NGC is organizing two sessions for the 21st Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering conference by ACS GCI: "Making Protective Coatings for Boats, Bridges, and the Future" and "Products as Solutions to Real-World Sustainability Challenges: Incentives and Barriers."
Making Protective Coatings for Boats, Bridges, and the Future
Virtually all manufactured products are protected by coatings, whether they are anti-corrosive, anti-bacterial/anti-fouling, or water/vapor barriers. These coatings provide significant sustainability, environmental, and human health benefits by preventing infection (e.g. antibacterial coatings on implanted medical devices or on hospital surfaces), increasing product life-span (e.g. anticorrosive bridge coatings), and improving performance (e.g. antifouling boat paints help maintain high fuel efficiency). Biofilms—aggregates of microorganisms that adhere to each other, a surface, and/or a self-produced extracellular matrix—drive the need for many of these protective coatings due to their unique resistance to exterior disruption and their ability to cause infection, corrosion, and biodegradation of materials. A full understanding of the chemistry and biology underpinning biofilm formation and growth is necessary to guide the development of state-of-the-art protective coatings.
Unfortunately, the protective benefits provided by these coatings come at a cost. Many antibacterial and antifouling coatings have significant off-target effects. For example, copper is commonly used for antifouling boat paints, but even low concentrations of copper significantly decrease salmon olfactory senses, preventing salmon from avoiding predators and locating their home stream in order to reproduce, and higher concentrations are toxic to other marine life forms. Many coatings are based on C6 or C8 fluorocarbon technology, and while this does provide a reasonably durable, super-slick coating, the ingredients are persistent, bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs). For some antifouling coatings to function, the antifouling chemical must be released into the environment at a steady leach rate, further complicating the selection of an appropriate durable matrix for the coating. Coatings can interfere with managed end-of-life systems, particularly composting and recycling.
We will open our session with a biofilm expert who will describe the chemistry and biology of biofilm formation and growth, and relate this to current coatings. This will be followed by a case study looking the Washington State Antifouling Boat Paint Alternatives Assessment (AA), framing the session with example metrics for evaluating and comparing both existing and emerging alternatives. From there, we will explore innovations in coatings, including novel nanomaterial-based coatings, coatings based on biomimicry, antibacterial/antifouling chemicals with low off-target toxicity, and disruptive innovations such as ultrasound-based antifouling that could replace some coating needs.
Products as Solutions to Real-World Sustainability Challenges: Incentives and Barriers
Many chemists are inspired to use their skills to address real world challenges to human health and sustainability. To work on basic and/or applied research challenges that are linked to such challenges is very different from bringing products to the marketplace that actually become sufficiently successful to provide the desired benefits. The benefits may be novel or they may be designed to replace other products because of their impacts on natural resources, due to the generation or use of toxic substances, or because they generate poorly managed waste in a linear “take, make, waste” system of industrial production.
In this session, we explore both the drivers and barriers for new green chemistry and engineering technology development, as well as strategies to enhance the drivers while overcoming the barriers. Drivers are diverse and may or may not be in alignment. Examples include environmentally preferable procurement, regulation, research support, scale up support, voluntary supply chain initiatives, technical standards and/or ecolabels, awards and prizes, preferential government purchasing, and so much more. In contrast, there are many obstacles, including lack of funding, lack of access to entrepreneurial or business expertise, limited market awareness, entrenched products with dominant market share, procurement experts with limited understanding of alternative technologies, standards that prefer older technologies driving incremental improvements rather than real innovation, regulatory requirements, lack of access to scale up resources, cultural inertia, and more.