2013 Michigan Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Featured Video: Stephen Maldonado

Stephen Maldonado is the 2013 Governor's Green Chemistry Academic Award Winner.

Michigan's Bioeconomy Institute

Michigan's Bioeconomy Institute: Blazing a Trail to the Bioeconomy

Chun Ho Lam

2013 Michigan Green Chemistry Student Poster Winner

Robert Maleczka

Michigan Green Chemistry Leaders Series: BoroPharm

Starch Foam Packaging

Regular foam packaging can be toxic to make, but a successful business located in Lansing Michigan is commercializing a greener alternative.  KTM Industries has successfully commercialized biodegradable, starch foams under the trade name of GreenCell for protective packaging and insulation cooler markets. It is a one step, reactive extrusion process using water as the plasticizer and blowing agent along with suitable polymer modifiers to generate the cellular starch foam. After use, it can be completely disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner in soil or in compost operations, where it becomes a nutrient (food) for the soil.

Traditional foam plastics don’t have viable end-of-life disposal options. Substituting biobased, renewable feedstocks for disposable protective packaging offers a reduced carbon footprint and complete biodegradability as measured by ASTM/ISO standards. The biofoam product is biodegradable in compost, soil, and marine environments.

2011 Michigan Governor’s Green Chemistry Small Business Award Winner:
KTM Industries, Inc.
Biodegradable, Modified Starch Polymers for Protective Foam Packaging and Insulation Applications

Better Biodiesel

Creating biodiesel from low cost, widely available raw materials that don’t compete with food resources has been an important goal for chemists.  The novel process developed at Wayne State helps solve this issue by using waste vegetable oil, animal fats, and residual corn oil to create biodiesel. 

Simon Ng and colleagues at Wayne State University in Michigan developed the novel heterogeneous metal oxide catalysts that enable the production of biodiesel from cost-effective raw materials – while eliminating costly and unnecessary waste production and disposal. This technology offers a unique process solution for an industry that has been mostly idled in the United States since 2008, when rising feedstock prices rendered the production of biodiesel uneconomical.

Benefits of this technology are the low cost of the catalysts with a long life, and it does not pose any environmental or human health hazards. It can be used in a continuous process configuration, improving on the current batch processing methods, and it allows a greener synthesis pathway for biodiesel production by eliminating side reactions and the need for a caustic homogeneous catalyst.

2011 Michigan Governor’s Green Chemistry Academic Award Winner:
K.Y. Simon Ng, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Dean, College of Engineering at Wayne State University
Heterogeneous Metal Oxide Catalysts for Biodiesel Production

Soybeans in Your Sealants

Soybeans and recycled tires are helping to grow a greener business in Detroit. Recycled Polymeric Materials, Inc. manufactures heating, ventilation, and air conditioning seals in Detroit. The technology involves using recycled crumb rubber that would otherwise be sent to a landfill. Soy-based polyol and corn-based extenders have been combined along with finely ground recycled rubber from scrap tires and incorporated into the polymer matrix to compose of 25-40% of the finished part weight. This technology has been shown to be production feasible and commercially viable, meeting the stringent specifications of the automotive industry. 

The chemistry is based on reactive ingredients of soy-based polyol, an annually renewable non-petroleum resource. Polyurethane foam gaskets offer significant advantages over competitive materials. The energy use in manufacturing is significantly reduced, and part weights may be reduced significantly by about 30-40% compared to vulcanized rubber. 

2011 Michigan Governor’s Green Chemistry Business Award Winner:
Recycled Polymeric Materials, Inc.
Engineered Materials Made by Combining Recycled and Bio-renewable Resources

Car seats from soybeans

Ford Motor Company's use of soybean-based foam for car seats is a great example of the expanding reach of Green Chemistry. The 2010 Fusion Hybrid is the latest Ford vehicle with soy-based foam seat backs and cushions covered in 100 percent recycled fabric. By the end of 2009 model year, more than 1 million Ford vehicles were manufactured with these petroleum-alternative seats. Since its debut in 2008, Ford has used the foam in the Mustang, Expedition, F-150, Escape, Focus, Mazda Tribute, and Lincoln Navigator. Replacing the seat cushions with less toxic foam derived from soybean oil rather than polyurethane foam has offset more than 5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. READ MORE

Painting chemical made with lobster shells

In 2009, Michigan's Green Chemistry program awarded a Gubernatorial Green Chemistry award to PPG Industries of Michigan for their novel new chemical made of used lobster, shrimb and crab shells. The chemical, used in automobile painting, replaced a probable carcinogen. READ MORE

Pharmaceuticals made with fewer toxic chemicals

Zoloft, treats depression – an illness that strikes 20 million adults in the United States each year. Pfizer's dramatically improved commercial manufacturing process for sertraline, the active ingredient in its popular drug, Zoloft, reduces energy and water use, doubles overall product yield, and increases worker safety. This process requires only one step and reduces raw material use by 20–60 percent. The process also eliminates the use or generation of approximately 1.8 million pounds of hazardous materials. Applying the principles of green chemistry, Pfizer has dramatically improved the commercial manufacturing process of sertraline. READ MORE