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Vol. 29 No. 3
May-June 2007

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/symposia

Green Chemistry

by Fabio Aricò

Dresden, an integral part of the River Elbe valley, is surely one of the most spectacular cities in eastern Germany. Its architecture and historical monuments offer a great variety of attractions to the almost 10 million tourists that visit annually. Dresden is also one of the greenest cities in Europe. Due to its magnificent landscapes and to far-sighted urban planning, 63 percent of the city is devoted to woods and green spaces. Thus, it should not be a surprise that this fantastic location was selected for the First International IUPAC Conference on Green-Sustainable Chemistry, held 10–15 September 2006.

The conference, initiated upon the launching of the IUPAC Green Chemistry Subcommittee, was conceptualized and planned by Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale “La Chimica per L’ambiente” (INCA) with the collaboration of the German Chemical Society. It was sponsored by the Deutsche Bundesstifung Umwelt and Bundesministerium fur Umwelt, Naturshutz und Reaktorsicherheit and was organized under the auspices of IUPAC, the Italian Ministry of Research, and the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Logistical aspects of the conference were planned by Wladimir Reschetilowski.

Wolfgang Höelderich (left), Pietro Tundo, and David StC. Black.

The conference kicked off with remarks by Pietro Tundo (president of INCA), Wolfgang F. Hoelderich (RWTH Aachen), and David StC. Black (secretary general of IUPAC). This was followed by the lecture of Frank Ruff, who gave his outlook on “Social Change and Innovation in the 21st Century.”

The week-long conference was divided into five topics:

I. Benign Synthesis Routes: heterogeneous catalysis, homogeneous catalysis, enzymatic catalysis, alternative solvents, new reagents, “end of pipe” technology

II. Future Green Energy Sources: hydrogen technology, fuel cell technology, biodiesel, energy saving

III. Use of Renewables: starch, cellulose, sugar, new detergents, biomass technology

IV. Benign Process Technology: micro-reactor technique, microwave technology, photo chemistry, new regulation devices

V. Education in Green Chemistry

The wide selection of topics was intended to attract industrial researchers and representatives, university educators and researchers, as well as politicians and students interested in green and sustainable chemistry. The enormous efforts of the organizing committee paid off, as 450 people from 42 countries attended the conference.

Each subtopic of the conference was presented by a keynote lecture delivered by an international expert in that field. Each day was divided into two parallel sessions, so that the overall number of presented lectures was almost 120.

The program also included two plenary lectures. The first, given by Jean-Marc Ané, of the Association Euratom-CEA, on “Will Fusion Ever Be a Safe, Clean and Sustainable Energy Source?” focused on the use of nuclear energy as a possible, future green energy source. The European Union is consuming more and more energy and importing more and more energy products since its energy production is insufficient to meet requirements. Ané showed that one of the most promising energy sources is nuclear power. Euraton, as part of its research on nuclear energy, is currently investigating the fusion of lithium with tritium to obtain two helium molecule (ITER Project). The energy derived from this process can be collected. The main advantage of this process is that it produces much less radioactive waste since no radio isotopic atoms are involved in the process. Ané believes that the European Union must maintain a leading position in the field of civil nuclear technology in order to retain the necessary expertise and develop more efficient fission reactors and enable fusion to become a reality.

Ryoji Noyori, Nobel Prize laureate for chemistry, 2001.

Ryoji Noyori, Nobel laureate in chemistry, delivered a fascinating plenary lecture titled “Pursuing Practical Elegance in Chemical Synthesis.” Noyori discussed how the concept of Green Chemistry should not be seen as a matter of clear-cut scientific or technical expertise, but rather as a serious, complex social issue. In fact, he explained that the current standards of chemical synthesis need to be much improved. Many existing chemical processes, though beneficial, produce unwanted wastes along with the target products. He noted that the inefficient recovery of solvents is also an environmental problem. Noyori pointed out that every reaction should proceed with a high atom-efficiency, and the overall synthesis must be accomplished with a low E-factor, thereby minimizing the cost of waste disposal. Without such approaches, chemical manufacturing is unsustainable. Researchers must influence public opinion, Noyori said, in order to change government policies in favor of creating sustainable societies. On the scientific side, he noted, molecular catalysis plays a key role in achieving this goal. Noyori presented some enlightening examples of hydrogenation reactions that are ideal processes for Green Chemistry.

The conference also included two poster sessions in which the students discussed their latest results and achievements. More than 280 posters were presented, making it very difficult for the judging committee to chose the poster prize winners. Finally, two students were selected for the genuine interest they showed in their research, Maiko Kaneko, from the Japan Advanced Institute of Sciences and Technology, and Falsig Hanne from the Technical University of Denmark, Centre for Sustainable and Green Chemistry.

Group photo of participants in the 1st International IUPAC Conference on Green-Sustainable Chemistry.
> view jpg

On the final day of the conference Tundo and Hoelderich remarked that the event had exceeded the expectations of the organizing committee. They also stressed that this big event should be considered an important starting point for collaboration between IUPAC and the Green Chemistry community. They concluded by inviting everyone to the second International IUPAC Conference on Green Chemistry, which will be held in September 2008 on a boat traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Fabio Aricò <fabio.arico@unive.it> works with Pietro Tundo in Venezia (Italy) where he is involved in a joint project between INCA and Imperial Chemical Industries PLC.


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