'Green Chemistry' promises a cleaner country

Two-day conference showcases new developments in environmentally-friendly technology.

nice jlem tree 88.298 (photo credit: )
nice jlem tree 88.298
(photo credit: )
Plastic from corn, biological-weapons neutralization and the vanquishing of pollutants from munitions were among the topics discussed at this month's "Green Chemistry" conference at Tel Aviv University, the first such meeting held in Israel. "The development of the field of green chemistry in Israel is of tremendous importance to the future of industrial and academic development in the country, as well as to the health of the public and the environment in the region," said officials at TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies, which hosted the two-day event. The conference, entitled "Green Chemistry - Applications, Research and Trends," included sessions on commercial applications of green chemistry; raw materials recycling, toxicity reduction, renewable fuels, energy efficiency - a novel academic approach; environmental and health aspects of home and commercial use of chemicals; and global and national policy on chemical use. According to the university, the main purpose of the conference was to "introduce academia, industry, government and NGOs in the region to the field and for the conference to serve as a starting point for numerous other activities, involving industrial associations, government and academia, to bring forward a more sustainable agenda for chemical R&D in the region." Among the featured presentations were several introducing breakthrough technology in green chemistry geared specifically toward some of the environmental challenges facing Israel, including a new process that can efficiently and effectively remove the poisons deposited in the ground by the numerous munitions factories found in the country. "These poisons are not only dangerous to this generation - causing cancer and other ailments - but they are also affecting the next generation as they can do serious damage to the body's reproductive system," said Dr. Arie Nesher, director of the Porter School. Dr. Dave Henton, chairman of the NatureWorks LLC company, discussed the possibility of using corn to make more than just ethanol, but also plastic. "Today, plastic is produced from crude oil, which releases many harmful pollutants into the air and ground over the course of production," Henton said. Prof. Terry Collins, director of the Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, spoke about his invention, Fe-Tami, a green chemical that can effectively neutralize the substances, such as anthrax, released in a biological attack. Separately, the Israel Electric Company announced earlier this month that in honor of International Environment Day, they will be publishing the findings from an internal investigation into the amount of pollution generated by the company's factories around the country, saying in their statement that although energy production has continued to rise over the last few years, pollution from the electric power plants has fallen considerably.