EPA Selects Clemson University Professor as a 2021 Green Chemistry Challenge Award Winner
CLEMSON, SC. (June 15, 2021) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Dr. Srikenth Pilla of Clemson University as one of five winners of the 2021 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation and use of hazardous substances. This year’s winners have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that provide solutions to significant environmental challenges, and spur innovation and economic development.
“Green chemistry is one way to provide solutions to some of the significant environmental challenges we’re facing today, like exposure to toxic chemicals, dependence on non-renewable sources, and climate change,” said EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Michal Freedhoff. “The innovative technologies we celebrate today are great examples of how green chemistry is protecting our environment, preventing pollution at its source, and keeping U.S. business globally competitive by creating more sustainable products.”
“We are so grateful to the committee for selecting our non-isocyanate polyurethane foam technology for 2021 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award,” said Dr. Srikenth Pilla, Robert Patrick Jenkins Endowed Professor and Founding Director of the Clemson Composites Center. “This award testifies our faithful invention that aims to decarbonize the single-use plastics while enabling circularity through our use of molecular zippers in the creation of new paradigm of recyclable-by-design plastics.”
Dr. Pilla created the first nonisocyanate polyurethane foam. Traditional polyurethane foams are widely used in the plastics industry and are typically manufactured from diisocyanates, a potential human carcinogen. This new foam is made using lignin – a natural polymer from pulp and paper waste. It’s derived from vegetable oils and uses no isocyanates. The lignin-based foams have the same mechanical properties as traditional polyurethane foams and were specifically designed for chemical recycling at the end of their life, making this a more environmentally friendly option.
The other 2021 winners are:
- XploSafe, Oklahoma, for creating PhosRox, a novel sorbent used to make fertilizer. This product simultaneously removes ammonia, phosphate, and nitrate from contaminated waters. The resulting material is a granulated time-release fertilizer that can help lower dependence on manufactured fertilizers by recycling nutrients. This product will also help wastewater treatment operators maintain compliance with regulations and potentially generate revenue from the sale of the resulting fertilizer. When this is added to agricultural soils, it will not only release plant nutrients slowly but, in future years, could enhance the nutrient-holding capacity of the soil, preventing fertilizer runoff and protecting the watershed.
- Colonial Chemical, Tennessee, for developing environmentally friendly, high performing Suga®Boost surfactants. Many surfactants used in traditional cleaners are made from petroleum-based materials and can be highly toxic. SugaBoost surfactants are plant-based, biodegradable, generate no air emissions or wastewater discharges, and don’t contain known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. They perform as well or better than toxic, energy-intensive petroleum-based surfactants, creating the potential to yield huge environmental improvements in the cleaning industry.
- Bristol Myers Squibb, New York, for a new class of sustainable reagents – substances used to cause a chemical reaction. These new reagents use less solvents and are derived from limonene, a waste product from discarded citrus peels, which increases sustainability and decreases environmental impact. They also can tolerate air and moisture better than traditional reagents, eliminating the need for expensive technology and specialized shipping and storage.
- Merck, New Jersey, for developing a green and sustainable manufacturing process for a drug used to treat chronic coughs. By incorporating green chemistry techniques into the manufacturing process, the team not only replaced two highly toxic and hazardous chemicals, it also reduced carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions. Life-cycle assessment data shows that these changes are expected to decrease the carbon footprint of manufacturing this drug by more than 80 percent.
EPA recognized the winners today during the virtual American Chemical Society Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. This year’s awards have special meaning because it’s also the 25th anniversary of the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. During the quarter century of the Green Chemistry program, EPA and the American Chemical Society, which co-sponsor the awards, have received more than 1,800 nominations and presented awards to 128 technologies that decrease hazardous chemicals and resources, reduce costs, protect public health and spur economic growth. Winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of hundreds of millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals and saving billions of gallons of water and trillions of BTUs in energy.
An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2021 submissions and made recommendations to EPA for the 2021 winners.
More information: https://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry