Green Chemistry: Innovations for an Environmental and Economic Prosperity



now I I have to confess something when I was invited to speak here I I had a little hesitation because it's a subject that I just love to speak on and so I and I had asked guidance about well how long can I speak on this because I'm and and I asked Madol energy is he she was very thoughtful and she said remember Socrates so I said ah I'll remember what about Socrates and she said he's a brilliant orator brilliant thinker could wax on and on philosophically and they killed him so I will be brief but it is a it is a subject that I think is both important and essential for us to be thinking of in terms of where we are currently in terms of sustainability where we need to go what are some of the paths that we might take to get there I obviously have dedicated my professional life to green chemistry as the the chemistry of sustainability and I think it's a reasonable question to ask why when we think of the great grand challenges of sustainability and we think about what green chemistry has to offer question of of wide green chemistry is and many ways answered here because while we might think of green chemistry chemistry in general there's something that happens in a chemistry department while the chemical industry actual truth of the matter the actual definition of chemistry and Oxford English Dictionary is the study of matter and all of its transformations it's everything that we see touch and feel it's the basis of our society and our economy the only thing in this room that's not a chemical is heating light and when we think about redesigning matter material through green chemistry we're also talking about how we redesign the material that generates stores and transport our energy so it's about as fundamental as one can get in terms of thinking about sustainability how we can make a difference in how we can make a difference through design and by design now I'm guessing that everyone in this room is aware of our sustainability challenges but just in case and wanting to make sure that we're all on the same page I'd like to to just show a few charts a few schemes of they were put together by a person named Paul Crutzen Nobel Prize winner in chemistry a while ago about some of the sustainability challenges we face and they're fairly self-explanatory like that one so after looking at those has probably no questions because we could go on through many other metrics those exponential curves so-called hockey stickers showing that we're living in a dynamic world and the same way that for millennia people believed that there they were going to live the same way that their grandparents did the same way that their grandchildren would live and in the last couple hundred years people thought that maybe there the children could have better lives than they would and now we recognize all of us that our own lives aren't even the same and our youth as they were in our Middle Ages as they will when we're older because the rate of change the dynamism not only in the circumstances of society but in the very fabric of our world is changing it's such a raid that we need to design for a dynamic rather than a static world and most of our design criteria have been and I are built on the fact that it's it's been a static world now sustainability is such a large and complex concept sometimes to to get to the root of that to to be able to try to wrap our arms around it can can really be benefited by some imagery and I know a few people who can do it any better than Chris Jordan Chris Jordan who has a visual perspective on just one aspect one aspect of of the challenge which is material waste now what do we think this is would we say perhaps it's a it's an abstract painting well perhaps it would be best to to zoom in yes that is the number of plastic bags used every five seconds in the US perhaps this well certainly we know Impressionism or is it as we zoom in we realized that these are the aluminum cans used every 30 seconds just in the u.s. along a sandy beach perhaps as we zoom in we realize these in the number of cell phones retired every single day and for those of for those of you who know me and how many times I misplace my cell phone the six in the middle are mine well we could look at this moonscape landscape or sadly the number of of beverage bottles used every five minutes so this is only one part of a very complex but a daunting daunting material challenge around sustainability now there are issues that we're confronting with regard to to all these chemicals that are the basis of our society and our economy for all of an acid chemist I have to tell you I am NOT I'll emphasize this I am NOT anti chemical I am anti hazard I am anti adverse consequence because chemicals can and have brought many different aspects of good to our lives they have also brought about adverse consequences at the same time and this is what I'd like to discuss whether it's baby bibs toothpaste baby bottles Oh shall we just recognize then we are at a time when it is a constant drumbeat now anywhere that you may fall on the spectrum that these are genuine tragic consequences or these are just perception issues of people that just don't understand anywhere that you might fall on that spectrum it's still bad it is bad either from a human health environmental ethical standpoint it's bad from a business perspective and what I'd like to suggest that it's profoundly unnecessary at our state of the science and our state of the knowledge that things don't have to be as they are and the status quo can and must change now so how have we dealt with sustainability issues how many folks have played the game whack-a-mole at a carnival that is all too often how we are dealing with sustainability issues one mole pops up we hit it another mole pops of we'll deal with the the water issue and we'll try to deal with water quality water quantity and then toxics issues pop up and then we'll move on to climate biodiversity energy and on and on yet all of us recognize that climate is inextricably linked to energy energy and extremely linked to water water to agricultural agriculture to help and yet in