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Green Chemistry

The Green Chemistry Initiative at the University of Toronto

Cranking up the Gears on Ammonia Production

Modern agriculture does not begin in a field but in a reactor. Here, nitrogen and hydrogen enter and are transformed to ammonia by iron catalysts on the reactor bed. This ammonia, which is produced at the colossal scale of 230 million tonnes per year, is the fertilizer that sustains the nearly 8 billion people on our planet. Without it, our population would drop by half.

This awesome industrial synthesis is the Haber-Bosch process. Arguably the most impactful of all chemical reactions on the modern world, its importance has been recognized by three Nobel prizes (Haber in 1918; Bosch in 1931; Ertl in 2007) and its ubiquity is such that half of the nitrogen atoms in our bodies have touched the iron catalysts of a Haber-Bosch reactor.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Eloi Grignon to find out!

January #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Dr. Figueiredo (@MartaCFigueired) is an Assistant Professor of Electrochemistry at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. She is part of the Inorganic Materials and Catalysis group where she researches electrocatalysis and related synthesis for sustainable processes, as well as the production of fuels and organic molecules from waste like carbon dioxide or biomass. She mainly focuses on optimizing electrochemical reactions at practical conditions to provide a greener use of electrochemistry at the industrial level.

Dr. Figueiredo first studied chemistry at the Porto University in Portugal, then completed her PhD in Spain while researching the reduction of nitrogen-containing compounds. From there, she conducted post-doctoral research at multiple universities in Europe looking at fuel cells and electrocatalytic synthesis. After which Dr. Figueiredo was a Junior Scientist at the Avantium (@Avantium) in Amsterdam, researching carbon dioxide electrochemical conversion and is now an Assistant Professor.

We want to honour Dr. Figueiredo for being an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

Sandalwood and Santalols – A Toast to a Legendary Fragrance

Since the earliest civilizations, perfumes have been used by humans to impart pleasant aromas to themselves and their environment. Until recently, most perfumes were derived from natural sources such as natural oils, flowers, and herbs. Perfumes of today are complex, composed of many natural and synthetic chemicals dissolved in a solvent, mainly water and ethanol, to the appropriate concentration. One of the most legendary chemical components can be found in sandalwood, which is a class of slow-growing woods found primarily in south and southeast Asia. Sandalwood is often stated to be one of the most expensive woods in the world due to its oil having the unusual property of retaining its woody and spicy aroma for decades. Some well-known fragrances that contain sandalwood oil are Crystal Noir by Versace and Hypnotic Poison by Dior. In addition to being used in various religions from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism, sandalwood oil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of somatic and mental disorders.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Brian Tsui to find out!

What are Organic Chemists doing to save the World?

According to the most recent UN report, the last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest on record with carbon dioxide emissions reaching 148 percent of preindustrial levels in 2019. The demand for change is urgent and, as recently emphasized at the COP26 in Glasgow, the time to act is shorting. Given the global nature of the problem, we should all ask ourselves what we are doing/can do to save the Earth. With this post, we intend to answer this question from an organic chemist perspective by summarizing the most significant developments in the field that enable waste reduction and guide us towards a sustainable future.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by guest writer Alessia Petti to find out!

September #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Welcome back to campus, Green Chemists! This month we are doing a very special feature of two women in green chemistry here @UofT!

The Rousseaux group (@RousseauxGroup) focuses on developing new synthetic methods to access medicinally relevant small molecules in a more efficient (e.g. less waste, fewer steps) and/or safer (e.g. non-toxic reagents/waste) manner. In the last five years, we have developed new methods to prepare and functionalize cyclopropane- and nitrile-containing molecules given their importance in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. For example, we have developed transnitrilation reactions to prepare nitriles without using toxic cyanide reagents.

Team Tran (@Helen_Chem) leverages polymer chemistry to create degradable electronics. To impart degradability along the covalent polymer backbone while maintaining conjugation needed for electron conductivity, we replace some of the carbon-carbon double bonds with carbon-nitrogen double bonds. These imine bonds hydrolyze in slightly acidic water, breaking apart the polymer backbone. We are exploring how to synthesize these imine-based conjugated polymers with more environmentally friendly solvents, like water, and understanding their degradation pathways.

We would like to honour Professor Rosseaux and Professor Tran for being influential #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

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May #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Audrey Moores (@MooresResearch) is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at McGill University (@mcgillu) and is an Associate Editor for the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (@ACSSustainable). Her research interests revolve around catalysis using both heterogeneous and homogenous approaches, and sustainable nanoparticle and material synthesis.

