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 R&D projects.
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.
Green 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:
Nonetheless, universities 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 these efforts.
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.
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