the next breath we often say our sustainability program is to reduce our carbon footprint we need to recognize that integration systems thinking is going to be absolutely essential to effectively approaching sustainability because in the absence of systems thinking we're capable of doing the right things and doing them profoundly wrong we have a history of environmental protection that has done wonderful things cleaned our air clean our water land and yet even with all of these excellent achievements sometimes we're doing in unsustainable ways what do I mean by this all of us want and recognize that renewable energy sources are going to be crucial yet when we achieve it by competing with food feed and land use options we may be doing the right thing but doing it in a profile on sustainable way we know that we want to harness the power of the Sun and we're doing it with increasing efficiency sometimes close to 40 percent efficiency and yet when we do it with scarce toxic depleting metals we're doing it the right thing and perhaps doing it an unsustainable way when we're looking at how the Green Revolution fed millions of people save millions of lives and yet if we achieve it through bio cumulative toxic pesticides and fertilizers that can contaminate our water sources are we achieving the right thing in the wrong way when we look at the millions of lives that was saved by disinfection of water getting rid of pathogens yet when we do with acutely lethal substances that create disinfection byproducts that are often carcinogenic and build up in our bodies and create million multi-million dollar programs in the epa to clean up after those byproducts are we doing the right thing disinfecting a water but doing it an unsustainable way all of us want energy-efficient lighting and if we pursue it in a way that introduces neurotoxins into the manufacturing scheme in the end of life how are we doing the right thing and doing it in the wrong way now everyone in this room I believe is probably familiar with the fact that if everyone and the in the world lived at the same state of development the same quality of life as we do in the United States and Europe and Japan that we would need for earth equivalents to supply the resources to support that quality of life one thing is for sure we will not get three more earths I can guarantee you this so how do we deal with this how did we get in this in this state of unsustainability and doing the right things wrong these were urgent and necessary challenges millions of people are dying from disinfected for and from infected water the energy crisis is real people were genuinely starving from food shortfalls these were people who had brought brilliance noble intentions and sadly fragmented thinking fragmented thinking has caused many of the unintended consequences and so how do we how do we think differently and we always turn to Albert Einstein problems can't be solved at the same level of awareness that created them so what is that new level of awareness and how do we how do we think differently about the issues that we're facing the unsustainable situation we we find ourselves in well there is there is good news it's not the first time that we've been on the unsustainable trajectory this article from justice 1908 talks about a situation in I guess New York City where the population was increasing people and the population of horses to transport those people and therefore the natural byproduct of those horses were increasing and the Pritchett projections were that the that the height of the natural byproduct of these horses would exceed the average height of the average New Yorker in just a few years this is all at a time when the when the state of the art environmental technology was a shovel and a bucket now we didn't get off that unsustainable trajectory by banning horses Science and Technology intervened to change the reality to change the course that we were on I often love the saying that we the the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones it's because science and technology can intervene in order to change the equation so thinking differently one part of thinking differently is this this idea of green chemistry green chemistry that venom is defined as the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances this concept introduced 20 years ago almost almost to the day has been adopted in 33 countries around the world every industry sector that that I can name there have been books there are journals scientific journals devoted to green chemistry and countless articles and every other scientific journal around molecular science some shown here this is the increase of the thousands of papers the public media recognizes that green chemistry is is something that has taken hold research networks again in 33 countries around the world with China just launching its 13th Research Institute devoted to green chemistry breakthroughs in everything from bio-based materials and and solvents that that aren't going to be toxic and carcinogenic different ways of manufacturing these materials making new materials using molecular self-assembly rather than forcing materials to do things that they otherwise wouldn't want to do by putting them under a lot of pressure and heat my goodness that sounds a lot like Washington putting things under pressure and heat and on and on so many scientific advances in the years since green chemistry was introduced showing that it's not just about a noble wish of being good to the birds bunnies the planet but rather a rigorous scientific design protocol business yes businesses around the world this just came out in June a projection that green chemistry industry is projected to go to about a hundred billion dollars by the end of the decade conferences around the world and educational and awareness networks of NGOs so the transformation in awareness that Einstein was talking about is that there's a myth that you can't have the products of one life you can't have modern conveniences without the toxics without the wastes without the unsustainable unintended consequences and one of my favorite quotes from John F Kennedy is that