Chemistry & Global Stewardship Plenary Session
Sunday, August 10, 2014, 3:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA.
Requirements for a Globally Sustainable Chemicals Industry
Current and projected trends in the global chemicals industry foreshadow a significant re-arrangement of traditional production and consumption patterns and an amplification of environmental concerns on a global level. In order to manage this process in a sustainable manner, an international regime of multilateral environmental agreements, legislative partnerships, action frameworks and voluntary initiatives have been put in place. However, the economic relationship between producers, suppliers, consumers and disposers must be fundamentally re-assessed and coherently addressed in order to allow for a truly sustainable global chemicals industry. Two inter-related goals must be met in this regard: firstly, the decoupling of economic growth from unsustainable resource use and negative environmental impacts, and secondly, a shift in emphasis away from labour productivity, towards resource productivity.
The role of the manufacturing industry is critical in attaining these goals. Manufacturing accounts for around 30 percent of global GDP, while also being responsible for using one third of the world’s energy, 20 percent of global water, most raw materials used, and producing one third of all CO2 emissions and 4 million tons of waste per year, of which less than a quarter is ever recovered. The chemicals industry presents a key to mitigating these effects. Concepts such as a circular economy, Green Chemistry, innovative business models, improved resource efficiency and lifecycle approaches stand to both impact on, but also benefit from, the chemicals industry. Combined with the necessary research and capacity building, a consistent application of sustainability principles at the enterprise, sector and country levels – as well as along global value chains – will allow the shaping of a globally sustainable chemicals industry.
Molecular Design for Sustainability
The tremendous impact of humans on the natural would has been termed, “The Anthropocene” by Paul Crutzen. It is likely that due to this oversized impact by humans that the future is largely going to be what we as a civilization design it to be. Will we design our products, processes, and systems to be sustainable or will we continue on the trajectory of depletion, degradation, and toxicity? This talk will focus on advances and approaches to molecular design to meet our sustainability challenges from energy, to water, to agriculture and reduced toxicity from chemicals. Some of the recent research to be discussed will include molecular design approaches to reduced toxicity, the integrated biorefinery, small molecules from lignin, green nanotechnology, new water purification materials, and catalytic water oxidation.
Catalysis as Key Science and Technology for Sustainable Chemical Supply Chains
The principle of Catalysis is of paramount importance for the development of environmentally benign and economically successful “green” chemical processes. It offers the possibility to create value from various feedstocks and to control the chemo-, regio-, and stereo-selectivity of their transformations with small amounts of a chemical “multiplicator”.
The presentation highlights how the scientific advances in catalysis research at the interface of molecular and engineering sciences directly impact on the dynamic development of energetic and chemical supply chains. The use of CO2 as carbon source, the valorization of biomass for tailor-made fuels and chemicals, and the development of continuous-flow processes for the production of pharmaceutical products will be used to illustrate these general aspects with examples from ongoing work in our laboratories.
Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Disinfection and Microbial Control: Mechanisms, Applications and Implications
Through control over material size, morphology and chemical structure, nanotechnology offers novel materials that are nearly “all surface” and that can be more reactive per atom than bulk materials. Such nanomaterials can offer superior catalytic, adsorptive, optical, electrical and/or antimicrobial properties that enable new technology platforms for next-generation water treatment, reclamation, and supply systems. This presentation will address emerging opportunities for nanotechnology to meet a growing need for safer and more efficient water disinfection and biofouling control. The antibacterial mechanisms of common organic and inorganic nanomaterials will be illustrated within the context of various applications, including photocatalytic functionalized fullerenes to inactivate virus and oxidize recalcitrant pollutants, quorum-sensing interrupting metals to hinder biofilm formation, and silver nanoparticles to endow water filtration membranes with biofouling resistance.
Because microorganisms also form the basis of all known ecosystems and provide many critical environmental services, the implications of microbial-nanoparticle interactions will also be considered in the context of potential risks associated with accidental or incidental nanomaterial releases. This analysis will focus on how water chemistry affects nanoparticle bioavailability, mobility, toxicity and reactivity, and how to steward safer and ecologically responsible nanotechnology.