Dr. Moores earned her B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the École Polytechnique in France (@Polytechnique). She was a post-doctoral Fellow at Yale University (@Yale) under the guidance of Professor Robert H. Crabtree before becoming an Assistant Professor at McGill University (@mcgillu). Her work has been published in 80 high-profile, peer-reviewed publications and has authored 7 book chapters, 1 book, and 3 patents! Dr. Moores is a multi-award winner in virtue of her dedication to the field of green chemistry: from being selected as an emerging leader by the RSC journal “Green Chemistry” (@green_rsc) in 2017 to more recently being awarded the 2021 Canadian Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Award for Green Chemistry (@CIC_ChemInst). She was also elected as a Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada in 2020. Being an avid participant in the world of chemistry and an eminent leader in her field, we want to honour Dr. Moores for being such a devoted #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

April #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Juliana Vidal (@juliana_lvidal) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Green Chemistry and Catalysis Group at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MemorialU), supervised by Professor Francesca Kerton. In her research group, Juliana is investigating the use of biochar (a bio-based waste material and an important tool for CO2 sequestration) in catalysis and materials science. Juliana has been a strong advocate for green chemistry where she has volunteered to be secretary and further president of the Chemistry Graduate Society, helped to co-organize the global breakfast “Empowering Women in Chemistry: A Global Networking Event” as part of the IUPAC 100 (@GWB_FEUP) celebrations at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, received an honourable mention in the international video competition “Tell a Story about Green Chemistry” organized by the Center for Green Chemistry & Engineering at Yale, participated in the Sustainable Development Goals Youth Training, and joined the ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry & Sustainable Energy.

She is currently the Graduate Student Liaison for Beyond Benign (@beyondbenign). Juliana is also the Director of Marketing and Communications of the Network of Early-Career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers (NESSE) (@greenscientists) and was selected as a 2020 CAS Future Leader. Juliana’s passion for green chemistry sparked during her undergraduate studies at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora (@UFJF_) where she also obtained her MSc. Her undergraduate research revolved around the treatment of aqueous solutions containing toxic compounds. Juliana’s love for everything green chemistry-related is truly contagious! We want to honour Juliana for being an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

March #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Happy International Women’s Day! The theme for this year, as highlighted by IWD, is #ChooseToChallenge where we acknowledge that a challenged world is an alert world. The GCI would like to honour the inspiring women who have challenged entrenched patterns of gender bias and inequality in STEM. We take pride in having featured some revolutionary women in STEM who fought for their well-deserved positions both in academia and in industry. Take a moment today to reflect on how YOU can #ChooseToChallenge!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

Gas-to-protein agriculture: decoupling food from environment

Faced with a worsening climate crisis and growing food insecurity, humans have begun to produce food from the air. While you’d be forgiven for assuming this plot to be that of an Asimov story, it is, in fact, the reality that several start-ups envision for the future of agriculture. Indeed, a wave of firms have developed gas-to-protein technologies that employ bacteria to convert feed gases into an edible flour.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Eloi Grignon to find out!

February #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Dr. Meryem Benohoud (@MimiBenohoud) is the Technical Director at Keracol. Keracol is a spin-out company from the University of Leeds which incorporates aspects of organic chemistry, colour chemistry, polymer and biopolymer chemistry in manufacturing of cosmetic products, hair dyes, and hair and skin care products that are safe and sustainable. Dr. Benohoud has given numerous talks on the use of natural materials in cosmetics, including one about products using renewable ingredients from food waste.

Dr. Benohoud earned her PhD from the Institute of Natural Products (ICSN-CNRS). She was a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland and at the Tokyo University of Science in Japan. At Keracol, she works on projects exploiting the chemistry nature provides for biomimetic approaches to the development and making of a wide range of consumer products. Her passion about green chemistry really is contagious! We want to honour Meryem Benohoud for being an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

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January #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Kate Anderson (@kate.anderson.bb) is the Director of K-12 Education at Beyond Benign (@beyondbenign), a non-profit dedicated to green chemistry education. Through various initiatives, Kate seeks to spread awareness about the importance of integrating green chemistry into the education system and seeks to grow Beyond Benign’s K-12 Program while further widening its audience. Through making Beyond Benign accessible to the general public, Kate and her team can spread awareness about the importance of green chemistry and its role in K-12 education.

Kate Anderson earned her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Boston (@UMassBoston), and her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Environmental Education from Florida Atlantic University (@FloridaAtlantic). After graduating, Kate worked as a Program Manager at Earth Force, where she worked with a team of K-12 teachers and students. Through this role, she supported many environmental service-learning projects. She then worked as a Sustainable Seafood Manager at John Nagle Co., followed by Beyond Benign where she has been working since 2009 and is the Director of K-12 Education for the past 10 years! Kate was selected for the 2017 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention (MVP2) Educator Award presented by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) for her pollution prevention, green chemistry, and sustainability education efforts. Kate’s dedication to the world of sustainability and her passion for improving education is truly inspiring. We want to honour Kate for being an outstanding #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

A Materials Chemistry Student’s Take on Fast Fashion

It is April 2020 and you are scrolling through your endless TikTok “for you” page when you stumble across a video informing you about so-called “fast fashion”. The words “affordable” and “toxic” stick with you because they are not used to describe or advertise fashion, and yet you wonder how you have never heard of that side of the fashion industry.

