Green Chemistry

page author: Thomas Squire

Green chemistry is a term used to describe the efforts being made to make chemistry as a whole more sustainable i.e. trying to design chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. This applies to all aspects of a chemical’s life cycle including; the chemical products design, manufacture, use, and disposal. 

The 12 principles of green chemistry below demonstrate the range of concepts used to make chemistry more sustainable;

1.      It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.

2.      Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.

3.      Wherever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

4.      Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.

5.      The use of auxiliary substances (e.g. solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.

6.      Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.

7.      A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting wherever technically and economically practicable.

8.      Reduce derivatives – Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification) should be avoided whenever possible.

9.      Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

10.    Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and break down into innocuous degradation products.

11.    Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.

12.    Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

Task; These 12 principles cover a range of areas; environmental, health and economic sustainability. Can you group each principle under an area listed above? Can you think of another area to group some of the principles under? Do some principles fall into multiple groups.

Learn more about designing sustainable synthesis here.

Download word document for printable copy of the 12 principles and groups.

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