Utilizing Ionic Liquids and
Green Chemistry for Sustainable Technology Through Innovation. Major
thrusts include: Materials: Advanced polymeric and composite materials from
biorenewables; Separations: Novel strategies for
separation and purification of value added products from biomass; Energy:
New lubricant technologies and selective separations; Medicine: Elimination
of waste while delivering improved pharmaceutical performance.
Is a ‘Green’ Industrial Revolution in Our Future?
Every major new ‘industrial
revolution’ (e.g., as we may now face with nanotechnology) will require a
focus on environmental impact and sustainability. Green chemistry and
engineering focus on the design, development, and implementation of
chemical processes and products that reduce or eliminate the use and generation
of hazardous substances in a way that is both feasible and economically
viable leading to new business opportunities.
Regulation imposed solutions
to environmental load tend to be 'end of pipe' fixes, rather than producing
a shift in focus to new technologies that make less of an environmental
footprint. Innovations in green chemistry and engineering have been
successfully implemented in a number of businesses and illustrate that this
can be done. Examples of these successes can be found in the nominees and
winners of the annual US Presidential Green Challenge awards. However, at
present, these companies represent only a tiny minority of businesses.
The growing social pressure
for new green/sustainable technologies and the promise of ‘green chemistry’ to deliver such, has led to an
unusual situation: high industrial interest in green technologies, but no
technology base to draw from, few knowledgeable scientists and engineers to
provide know-how, and only nascent interest from the academic community. Green
technology applications are thus hampered by lack of fundamental data,
inadequate research direction, fragmentation of effort, and insufficient
industrial direction to drive the academic R&D programs. Despite this,
commercial interest remains high with dozens of companies starting green
In order to provide the
infrastructure, education, personnel, and technological support to develop
and nurture a new, invigorated chemical industry that can provide a global
lead in innovative, forward looking, and sustainable new technologies,
grass-roots initiatives are needed in order to train personnel to think in
terms of the new sustainable paradigm, rather than in the old,
non-renewable ways. There is an immense value to be gained through providing
an open access to technologies, ideas and innovation through university
centers that can provide training, development, personnel and nurture the
development of new technologies through idea to demonstration without the
short-term immediate commercial restrictions of business.
Chemistry and Sustainable Technology Through Innovation.
If sustainable development
is to be achieved, universities must embrace the true spectrum of science
from fundamental understanding to technological development. The argument
for this is actually quite old as illustrated with the following quote:
"There does not exist a category to which one can give the name applied
science. There are science and the application of science, bound together
as the fruit to the tree which bears it."
Louis Pasteur, 1871 (translated from Review Scientifiqus)
have often resisted the growth and harvesting of the fruit. Green Chemistry
provides an opportunity for universities to conduct high quality
fundamental research and take advantage of the technological importance of
Non-regulatory research and
development approaches to cleaner, sustainable chemical products and
processes will lead to new, innovative technologies which will be the basis
of economic growth through new businesses, jobs, and a trained technical
workforce. Our universities can and should lead these efforts through
innovation that can produce and support innovative and evolutionary,
environmentally aware research and development efforts, focused toward
developing and sustaining future industrial processes and products based on
positive environmental and economic advances, rather than imposed
regulatory and statutory limits on process practice.
- Materials: New
advanced polymeric and composite materials from biorenewable
polymers such as cellulose are accessible through technologies under
current development at The University of Alabama.
- Separations: We
will develop novel strategies for separation and purification of
value added products from biomass, thus reducing energy usage and
cost and improving economic viability.
- Energy: This is an
overarching theme to be considered in all aspects of our work. For
example, selective separations could improve the energy efficiency of
biomass conversion technologies.
Pharmaceuticals are currently manufactured in extensive synthetic
procedures involving usage of large quantities of solvents and
chemicals which end up as waste. Much of the chemical wastes is derived from attempts to ‘improve’ the
pharmaceutical properties (e.g., solubility or bioavailability) or
reduce the occurrence of polymorphism. Our program in Green Chemistry
aims to eliminate much of this waste while at the same time
delivering improved pharmaceutical performance.