Hi, my name is Hana and I will provide you with a quick perspective on what I think is one of the most overlooked environmental problems of our modern world.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Hana El-Haddad to find out!

December #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Laurel Schafer (@LaurelSchafer) is a Professor of Chemistry and the Organometallic and Organic Chemistry Laboratory Director at the University of British Columbia (@UBC). She is also the Canada Research Chair in Catalyst Development. Her lab group investigates the interface of organometallic and organic chemistry. They focus on the development of new catalytic methods for carbon-nitrogen and carbon-carbon bond formations for potential applications in the fine chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and agrochemical industries. The development of these new catalytic systems builds toward the minimization of waste and the maximization of energy efficiency to result in sustainable methods for chemical transformations. Furthermore, the metals used for catalyst development are of low toxicity and are targeting green chemistry solutions to synthetic challenges.

Professor Schafer earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Guelph (@uofg) and her Ph.D. in Organometallic Chemistry from the University of Victoria (@uvic). She has also worked as an @NSERC_CRSNG Postdoctoral Fellow at @UCBerkeley. In 2001, she started her job at UBC where she has been leading her research group. In 2012, Professor Schafer was appointed a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Catalyst Development and has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (@aaasorg) in 2014. She was then elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and appointed a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Catalyst Development. Professor Laurel Schafer is an incredible example of a successful woman in green chemistry. This is demonstrated not only through her work but also through breaking gender barriers in academia and becoming the first woman to have risen through the ranks to earn the title of full Professor in the Department of Chemistry at UBC! We want to honour Professor Schafer for being an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

Upgrading Health: Using Supercritical CO2 to Increase Drug Efficacy

An efficient way to administer pharmaceutical drugs to a patient is through a tablet. The drugs are measured and coated in a plastic that is broken down when the drugs are injected into the person, and the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the tissue it acts upon. The traditional processes of packaging drugs in these plastics, however, often require the usage of high temperatures and solvents that can be harmful. For example, many volatile organic compounds like benzene and chloroform are used. There is the potential for some of the solvent to remain as a residual impurity after the manufacturing process and can be toxic to the patient or the environment. These materials also need specific management to prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere. Even more, the process of coating the drugs sometimes reduces the efficiency of the dose; for instance, high temperatures and volatile solvents can cause up to a 50% drop in efficacy.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Shreya Kanade to find out!

November #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Laura Reyes (@fabulouslylaura) is the Programme Manager of Inclusion and Diversity at the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom (@RoySocChem). Through her work, Laura strives to create a more inclusive chemistry community. Some recent examples include developing a mental health webinar series with RSC’s Chemistry World as well as gathering data showing the disproportionate loss of Black people in UK academic chemistry.
Before her move to the United Kingdom, Laura lived in Toronto, Canada having previously immigrated there as a child from Colombia with her brother and parents. She earned a BSc in chemistry from York University, including electrochemistry research with Professor Barry Lever. She then completed her Ph.D. in nanomaterials chemistry from the University of Toronto with Professor Geoffrey Ozin. Laura’s doctoral research focused on understanding the surface chemistry of nanomaterials for applications in heterogeneous catalysis and CO2 utilization.

Laura has given so much to her UofT community, through being an active member in WICTO (@WIC_Toronto), ChemClub (@uoftchemclub), and most importantly, being a founding member and Co-Chair of the Green Chemistry Initiative! These volunteer experiences during her Ph.D., especially her work with the GCI, led Laura to discover a passion for a career ‘behind the scenes’ of chemistry, working first as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at GreenCentre Canada, followed by Career Development Leader as well as Conference Program Coordinator at the Chemical Institute of Canada (@CIC_ChemInst), and now her role at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The richness of Laura’s career is truly remarkable, and through her avid participation and involvement in her chemistry community, Laura is a unique example of an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

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October #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Saskia van Bergen (@Saskia_SvB) is the Green Chemistry Scientist at the Washington State Department of Ecology where she develops, coordinates, presents, and promotes training and materials for a range of audiences. These training and materials are used to advance awareness and implementation of green chemistry practices, toxicological concepts, and assessment of safer alternatives. Her main focus is to build a technically strong and vibrant green chemistry program across Washington. To do this she collaborates with local, regional, and national partners to develop, support, and sustain green chemistry along with safer alternative efforts. Previously, Saskia worked as an analytical chemist at several organizations including East Bay Municipal Utility District, Madis Botanicals, and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

Saskia van Bergen holds a B.A in chemistry from Vassar College and an M.S in agricultural and environmental chemistry from the University of California, Davis. She later got a certificate in green chemistry which helped shift her career path. Saskia’s current projects include developing a toxicology module for chemists, providing technical support on a new consumer product law, and developing guidance on environmentally preferable purchasing for the state.

