In the mid-1990s, green chemistry was rarely highlighted outside of niche symposia and the occasional publication. Now, a growing network of scientists can access multiple dedicated journals, handbooks and encyclopedias, conferences, training courses, software tools, databases, funding sources and award programs.
There have emerged multiple sub-fields that are growing on the peripheries of toxicology, engineering and other scientific disciplines. Metrics of academic research show that there are more than 300 green chemistry-themed articles that have been cited at least 100 times.
And these advances have penetrated nearly every industrial sector:
The pharmaceutical industry, for instance, has made significant progress in waste prevention through simpler processes in the manufacture of products, such as ibuprofen.
Scientists have developed analytic processes to evaluate the safety of chemical synthesis, including tools that score the safety of each chemical used within specific processes.
Chemical companies have developed processes to produce industrial chemicals while generating only water as co-products.
And researchers have developed systems to replace volatile and often toxic solvents with water.
“Green chemistry has touched every business sector that I can imagine, from food to energy, to plastics, to drugs, to cleaning, to cosmetics,” said Anastas. “There’s so much going on.”
o illustrate the diversity and range of green chemistry, the research team devised the Green ChemisTREE diagram
, led by Julie Zimmerman
, Professor of Green Engineering and Assistant Director for Research at the CGC&GE, in close collaboration with Hanno Erythropel.
“In the diagram, the branches represent each of the principles of green chemistry while the leaves represent the techniques available to the green chemist — including mechanisms, procedures, design guidelines, and other resources they can use to advance the discipline,” Zimmerman said.
The authors expect that the tree will continue to grow. “Green Chemistry has always been envisioned as a philosophy of continuous improvement,” they write. “(Green) Chemists will constantly question what can be done better, what experiments and collaborations would be a step in the right direction, and how we know we have made progress.”