Sustainability


Plastics Go Green
April 2010 (pp 10–12)

Author: Cynthia Washam

Chemistry Connections: Organic/Biochemistry, Sustainability

Description: Discusses the recent trend toward producing plant-based plastics—called bioplastics—from plants like sugar cane, potatoes and wheat as an alternative to using petroleum. Explains two types of bioplastics, polylactide acid and polyhydroxyalkanoate—polymers made from simple sugar molecules—and includes structural formulas for these. Gives background on plastics as polymers. Discusses pros and cons of bioplastics—for consumers and for the environment. Includes activity for students to make a compostable bioplastic.

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Ancient Soil Chemists of the Amazon
February 2009 (pp 7–9)

Author: Mark Michalovic

Chemistry Connections: Reactions, Solutions, Sustainability

Description: Unraveling an ancient mystery as to how rainforest soils could be used for cultivation by Amazonians 500 years ago. Natives altered the soil with charcoal (biochar) to create negatively charged particles (carboxylates) that attract important nutritional positive ions (calcium, potassium) that plants need. Normal rainforest soil high in positively charged clay particles from aluminum and iron that do not attract needed calcium and potassium.

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The Quest for a Clean Drink
April 2008 (pp 4–6)

Author: Christen Brownlee

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Metals/Nonmetals, Reactions, Solutions, Sustainability

Description: Tells of the problems in India and Bangladesh of obtaining clean drinking water, starting with contamination of surface water, followed by arsenic contamination of groundwater. Then discusses three different practical methods of purifying the water to remove the arsenic, all of which are being used successfully in these countries. The chemistry, including equations of the processes is illustrated.

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Retiring Old Tires
April 2007 (pp 11–13)

Author: Donald Jones and Helen Herlocker

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Organic/Biochemistry, Sustainability

Description: Establishes tire fires as a serious environmental hazard. Describes the polymer chemistry used in manufacturing rubber. Makes the case for re-using old tires in three ways: burning them as a fuel (tire-derived fuel or TDF), shredding them and using them to help civil engineers in highways projects for drainage and landfills and grinding them into “crumb” size for use in making asphalt, playground surfaces and even for making new tires.

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Chemsumer: The Sun: Fusion at Work
February 2007 (pp 8–11)

Author: Clair Wood

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Nuclear, Sustainability

Description: Traces historical theories about the composition and structure of the sun. Describes in detail nuclear fusion reactions that take place in the sun and explains how elements are produced from the hydrogen and helium which are the primary constituents of the sun. The proton-proton pathways are given special emphasis. Describes the solar atmosphere—core, radiative zone, convective zone, photosphere, chromospheres and corona—and the processes that take place in each region. Concludes with a section on how the earth interacts with the sun and how the sun can be used as an alternative energy source.

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ChemSumer: Chemistry Builds a Green Home
October 2006 (pp 9–11)

Author: Roberta Baxter

Chemistry Connections: Sustainability

Description: Describes characteristics of certified “green” homes. Lists ways to be green. Alternative ways for window design, heating, cooling, insulating described.

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Sick Buildings—Air Pollution Comes Home
October 2006 (pp 12–14)

Author: Michelle Laliberte

Chemistry Connections: Bonding, Nuclear, Organic/Biochemistry, Reactions, Sustainability

Description: Homes can have multiple sources of pollution: biological (mold, dust mites), chemical (formaldehyde, radon, carbon monoxide). Chemistry of CO poisoning and formaldehyde resin formation shown.

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Flaking Away
February 2006 (pp 17–19)

Author: Christen Brownlee

Chemistry Connections: Metals/Nonmetals, Reactions, Solutions, Sustainability

Description: Talks about the demise of older cars due to rusting, focusing on the role of electrons in this chemical reaction, oxidation-reduction. Discusses how different regions of the same metal piece can act as anodes and cathodes simultaneously, and how water as a solvent for ions on the surface is the connector between these two areas of positive and negative charge that allows redox to occur. Differences in rusting rates in different geographical regions of the country are attributed to the presence of salt, either from ocean spray in coastal areas, or from salting of roads in colder regions of the country. Also discussed: reversing the rusting process (not practical), other objects that rust, the cost of rust, and paints to prevent corrosion. Chemical equations for rusting are provided.

