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Green Chemistry

What is Green Chemistry

Green Chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.

So instead of focusing on managing the impacts of the hazards in chemicals,  a green chemist would develop safer chemicals and processes which don’t use or create those hazardous materials.

How would green chemistry help with electronics?

Currently, electronic products are made with a wide range of hazardous materials, which can cause harm at all stages of the lifecycle of the product, particularly during manufacturing and recycling, as well as when mining or extracting the resources to make the products.

Currently, we must focus on how to manage the hazards, to keep them from harming people and the environment.  Scientists try to figure out what is a “safe” level of exposure, often learning what’s unsafe only after may years of exposure to people and animals reveal the harm already done. We spend untold amounts of money cleaning up damage done by mishandling these hazards.

Green chemistry could change this paradigm, by redesigning the materials used to make electronics to design out the hazards. Instead of designing chemicals simply to meet certain performance goals, green chemists design chemicals to meet health and safety goals. Green Chemistry pioneers – Paul Anastas and John Warner - identified 12 Principles of Green Chemistry in 1998.

The Green Chemistry Principles

  1. Prevention
    It’s better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste afterwards.
  2. Atom Economy
    Design synthetic methods to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
    Design synthetic methods to use and generate substances that minimize toxicity to human health and the environment.
  4. Designing Safer Chemicals
    Design chemical products to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
  5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
    Minimize the use of auxiliary substances wherever possible make them innocuous when used.
  6. Design for Energy Efficiency
    Minimize the energy requirements of chemical processes and conduct synthetic methods at ambient temperature and pressure if possible.
  7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
    Use renewable raw material or feedstock rather whenever practicable.
  8. Reduce Derivatives
    Minimize or avoid unnecessary derivatization if possible, which requires additional reagents and generate waste.
  9. Catalysis
    Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  10. Design for Degradation
    Design chemical products so they break down into innocuous products that do not persist in the environment.
  11. Real-time Analysis for Pollution Prevention
    Develop analytical methodologies needed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention Choose substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

We think it’s important for the electronics industry to embrace both the Green Chemistry principles and the Green Engineering Principles.

Sounds Good.  Is Green Chemistry Working?

Green chemistry is a new science, and we will need a LOT of green scientists to make this work.

Green chemistry programs or courses are only just now emerging at universities around the world.  It’s important to recognize that many chemistry graduate programs don’t ever talk about toxicity of chemicals, or require students to take even one course on toxicology.

Who is working on green chemistry ?

Here are a few of the leading proponents of Green Chemistry in the U.S.

Warner Babcock Institute For Green Chemistry

Beyond Benign Green Chemistry Education –  dedicated to providing future and current scientists, educators and citizens with the tools to teach and learn about green chemistry in order to create a sustainable future.

Green Chemistry Education Network

Green Chemistry Institute of the American Chemical Society