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Five win Presidential Green Chemistry Awards

By Tim Wright

Published July 2, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the 2009 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards winners on June 22, recognizing research that can make significant contributions to pollution prevention. Judging is by an independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society and its ACS Green Chemistry Institute. The awards are given in five categories. Two of the 2009 winners —the Academic Award and Designing Greener Chemicals award—are related to paints and coatings. Here is the complete list of winners along with a description of the research involved.

• Academic Award—Professor Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. Hazardous chemicals are often required in the manufacture of important polymers such as lubricants, adhesives and coatings. Matyjaszewski developed an alternative process called "Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization" for manufacturing polymers. The process uses chemicals that are environmentally friendly, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as a reducing agent, and requires less catalyst. The process has been licensed to manufacturers throughout the world.

• Small Business Award—Virent Energy Systems, Inc., Madison, WI. BioForming Process: Catalytic Conversion of Plant Sugars into Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuel. Virent's process is a water-based, catalytic method to make gasoline, diesel or jet fuel from the sugar, starch or cellulose of plants that requires little external energy other than the plant biomass. The process is flexible and can be modified to generate different fuels based on current market conditions. It can compete economically with current prices for conventionally produced petroleum-based fuel.

• Greener Synthetic Pathways—Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, TN. A Solvent-Free Biocatalytic Process for Cosmetic and Personal Care Ingredients. Esters are an important class of ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. Usually, they are manufactured by harsh chemical methods that use strong acids and potentially hazardous solvents; these methods also require a great deal of energy. Eastman's new method uses immobilized enzymes to make esters, saving energy and avoiding both strong acids and organic solvents. This method is so gentle that Eastman can use delicate, natural raw materials to make esters never before available.

• Greener Reaction Conditions—CEM Corporation, Matthews, NC. Innovative Analyzer Tags Proteins for Fast, Accurate Results without Hazardous Chemicals or High Temperatures. Each year, laboratories test millions of samples of food for the presence of protein. Such tests generally use a large amount of hazardous substances and energy. CEM has developed a fast, automated process that uses less toxic reagents and less energy. The new system can eliminate 5.5 million pounds of hazardous waste generated by traditional testing in the U.S. each year. What's more, it differentiates between protein and other chemicals used to adulterate food, such as melamine.

• Designing Greener Chemicals—Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH, jointly with Cook Composites and Polymers Company, North Kansas City, MO. Chempol MPS Resins and Sefose Sucrose Esters Enable High-Performance Low-VOC Alkyd Paints and Coatings. Conventional oil-based "alkyd" paints provide durable, high-gloss coatings but use hazardous solvents. Procter & Gamble and Cook Composites and Polymers are developing innovative Chempol MPS paint formulations using bio-based Sefose oils to replace petroleum-based solvents. Sefose oils, made from sugar and vegetable oil, enable new high-performance alkyd paints with less than half the solvent.

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