Green Chemicals

Green chemicals, commonly known as bio based chemicals, are produced from bio feedstock and are renewable in nature. Green chemicals have lesser impact on the 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 ensure biodegradability of a product after a certain period of time and keep 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. Growth of these industries coupled with rising awareness regarding environmental safety is expected to boost growth of the global green chemicals market.

Green chemicals (or bio-based chemicals) have application in industries such as healthcare, food processing, construction, and automotive. Some of the major factors restraining the growth of the global green chemicals market include higher price range of products and availability of products. A recent study has shown 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. Government agencies and institutions such as the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute are focused on R&D activities to prevent pollution and reduce toxic content, as well as creating awareness about the sustainability of green chemicals.

According to ACS Green Chemistry Institute, green chemicals are being used in the manufacture of computer chips, which generally requires large amounts of toxic chemicals, energy, and water. A team of researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a technology that uses critical carbon dioxide (CO2) in the manufacture of computer chips which significantly reduced the amount of energy, water, and toxic chemicals that are needed to manufacture these chips. Also, Richard Wool, 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 in feathers to produce a fiber which is both lightweight, and tough enough to endure thermal and mechanical stress. 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.

The alarming increase in non-biodegradable waste generated worldwide has led governments and industries alike to develop new biodegradable alternatives to plastics. Various companies are working on developing plastics from biodegradable, and renewable sources. NatureWorks, a manufacturer of bioplastics based in Minnesota, U.S., 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 by 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, produces lactic acid for the baking industry, and is now producing polylactic acid for industrial application. BASF SE, a Germany-based producer of chemicals, has developed a compostable polyester film called 'Ecoflex' that is used to make fully biodegradable bags called 'Ecovio'. The Biodegradable Products Institute certified these bags which can completely disintegrate into water, CO2, and biomass in industrial composting systems. These bags have key properties such as resistance to tearing & puncture, water resistance, and elasticity. Moreover, these bags are printable. Replacing conventional plastic bags with these biodegradable bags would help in curbing the amount of waste in municipal composting systems.

In the paints & coatings industry, oil-based alkyd paints emit huge amount of VOC content. These volatile compounds evaporate after drying from the paint and pose a danger to the environment. Procter & Gamble and Cook (a consumer goods company) and Cook Composites and Polymers (manufacturer and distributor of synthetic resins and plastics materials) developed a mixture of sugar and soya oil which can replace 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 uses bio-based Sefose oils which could replace 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 partnering organizations. Another company named, Sherwin-Williams has developed a 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 owing to R&D activities focused on increasing the efficiency of these products.

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Green Chemicals Published Insights

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