouada, a professor at the Ilha Solteira School of Engineering (FEIS-UNESP) and last author of the article.
“However, biopolymers for packaging have characteristics that need to be improved in order to be comparable to petroleum products, especially as far as mechanical properties and vapor permeability are concerned, so we added cloisite Na+ nanoclay to the gelatin,” she explained.
Adding nanoclay made the film more homogeneous and increased its tensile strength to 70 megapascals (MPa). Conventional polyethylene packaging has less than half this tensile strength (in the range of 20 MPa-30 MPa).
“Besides nanoclay, we also added a nanoemulsion made from black pepper essential oil to give the packaging a more attractive flavor and odor. The mixture also extends the shelf life of food products packaged with the material, thanks to the inclusion of anti-microbial and anti-oxidant components in the polymeric matrix,” she said.
It is worth noting that the bioplastic in question was originally designed to package beef in the form of hamburgers, which are vulnerable to microbial contamination and have a strong smell, but the principle of adding nanoclay and essential oil nanoemulsion to a gelatin matrix can and will be extended to other foods, varying the type and proportion of essential oil used.
“If this kind of packaging becomes widespread in the marketplace, it could significantly reduce the use of plastic made from non-biodegradable polymers and hence the amount of solid waste,” Moura Aouada said. “In addition, the bioplastic will better protect packaged food against contamination by pathogens and help reduce losses.”
The research lines followed at GCNH-UNESP focus on the circular economy, which converts waste into resources. The group’s leaders, Fauze Aouada and Márcia Moura Aouada, are professors affiliated with UNESP’s Program of Graduate Studies in Materials Science (PPGCM).
“Our proposals are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] adopted by the United Nations to end poverty, foster the planet’s economic sustainability, and ensure that the entire world population can enjoy peace and prosperity,” Moura Aouada said.
The group also produces wound dressings from bacterial cellulose, and edible packaging containing nanostructures derived from kale purée, cocoa purée, cupuassu (Theobroma grandiflorum) purée, camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) extract and nanoemulsions, with potential applications in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
The research is supported by FAPESP via a Research Regular Grant and also via the Center for Development of Functional Materials (CDMF), a Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center (RIDC) hosted by the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).
The work is multidisciplinary and entails networking by several researchers per topic. The article mentioned earlier also has the following co-authors: Fauze Aouada, Tascila Saranti (MSc), and Pamela Melo (Ph.D.) from UNESP; and Miguel Cerqueira, from International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, Portugal.
The article “Performance of gelatin films reinforced with cloisite Na+ and black pepper essential oil loaded nanoemulsion” is available at www.mdpi.com/2073-4360/13/24/4298.
Dr Thoo Yin Yin and her team has produced biodegradable food packaging with properties identical to existing petroleum-based packages. The new generation biopolymer-film packaging aims to encourage widespread application through its innovative, scalable and cost-competitive production methods. The research is now being translated into application. Feasibility tests are being conducted to better understand the biopolymer packaging properties with different foods.
Researchers at the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (ICReDD) at Hokkaido University have formulated a technique that has the potential to assist in the recycling of waste carbon dioxide (CO2) while also creating molecules beneficial for drug development.