Environmental Chemistry

Meet the SAGE Trainees!

The SAGE IGERT Fellowship at BCGC supports UC Berkeley graduate students conducting research related to green chemistry and green energy. The fellowship began in 2013 and now, two years later, there are fifteen trainees and alum doing amazing green work on campus.

We went out to speak to them about their research…and a few other fun things. We asked all the trainees to describe their work in the simplest terms possible: using only the 1,000 most commonly used words in the English language (thanks to the Up-goer text editor). We also asked the students for a recommendation–a bright new green idea in the world that they’re excited about–and got some great responses. So click through the gallery and get to know the BCGC SAGE IGERT trainees!

Engineering, Environmental Chemistry, Materials, Policy

Chemical Footprinting: New tools for tracking green chemistry business practices

Chemical Footprinting: Identifying Hidden Liabilities in Manufacturing Consumer Products

In an unassuming low-rise in the Boston suburbs, Mark Rossi tinkers with a colorful dashboard on his laptop screen while his border collie putters around his feet. Rossi is the founder of BizNGO and Clean Production Action, two nonprofit collaborations of business and environmental groups to promote safer chemicals. He’s also the creator of tools that he hopes will solve a vexing problem—how to get a handle on companies’ overall toxic chemicals usage.

Consider the screen of Rossi’s laptop. Chances are the company that manufactured the product has crunched the numbers on the total amount of carbon, water, and land associated with getting it into the office—from the manufacturing of the electronic components to the packaging and transportation to retail outlets. But the total amount of toxic chemicals that contributed to the screen’s design and production might be a more difficult question to answer….

Read the entire story, by Lindsey Konkel, at  http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/123-a130/

Policy

The Future of Coal Passes Through Kosovo: op-ed from UC Berkeley’s Noah Kittner and Daniel Kammen

This op-ed was originally published on the National Geographic energy blog In 2013, the World Bank pledged to stop loan­ing money for new coal energy projects[1], unless no finan­cially fea­si­ble alter­na­tives exist. Pres­i­dent Obama has said the same for the United States, “Today, I’m call­ing for an end of pub­lic financ­ing for new coal plants overseas—unless they deploy car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies, or there’s no other viable way for the poor­est coun­tries to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity (Pres­i­dent Obama, June 25, 2013)[2],[3].”In Kosovo a pro­posed coal-​​fired power plant has been under dis­cus­sion for over a decade. The prime fun­ders, iron­i­cally, are the World Bank and the U. S. government.
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Environmental Chemistry

Capturing Chromium(VI): Abby Knight is using a new class of molecules to remove metals from groundwater and blood

“Selective Chromium(VI) Ligands Identified Using Combinatorial Peptoid Libraries.” Knight, A. S., Zhou, E. Y., Pelton, J. G., Francis, M.B. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013. 135, 17488–93.

Abby Knight, fifth year chemistry PhD student in the Francis group at UC Berkeley
Abby Knight, a graduate student in the Francis group at UC Berkeley

Abby Knight is a fifth-year PhD student in the Francis Group at UC Berkeley, and she and Julia Roberts share a mutual acquaintance: hexavalent chromium.

Roberts may or may not remember the chemical’s name, but it was her nemesis in the 2000 film Erin Brokovich, when she played a single mother agitating for PG&E to pay for contaminating her town’s water. Brokovich successfully forced the industry giant to stop polluting, and that was the end of the movie. But that wasn’t the end of the story, because although the chromium was stopped at the source, no method exists to remove what was already in the water. That’s where Knight comes in.

“There’s no good way to clean up chromium contamination in groundwater,” Knight says. “Right now, the EPA strategy is to just say ‘don’t drink this water’ and wait for it to diffuse. “
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Catalysis, Synthesis

Iron-catalyzed C-H Borylation

“Iron-Catalyzed C-H Borylation of Arenes” Dombray, T.; Werncke, C. G.; Jiang, S.; Grellier, M.; Vendier, L.; Bontemps, S.; Sortais, J-B.; Sabo-Etienne, S.; Darcel, C. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b00895

C-H borylation, itself a green reaction for generating useful borylated compounds, is traditionally catalyzed by Ir and Rh. Much of the work has been conducted by John Hartwig’s group at Berkeley and Mitch Smith’s group at Michigan St. French scientists have now reported an iron-catalyzed version, which complements recent reports with Co complexes and dinuclear transition metal complexes. I especially like that the reported reaction is free of H2 acceptors and utilizes light to activate the catalyst.

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Environmental Chemistry, Policy

Endocrine disruptors cost at least $175 billion annually in the E.U.

a children's room
Hormone-disrupting flame retardants often found in children’s toys and furniture were some of the chemicals investigated (jingdianjiaju/Flickr)

An international panel of scientists has found that endocrine disrupting chemicals likely cost the European Union over 100 billion dollars annually — and American officials say this expense could be even higher in the U.S.

The scientific panel, convened by the Endocrine Society, adopted strategies created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  to evaluate how much causation of a particular disorder could be attributed to a particular chemical. For example, they found 70-100% probability that polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and organophosphates contribute to IQ loss, based on previously published epidemiological studies. They then estimated the costs incurred to the European Union from health issues caused by exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The health effects investigated included neurobehavioral disorders, male reproductive health issues, and diabetes, and the total cost was found to be at least 100 billion dollars.
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