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June 27, 2006
Also appeared in print July 3, 2006, p. 10

GREEN CHEMISTRY

Presidential Awards

Honors recognize chemical innovations that promote pollution prevention and sustainability

Stephen K. Ritter

Environmentally friendlier. Less expensive. Customer satisfaction. These are a few of the descriptors used when discussing the chemistry behind the products and processes honored by the 11th annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, which were presented during a ceremony held on June 26 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

PHOTO BY STEVE RITTER

Lined Up The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards await their recipients.

The awards program is a competitive effort providing national recognition of chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into the design, manufacture, and use of chemical products to help achieve federal pollution prevention goals and promote sustainability. The program is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics and sponsored in part by the American Chemical Society.

"The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards not only focus attention on the fundamental work being done in our companies and universities but also celebrate the scientists and technologists and the managers and team leaders responsible for bringing these concepts from ideation to commercial reality," commented ACS President-Elect Catherine T. Hunt, a chemist at two-time award-winner Rohm and Haas. "The award recipients we honor have discovered the same thing??????that environmental and economic goals are not mutually exclusive."

The 2006 award recipients and their winning technologies are as follows:

  • Codexis was recognized with the award in the greener reaction conditions category for devising a biocatalytic process to replace a chemical synthesis of ethyl (R)-4-cyano-3-hydroxybutyrate, or hydroxynitrile, the key chiral building block used to make atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor.
  • NuPro Technologies and Arkon Consultants teamed up to win the small-business award for developing less volatile and safer solvents along with alternative solvent-recycling systems for flexographic printing, the predominant method of printing food wrappers, shopping bags, cereal boxes, and shipping cartons.
  • Galen J. Suppes, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, was honored with the academic award for his group's work to devise a low-cost catalytic process to convert the excess glycerol by-product from biodiesel production into propylene glycol that can be used as a low-toxicity replacement for ethylene glycol in automotive antifreeze.
  • Merck was selected for the award in the greener synthetic pathways category for creating a more efficient synthesis of β-amino acids and using the reaction as a pivotal step in making sitagliptin, a chiral β-amino acid derivative that is the active ingredient in Januvia, the company's pending new treatment for type 2 diabetes.
  • S.C. Johnson & Son garnered the award in the designing safer chemicals category for developing Greenlist, a patented "ecoeffectiveness" program that allows the company to formulate its products on the basis of the environmental health and safety ratings of individual ingredients. Familiar S.C. Johnson brands benefiting from the program include Saran Premium Wrap plastic film, Windex glass cleaner, Fantastik all-purpose cleaner, and Raid insecticide.

The 2006 Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Student Award in Green Chemistry, administered by the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry, also was presented at the ceremony. This year's recipient was Ke Min, a graduate student in Krzysztof Matyjaszewski's group at Carnegie Mellon University. Min was selected for her work to develop a novel electron-transfer polymerization initiation technique used in atom-transfer radical polymerizations that can be carried out on an industrial scale in aqueous dispersed media.

PHOTO BY STEVE RITTER

Greener Polymers Hunt (left), Presidential Science Adviser John H. Marburger III (second from left), and Jacobs (right) were on hand to present the Hancock student award to Min for her work on greener polymerization reactions.

"Green chemistry education is critical to the adoption of cleaner products and processes, and faculty members and research advisers play a very important role by instilling an environmental ethic in their students," said Madeleine Jacobs, ACS's executive director and CEO, who presented the award to Min.

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