Reports: SE (SES)52668-SES: 2012 ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy

Mary Kirchhoff, PhD, American Chemical Society

The ACS Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy was held at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, June 25-July 2, 2012.  Participation in the Summer School is open to graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.  Fifty-five graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, selected from 93 applicants, participated in the 2012 program.  Applicants submitted a curriculum vitae, unofficial transcript of graduate courses, letter of nomination from a faculty member, and a one-page essay describing their interest in green chemistry and sustainable energy. 

Students participated in a series of interactive lectures presented by experts on green chemistry and sustainable energy.  Staff from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund and Education Division provided information on proposal writing and careers, respectively.  One student noted that Dean Dunn’s talk offered “A rare look into the funding process, not specifically green but great!”

The instructors and titles of their presentations are provided below:

Joan Brennecke, University of Notre Dame

  • Greening Fossil Fuels
  • Energy Applications of Ionic Liquids

Dean Dunn, American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund

  • Writing Competitive Research Grant Proposals

Philip Jessop, Queen’s University

  • Choosing the Greenest Synthesis
  • Greener Solvents

Mary Kirchhoff, American Chemical Society

  • Green Chemistry:  Principles and Practice

Marc Knecht, University of Miami

  • Bio-Inspired Nanotechnology for Green Energy Applications

Mark Nimlos, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

  • Biofuels

Bob Peoples, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

  • Chemistry in the 21st Century:  Change is Afoot

Ryan Richards, Colorado School of Mines

  • Nanostructured Materials for Green Catalysis

Dawn Shiang, The Dow Chemical Company

  • Principles of Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering:  Industrial Case Studies

Joe Sostaric, American Chemical Society

  • ACS Resources and Your Career

Rich Williams, Environmental Science and Green Chemistry Consulting, LLC

  • Green Chemistry in the Pharmaceutical Industry – A Scientific and Strategic Perspective
  • Mechanistic Toxicology and Green Chemistry:  The Development of Preferred Chemicals and Products (and) Is It Green?

Student groups engaged in two metrics-related exercises.  Students used The Dow Chemical Company Sustainability Footprint Tool© to assess the viability of putting a Glycerin to Epichlorohydirn (GTE) plant in Brazil.  This exercise provided students with experience using an industrial modeling tool to gauge the environmental impact of a proposed chemical plant in terms of such factors as resource use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use. 

The second metrics exercise provided student groups with alternate routes to the same target molecule.  The groups assessed these potential routes with respect to metrics such as bioaccumulation, ozone depletion potential, global warming potential, and persistence.  Students gave oral presentations on the results of both exercises to the entire Summer School. 

Poster sessions provided an additional opportunity for students to share their research and gain insights into greener approaches to research.  Thirty-nine students presented their research during two poster sessions. 

2012 marked the tenth year of the Summer School, and participants continue to rate the program very highly.  In response to the statement, “The best thing about the course was…”, students offered the following observations:

  • Learning new things of concepts of green chemistry.  Meeting so many intelligent minds in various fields in one place on such a close level was fantastic.
  • Being exposed to a variety of scientific disciplines that have sustainability as a common theme.
  • The diversity of backgrounds of participants and speakers! I am a synthetic chemist, but I loved learning about industrial processes and other kinds of chemistry. I had no idea that students from so many areas of chemistry could all be “green chemists”.

Students provided suggestions for improving the program, such as including green analytical chemistry, more activities for active participation, and posting presentations online in advance of the Summer School.  Participants also suggested topics, such as catalysis in synthesis, toxicology, integrating processes to reduce energy usage, and solar cells for future Summer Schools.