the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie deliberate contrived and dishonest but the myth persistent persuasive and realistic that myth of you can have economic benefit or environmental protection is being bolide by green chemistry every day because all of these achievements are not because somebody has put out a vow shalt legal requirement that you must do green chemistry rather because you're meeting environmental and economic goal simultaneously through innovation people ask me and they think I'm joking when they say how did you come up with this term green chemistry well now everything is green but back in the day how did you come up with green chemistry so you know Green is the color of an environment our environment and in the u.s. green is the color of our money this is simply about how you make environmental and economic goals work simultaneously so what I'd like to do is talk about a few concrete examples and this example is looking at some of the adhesives that that are used and in society and and I have to say of many folks here in the audience never read down a bathroom a few folks have okay so a year and a half ago I was redoing my bathroom and scraping up the tiles off off the floor is it easy no no no it's not easy this is so I'm scraping and I'm chiseling and I'm here and I'm scraping my knuckles and I'm bleeding and I'm than the adhesive and I'm passing out and right before I lose consciousness I read this label that says only use in a well-ventilated area if you don't it will be bad so when I wake up I think you know this is not how nature does this this is not how nature makes it even happen and I look now folks have gone down to the shore and tried to pull muscles off a rock now is that easy No so this muscle is creating this adhesive this muscle business and in ways that constructed using locally available non-toxic starting materials room temperature ambient pressure öand by the way it does it under water just to show off and so so three point four billion years or so of design brilliance and biomimicry is something that the the the great Janine Benyus has really opened up it's one of the most powerful tools in green chemistry and when we're talking about adhesives how does that gecko stay on that ceiling someone tell me what chemical adhesive the Gecko slathers on his feet before he walks on the ceiling of course none it's millions of submicron keratin fibers creating weak force interactions and allow it to it here and it doesn't need to chisel its foot up every time it wants to wants to step it it's able to take it on and off and on and off as many times as it wants so this is some of the design brilliance that we say all right design inspiration from nature this is what we want to achieve how do we go about achieving this clearly what we have to do is take the feet off the gecko turn it into no this is an official EPA position no taking the feet off of chaos but instead learning from the gecko the principles that the gecko are illustrating and creating yes gecko tape that spiderman model about a metre high is where is adhering to that glass ceiling using a square centimeter of gecko tape using the same type of weak force interactions that you can put on and off now the point I want to make about this is that is it more environmentally beneficial for a whole variety of reasons yes is it simply a higher performance product yes and so blending performance redefining what performance means so that it's not just a narrow definition of the function but also that function and ways that doesn't harm human health in the environment now I'd like to move on to ceramics ceramics are often described as being manufactured through a three-step process of heat beat and treat now you have the clay can heat it at 3,000 degrees for 50 hours I have a question for the audience how many people in the audience have bones anybody okay I do too I do too and my bones are pretty hard how many people were heated at 3,000 degrees at 450 hours so what's my point we want to get the performance of the material without requiring these extreme conditions this energy consumption this energy and efficiency and nature knows how to lay down molecular self-assembly through protein templates to get this performance and when you look at the abalone shell it wasn't heated at 3,000 degrees for 50 hours either this is the abalone factory locally available starting materials benign room temperature and pressure and again just to make fun of us it's doing it underwater so now these are the now if you say the one on the right is nice and neat I will have to tell you that the one on the left is the one that's actually a little bit flexible under stress and gives it higher performance again is it environmentally benign on so many different ways and far more sustainable yes but is the performance also just superior in so many ways the answer is yes the way that we accomplish stain repellency by putting fluorine and fluorinating materials but that's not how the lotus leaf does it the lotus leaf uses the geometry of the leaf itself that's small that's small micro structure that causes water to beat up roll off and take with it the the dirt in the soil to clean the leaf has now been transformed into Lotus and paints that use the same property and of painting buildings across Europe how do we get there how do we think differently well we can approach how we think about the problem by optimizing the existing solution maybe we want to get a few more miles per gallon from the internal combustion engine and we can do that and we'll get benefits for for the amount invested well we might want to re-engineer the system maybe we want to say it's not about internal combustion engines we're going to use electric vehicles perhaps or you can redefine the problem is it about cars or is it about human mobility is it about access and the level of benefits that you are able to achieve for a given unit of investment is for the engineers in the room directly related to the number of design constraints you put on this so do I believe that we'll be able to move off the unsustainable trajectory or on by getting slightly more efficient with unsustainable