The main interest was in new dyes, fertilisers and plastics. Only when the serious environmental damage started to become obvious in the 60s, did people begin to think differently.
Biological systems for the production of chemicals are increasingly being used; the solvent is then mostly water, the temperatures are low, and toxic substances are no longer needed.
The chemical industry is increasingly succeeding in replacing solvents in manufacture and use by more sustainable systems. For example, substances such as carbon dioxide and water are proving to be excellent solvents at elevated temperatures and pressures (in the supercritical state). Caffeine has long been extracted from coffee in this way.
In particular, the development of computer and laser technology, along with increasing miniaturisation, has enabled major advances to be made. It can be assumed that all of the chemical processes will eventually be monitored at molecular level in real time, and thus more efficiently controlled.
Real-time analysis was developed at an early stage to obtain continuous rather than selective information about production processes.
By María de Lourdes Aja Montes, student in the Master course ‹Chemistry for the Life Sciences› MScLS13
Chemistry plays an important role in everyday life and one of the most vital challenges that chemists have to face is developing the optimal way to produce molecules that can help improve it. However, the definition of optimal has evolved through time: from alchemical times, when the optimal synthesis was finding the right mixture that led to the desired results, through the industrial revolution when there was more focus on cost optimisation. It was not until the early 60’s that a new era of chemistry started, when Rachel Carson recognised the the devastation that certain chemicals were having on local ecosystems in her book Silent Spring , broadening with it the scope of what optimal signifies to include the effect of chemicals on the environment. In 1998 Paul Anastas and John Warner published the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry , which now serve as a guide-line for chemists to develop syntheses that not only produce the desired product at a competitive price, but also allow the environment to be protected from inherently toxic materials throughout the entire supply chain.
Nowadays multiple examples can be found where less hazardous syntheses have been implemented. This project describes some of these examples in the twelve sections below.
To the principles