This is an insight from Dr. Joaquin Barroso-Flores about the future of Green and Sustainable Chemistry.
As an Associated Research Fellow at the Joint Center for Sustainable Chemistry Research, I’m frequently reminded that there is little consensus in the scientific community about the difference between “green” and “sustainable” chemistry.
Many ask, are they synonyms?
At the Center, we recently held a congress on green chemistry where this question arose. We reached the conclusion that green chemistry is related to environmentally friendly processes – such as carrying reactions out in water, supercritical fluids, solvent-free media or modifying reaction schemes to generate as little pollutants as possible.
Sustainable chemistry relates to the modification of our current chemical or industrial processes in a chemically and financially economical way such that we may be able to carry them on in the future without consuming all of our non-renewable resources. Therefore, green and sustainable chemistry are not interchangeable concepts, but should clearly be interlocked so we minimize both the environmental and social impacts of our science while addressing our industrial needs.
To help ensure future generations of chemists understand the importance of employing green and sustainable chemistry practices in their everyday work and research, we need to educate today’s students, starting with undergraduates, to think about how to use the same old chemistry tools in new environmentally friendly ways. For example, we could teach students how to use the same organic chemistry reactions we already know, to modify synthesis paths in fewer steps.
I spoke specifically about these matters during The Future of Sustainable Chemistry, a virtual conference hosted by The Dow Chemical Company that brought together 30 global thinkers to explore how sustainable chemistry can be used to solve some of the world’s most complex challenges. It was exciting to be part of a collaborative, global dialogue around sustainable chemistry, and I hope the conversation will continue.
To learn more about my perspective on green and sustainable chemistry, you can visit my blog. You can also watch my two-minute video, which was shown as part of The Future of Sustainable Chemistry conference, or watch the full hour-long conference at www.FutureWeCreate.com.
Dr. Barroso-Flores received his Ph. D in Chemistry in 2007 from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. From 2006-2008, Dr. Barroso-Flores worked as an associate research fellow at the Polymers Research Center from the COMEX Group in Mexico City. While at the Center, his work focused on the optimization of commercial coatings formulations, as well as the development of new additives for improved performance in such coatings.
In late 2008, Dr. Barroso-Flores moved back to Cluj-Napoca to work as a post-doctoral fellow in the field of theoretical design of calixarene molecules as potential drug delivery agents. Starting in May 2010, Dr. Barroso-Flores joined the Institute of Chemistry from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and was appointed to the Center for Research in Sustainable Chemistry, where he works today in Applied Theoretical Chemistry, working on projects related to drug delivery agents and design, as well as artificial photosynthesis.