Green chemicals, commonly known as bio based chemicals are produced from bio feedstock and thus, are renewable in nature. Green chemicals are much lesser harmful towards environment compared to petroleum based chemicals. The raw materials which are generally used in the production of green chemicals are bio-ethanol, sugar & starch, animal fats and vegetable oils. Green chemicals also consider biodegradation of the product after a certain period of time keeping the environment safe. Biodegradation is the process of disintegration of materials by fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.Green chemicals find wide application across various end-use industries such as agriculture, construction, and automobile. Burgeoning growth of these industries coupled with the rising awareness towards environmental safety globally is expected to boost growth for the global green chemicals market.
Green chemicals or bio-based chemicals have application areas across industries, including healthcare, food processing, construction, and automobiles industries. Some of the major restraining factors for the growth of the global green chemicals market are higher timelines for the intended application and higher price range and availability of the products. A recent study shows that some of the green chemicals contain dioxane, which is carcinogenic in nature.
Various government initiatives and regulations create a conducive environment for growth of the green chemicals market. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute are playing major role in supporting research and education for preventing pollution and reducing the toxic content. These government agencies have recognized that the use of green chemicals will not only make sustainable, and cleaner environment, but can be economically helpful in building positive social environment.
According to ACS Green Chemistry Institute, in many key applications, the green chemicals are paving their way in replacing many toxic chemicals. In the manufacturing of computer chips, a large amount of toxic chemicals, energy, and water is required. Owing to this, the scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a technology that uses critical carbon dioxide (CO2) in the manufacturing of computer chips, and has significantly reduced the amount of energy, water, and toxic chemicals that were needed to manufacture these chips. Also, Richard Wool, who was the director of the Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources (ACRES) program at the University of Delaware has developed a technique to use the feathers of chicken in producing computer chips.He has used the protein, and keratin containing in the feathers to produce a fiber form material which is both lightweight, and is so tough that it can endure thermal, and mechanical stresses. As a result, a feather-based printed circuit board was developed and was actually working at double the speed of conventional circuit boards.
In the pharmaceuticals industry, there are lots of developments going in developing medicines with no harmful effects and increasing the use of those processes that produce no toxic waste.Merck and Codex is, a biocatalysis company has developed a second-generation green synthesis of sitagliptin, which is the active ingredient in producing Januvia, a treatment for type 2 diabetes. This development, and collaboration has led to a key enzymatic process in improving yield and safety, reduces waste, and eliminating the use of metal catalyst in the manufacturing process.
Considering the alarming increase in non-biodegradable waste generated worldwide, predominantly plastics is influencing governments and industries alike to develop new biodegradable alternatives to plastics. Various companies are working on developing plastics from biodegradable, and renewable sources. NatureWorks based in Minnesota, USA has developed food containers from a polymer called polylactic acid branded as Ingeo. The R&D department at NatureWorks developed a technology by using microorganisms converting cornstarch into a resin that is as strong as the rigid petroleum-based plastic, and is currently used in yogurt pots, and water bottles containers. Polylactic acid has gained traction as a renewable plastic from last few years due to its considerable uses in food packaging industry. Netherlands-based chemical company Corbion, has produced lactic acid for the baking industry, in order to become a key green technology developer, which in turn is now producing polylactic acid for industrial uses as well. This renewable chemical now competes with ethylene to supply the plastics business. The one of the largest chemical producer in the world, BASF has developed a compostable polyester film called 'Ecoflex' that is used to make fully biodegradable bags called 'Ecovio'. The Biodegradable Products Institute has certified these bags for use as the bags can completely disintegrate into water, CO2, and biomass in industrial composting systems. These bags have key properties includes resistant to tear & puncture, are waterproof, elastic in nature, and are printable as well. The commercial use of these bags will replace the conventional plastic bags and will help in quickly degrading the kitchen and yard waste in municipal composting systems.
In the paints & coatings industry, oil-based alkyd paints emits huge amount of VOC content. These volatile compounds evaporates after drying from the paint and possess many environmental impacts.Procter & Gamble and Cook Composites and Polymers developed a mixture of sugar, and soya oil and has replaced conventional paint resins and solvents which are derived from fossil fuels. This technology has helped in reducing the VOC content by 50%. This Chempol MPS paint technology has used bio-based Sefose oils, which has helped in replacing hydrocarbon-derived solvents in producing paint that is safer to use and produces less toxic waste.P&G Chemicals and Cook Composites and Polymers (CCP) jointly received the 2009 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award based on the Chempol(R) MPS technology, which was collaboratively developed and commercialized by the partnering organizations. Another company named, Sherwin-Williams has developed water-based acrylic alkyd paints with low VOCs that can be manufactured from reused soda bottle plastic (PET), acrylics, and soybean oil. These paints combine the performance benefits of alkyds and low VOC content of acrylics. In 2010, Sherwin-Williams manufactured enough of these new paints to eliminate over 800,000 pounds, or 362,874 kg, of VOCs.
As the name suggests, green chemicals are a precursor to ensure environmental sustainability across industries and thus, demand for these chemicals is expected to increase exponentially in the near future, buoyed by increasing R&D activities directed towards increasing the efficiency of these products.
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