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Green Chemistry: Building a Better Bleach: A Green Chemistry Challenge
April 2004 (pp 17–19)

Author: Kathryn Parent

Chemistry Connections: Solutions, Sustainability

Description: Describes the chemistry of chlorine bleaching with special emphasis on how the use of chlorine bleach can result in chlorine being converted to chlorine compounds like dioxins. Explains that the active ingredient in non-chlorine bleach is a hydrogen peroxide d rather than the hypochlorites in chlorine bleach. Suggests that non-chlorine bleaches are more environmentally friendly but have drawbacks of their own—they require higher temperatures and pressures to be effective. Describes the development of catalysts called tetra-amido macrocyclic ligands (TAML), which allow non-chlorine bleaches to work well at lower temperatures and pressures.

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Whose Air Is It Anyway?
October 2003 (pp 6–8)

Author: Jeannie Allen

Chemistry Connections: Equilibrium, Reactions, Solids/Liquids/Gases, Sustainability

Description: Describes composition of atmosphere—chemical, biological and circulation throughout the world. Ozone issue studied through satellites. Student experiment tracks atmospheric transport of fungal spores through smoke.
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Life in a Greenhouse
October 2003 (pp 18–21)

Author: Helen Herlocker

Chemistry Connections: Acids/Bases, Equilibrium, Reactions, Sustainability

Description: Explains the greenhouse effect; role of atmospheric chemicals absorbing infrared radiation. Carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, dichlorodifluoromethane, trichlorofluoromethane listed with their relative effectiveness in absorbing infrared. Diagrams.

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Nobel Prize Winner Sherwood Rowland: A Conversation
October 2003 (pp 29–30)

Author: David Harwell

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Reactions, Sustainability

Description: An interview with Nobel Prize-winning chemist who in the 1970’s, along with Mario Moline, studied the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and their role in destroying the ozone layer in the stratosphere where the ozone normally reduces the amount of harmful UV light reaching the earth’s surface. Important points in the interview include his life in high school at the age of 12, the importance of playing sports, how he got into the study of the atmosphere, the effect on his life as a Nobel Prize winner, the effects on the atmosphere by banning the CFCs.

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Andrea Razzaghi: Getting People and Hardware Working Together
September 2002 (pp 4–5)

Author: Frank Cardulla

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Sustainability

Description: Tells the story of Andrea’s role as manager of the project to launch the Aura satellite, housing 4 major instruments designed to collect data on the atmosphere and send it back to Earth. Describes Andrea’s strength in team building and her hobbies, and her advice to students today.

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Pieternel Levelt: Shining Light on Atmospheric Ozone
September 2002 (pp 10–11)

Author: Frank Cardulla

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Sustainability

Description: Tells a bit about the life of the subject, her background and people (especially women) who influenced her to study science. Discusses her role as manager of a team of scientists building the Ozone Measuring Instrument (OMI) that will ride along on Aura to measure atmospheric levels of ozone. Describes that the OMI detects in the UV-Vis regions of the spectrum, detecting ozone, NO2, SO2 and other gases. Discusses irradiance (incoming solar radiation) and radiance (light reflected from Earth of scattered back from the atmosphere).

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Anne Douglass: Making the World Safe for Blondes
September 2002 (pp 14–15)

Author: Frank Cardulla

Chemistry Connections: History/Biography, Sustainability

Description: Talks about Douglass’ role in keeping humans safe from penetrating UV by protecting the ozone layer. (Blondes are most susceptible.) She is listed as co-leader of the Validation Working Leader of the Aura mission, meaning she has to ensure the data is correct. She does that by cross-checking all the instruments’ readings with plane, balloon and ground instruments’ readings, all of which give her confidence in the data. Also discusses models as a basis for making predictions.

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Global Warming—Hot Topic Getting Hotter
September 2001 (pp 14–15)

Author: Frank Cardulla

Chemistry Connections: Solids/Liquids/Gases, Sustainability

Description: Introduces the debate over the reality of global warming and presents evidence to support the idea. Connects global warming to greenhouse gases and explains how gases like carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, tropospheric ozone and chlorofluorocarbons can trap radiation in the earth’s atmosphere. Cites examples of human activity that contribute to greenhouse gases. Concludes by describing computer modeling that is being used to predict the effects of global warming.

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