technologies I don't believe that's true they're coming ten percent twenty percent fifty percent more efficient on an unsustainable technology there's probably necessary in the near term but not going to get us where we need to be for X 10x types of leapfrog innovations might be what's necessary but how do we think in terms of transformative innovation well you know transformative design has a has some principles and one of the principles of transformative disruptive innovation is that a product can evolve toward ideality an idee ality is getting all of the service of the product without the product existing itself getting all of the service of the product well the product itself ceases to exist what did he just say it's not that crazy of a concept most of us grew up with with telephone lines lining the streets in some places we still have them but I'm guarantee that most of us also have some version of of this in our pockets getting much of the performance of the telephone wires without the telephone wires being needed in the first place so getting the performance without the product what does that mean across innovative transformative design generally well when we think about a cup of coffee and how it has been decaffeinated in the past historically it was decaffeinated using methylene chloride now some folks might know that methylene chloride has a little bit of a Oh carcinogenic problem with it and I have never once walked into a coffee shop and her and people say I would like a venti latte with a little bit of a carcinogen in it I've never heard that don't expect to so what was the incremental improvement using carbon dioxide in a liquid form to extract the caffeine out much much better and that's how it's done done generally today what would the transformative disruptive innovation be coffee beans grown without caffeine this is not science fiction these are in Hawaii these are non-genetically modified there are other types that are but you're getting all of the performance of that extraction solvent without using any solvent itself we can do the same type of analysis using fabric dyeing we know there's some problems with the lifecycle of dyes certain types of toxicity the transformative innovation might be cotton without without die at all this there are better brighter hues than this this is some examples but again the performance of the die without the dye we can have bleach that has historic problems with phosphates and eutrophication in our waterways what's the incremental improvement using more concentrated bleach or detergent what's the transformative innovation it's not science fiction anymore to think about in terms of self-cleaning clothes much of this work being done by the military and it's not just repellent but actually cleaning stains if you are a company that is making detergents are you gonna be the same company that makes self-cleaning clothes there's this wonderful Dilbert cartoon when Dilbert are sitting at his desk in the phones running and the panel says company without a business plan so Dilbert's looking at the phone ring and he says what should i do what should I do the next panels has company with a business plan and the phone rings and Dilbert picks it up and he says we don't do that sometimes it's just so important to recognize that the most important disruptive innovation can be when you disrupt yourself whether you're a company whether you're a federal agency whether you're a university because somebody will be out there to disrupt you the example of instead of using a coating for a building the u.s. xpower and pittsburgh uses controlled rust I think it looks pretty and I think it it's being done without any coatings when we start thinking about lawnmowers how do we make it quiet or efficient run on corn oil maybe we want it solar-powered or you can have grass that only grows to a certain height and stops this is not science fiction this is these are things that we have realized I'd like to I'd like to close on a couple of things one I do think that innovation and transformative disruptive innovation is absolutely essential to getting on the sustainability trajectory and off where we are and when I think about the constancy of innovation I do reflect back on when I was listening to my first records probably had to be the Beatles and we moved on to the 45:45 onto onto 8-track tapes onto cassettes then we moved on to CDs and oh who could have ever imagined me the iPod and the iPod micro and nano and and the video iPod oh that was life transforming and then we got us smartphone why do i why do I mention this because if we thought that through some kind of legal a regulatory policy way that we wanted to get away from the the 45 record and thou shalt have an 8-track tape and we still had it to this day when none of us could have imagined an iPod or a smartphone or this is not how innovation works innovation needs to be unleashed in order to get us off this unsustainable trajectory and I have the sense of I call it strategic optimism it's not that I think that everything will be okay I think that everything can be okay if we do the right things and we take the right actions with a with the focus that's necessary with the urgency that's necessary because I like all of you know that in the entire year of 1985 all of the all of the phone calls that were made in 1985 were made in one day today all of the emails that was sent in 1995 were made in one day today the entirety of the computational power that sent Apollo 11 to the moon not just the capsule but all of Mission Control can be found in my iphone many times over so do I think Science and Technology is up to the task I believe it can be the question will it be at what the urgency in the focus that's necessary so why am I such a strategic optimist because at the beginning of this talk I said all we have in this world is energy and matter and I lied we have creativity we have spirit we have commitment we know the path forward I sincerely believe that we will rise up to this challenge and we will because we can and we will because we must thank you so much for the opportunity you

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