Published 2018-11-22

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Mistra starts programme focusing on green chemistry

Mistra has decided to start a programme on green chemistry. With a total budget of SEK 100 million, it will be Mistra’s largest programme initiative ever.
‘We hope the programme will result in new products using green chemistry, and that we’ll see a modernisation of chemical use,’ says Christopher Folkeson Welch, Programmes Director at Mistra.

Green chemistry has the potential to change how chemicals are produced, what properties they have and, not least, their toxicity.

‘The problem with today’s chemicals is that we don’t always know what’s dangerous. Neither do we know what happens when chemicals are absorbed in small, harmless amounts by various organisms and then accumulate higher up in the food chain,’ says Folkeson Welch.

For a long time at Mistra, there have been ideas about a new green chemistry programme. Just over a year ago, an international expert group was commissioned to produce a background report. It was completed this spring, enabling Mistra’s Board to decide, at its October meeting, to start a programme focusing on green chemistry.

‘This will be Mistra’s biggest initiative ever. The programme’s getting a total budget of SEK 100 million, of which 70 million will be from Mistra.’

The call for proposals has just opened and now everyone so inclined has until 4 March to form a consortium and write an application. Next, in spring 2019, a new international expert group will evaluate the proposals submitted. The hope is that Mistra’s Board will then, at its June 2019 meeting, be able to decide who will be responsible for the initiative.

Mistra hopes that the programme will attract groups working on process chemistry, development of new products and materials science. Other stakeholders welcome to join the programme are those working on chemicals in natural environments, work settings, agriculture and food issues.

‘This will be a broad interdisciplinary programme and we’re keen for them to collaborate with other Mistra programmes, such as the newly launched Mistra Digital Forest, but also others like Steps, Mistra Rees and Mistra Closing the Loop.’

The hope is that the programme will succeed in developing test methods to analyse the health effects and environmental impact of entire composite products. Today, these analyses are performed mostly for individual substances, which means that our knowledge of the actual impact of the products surrounding us in our everyday lives is poor.

‘Green chemistry offers a range of interesting solutions that we want the programme to be able to investigate,’ says Folkeson Welch.

Twelve principles apply to what characterises green chemistry. In brief, these are:

1) Pollution prevention
2) Atom economy
3) Less hazardous synthesis
4) Design of safer chemicals
5) Safer solvents and auxiliaries
6) Design for energy efficiency
7) Use of renewable feedstocks
8) Reduce derivatives
9) Catalysis
10) Design for degradation
11) Real-time analysis for pollution prevention
12) Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention.

Call for proposals
International expert group’s background report.

Text: Per Westergård