Through her rigorous efforts in spreading the values of green chemistry in her state, Saskia is a true reformer. We want to honour Saskia van Bergen for being an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

Monomer Spotlight: Multifunctional and Renewable Itaconic Acid

As chemists and material scientists strive to create a sustainable chemical industry, chemical building blocks derived from renewable resources have become a research necessity. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy reported 12 building blocks attainable from biomass which have high potential for high-value chemicals or materials. One of the listed biorenewable building blocks is itaconic acid (IA). IA is an inexpensive, non-toxic, and readily available compound produced by the fermentation of glucose or other biomass sources such as corn, rice, or lignocellulosic feedstock. Importantly, IA is produced through an industrially scaled glucose fermentation process with an estimated global production of 80,000 tons/year and a price of around 2 USD/kg. Given this compound’s potential to become economically competitive with petroleum-based sources, its manufacturing capacity is expected to grow at a rate of 5.5% each year between 2016 and 2023.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Nina-Francesca Farac to find out!

September #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Natalie O’Neil (@natjoneil) is the Higher Education Program Manager at Beyond Benign (@beyondbenign), an organization that provides sustainable science educational resources that encourage educators and students to practice sustainability through chemistry. She is also co-executive director of the Network of Early-Career Sustainable Scientists and Engineers (NESSE, @greenscientists). At NESSE, she facilitates a board of directors to lead a global movement of young professionals working on or interested in solutions to today’s most pressing sustainability challenges.

Natalie O’Neil earned her B.S. in forensic chemistry from Western New England University and her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Albany. During her graduate studies, O’Neil felt that the topics of sustainability, toxicology, and environmental hazards were missing from the traditional graduate chemistry curriculum. This inspired her to pursue a one-year certification course in Green Chemistry and Chemical Stewardship. She also attended the American Chemical Society (@AmerChemSociety) Green Chemistry & Sustainable Energy Summer School in 2016 and became actively involved in NESSE. Natalie O’Neil also practices a sustainable lifestyle! To her, Green Chemistry should not be considered a “new field”, it consists of a mindset and principles that people need to use. We would like to honour Natalie for being such an inspiring and devoted #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM

The Looming Problem of Lithium-Ion Battery Waste

Since their commercialization in 1991, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have gradually come to pervade our daily lives. Their ubiquity is achieved through our phones and laptops (you are likely reading these words via energy supplied by a LIB), where they are used to power not only our communication with one another, but also the myriad other tasks that we have come to delegate to our devices. Increasingly, LIBs are powering how we move, too, as is evidenced by the several million battery electric vehicles already on the road. With the production of electric vehicles set to skyrocket – the British and French governments have already pledged to ban sales of fossil-powered vehicles by 2040 – and the possibility of using LIBs for storage of grid electricity, it is clear that LIBs are not going anywhere, either. Indeed, spent batteries are expected to be generated at a rate of 2 million metric tons per year by 2030.

Click here to check our our latest blog written by Eloi Grignon to find out!

August #WomenOfGreenChemistry

Frances Arnold (@francesarnold) is an American chemical engineer and Nobel Prize Laureate. Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, and Director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center at the California Institute of Technology (@Caltech). Her research group focuses on evolutionary protein design methods and using the results of laboratory evolution experiments to elucidate principles of biological design. Her current focus is the use of heme proteins as the basis for generating new enzymes. Because of the heme protein’s natural promiscuity, it is able to fuel functional or ‘directed’ evolution

Frances Arnold earned her BSc in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University, where she focused on solar energy research. After graduating she worked as an engineer in South Korea and Brazil and at Colorado’s Solar Energy Research Institute where she worked on designing solar energy facilities for remote locations and helped write United Nations position papers. She then earned her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California (@UCBerkeley). Her thesis work, carried out in the lab of Harvey Warren Blanch, investigated techniques and mathematical models of affinity chromatography.

What is remarkable about Arnold’s work is that she conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, in 1993. Directed evolution is used to create new enzymes that catalyze non-biological reactions with high efficiencies and selectivities. Her work helped in the use of more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemical substances (such as pharmaceuticals) and the production of renewable fuels. We want to honour Frances Arnold for being a great leader, innovator, and for being an inspiring #WomanInGreenChemistry!

#GreenChemistry #WomenInChemistry #WomenInSTEM