What is Green Chemistry? | Nobel Prize Winners in Lindau | DW | 01.07.2013
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Nobel Prize Winners in Lindau

What is Green Chemistry?

Green energy, green political parties, green gene technology – these are nothing new. But green chemistry???

It’s supposed to save resources, use energy more efficiently and be less polluting than chemistry has been up to now. In fact, the chemical industry in Germany, Europe’s largest, has reduced its energy needs by about 20 percent in the past 20 years. Even so, around 10 percent of Germany’s energy supply is used by this sector.

The paradoxical thing is that it is the energy-intensive chemical industry that produces so many materials that help households save energy – such as insulation. Is that the way the industry should proceed, in order to clean up its act and get greener?

At what point can chemistry be considered ‘green’? That is described in US chemist Paul Anastas’s 12 principles, which are concerned with more than just energy efficiency.

The primary idea is to prevent waste – or to make it biodegradable. Reagents, solvents and products should be made less toxic.

But some researchers say this is easier said than done in practice. But that has some advantages:
Green chemistry as a research field is considered highly creative and innovative. Not only does it use new technologies, but scientists have to develop new pathways to realize the goals of green chemistry.

Researchers are working on making plastics, paints and medications from biomass. Or they use microorganisms to produce chemical compounds. Green chemistry is interdisciplinary: biologists and chemists get together to discuss new ideas – as they do at the Nobel Laureates Meeting in Lindau.