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October 24, 2023

EPA Announces Winners of the 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on October 23, 2023, the winners of the 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for new and innovative green chemistry technologies. According to EPA, through the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation and use of hazardous substances, the winners “have developed solutions to significant environmental challenges such as climate change and spur innovation and economic development.” An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2023 submissions and made recommendations to EPA. The 2023 Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners are:

  • Academic Category: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for developing new ways to refine common agricultural waste such as rice hulls into materials that can be used in lithium-ion batteries and other products that are important for the transition to green energy. The new processes can replace the energy and carbon-intensive methods currently used to obtain silicon metals.
  • Design of Greener Chemicals: The Clorox Company, Oakland, California, for designing Clorox EcoClean™ Disinfecting Cleaner, a Design for the Environment (DfE)-certified disinfecting cleaner that can be used without personal protective equipment, is formulated without alcohol, and can be used safely on most surfaces without bleaching. EPA states that the product disinfects 99.999 percent of illness-causing germs in two minutes or less when used as directed.
  • Greener Synthetic Pathways: Solugen, Houston, Texas, for developing the Bioforge™, a chemical manufacturing platform that converts plant-derived substances into a range of materials that have historically been made from fossil fuels without resulting emissions or waste. Materials made in the Bioforge™ include those used for water treatment and detergents.
  • Greener Reaction Conditions: Captis Aire LLC, East Point, Georgia, for the patent pending CAIRE Technology that captures more than 90 percent of terpenes, a waste product from the wood manufacturing process, and converts it into valuable chemicals including those used in products such as biofuels, flavors, and fragrances. According to EPA, currently these terpenes can be an air pollutant, an irritant to eyes, lungs, and skin; they are also commonly burned as waste that releases greenhouse gases (GHG).
  • Small Business Award: Modern Meadow, Nutley, New Jersey, for developing a more efficient textile dyeing process called Bio-FREED™ Powered by Bio-Alloy™ that uses a biobased protein foam to dye any type of fiber. EPA states that compared to traditional dyeing methods, Bio-FREED™ conserves 95 percent of water, reduces energy consumption by 75 percent, and uses 80 percent fewer dyes and chemicals. EPA notes that Bio-FREED also does not require a separate step to fix the dye and requires one or even no washes at the end of the dyeing process, compared to four to seven washes for traditional dyeing.
  • Specific Environmental Benefit — Climate Change: Air Company, Brooklyn, New York, for developing a technology that mimics photosynthesis to transform the GHG carbon dioxide into other organic chemicals, producing oxygen as the only byproduct. The technology both removes carbon dioxide from the air by using it as a chemical reactant and reduces the need for fossil fuels by transforming it into fuels, including aviation fuels.

EPA notes that it is currently accepting nominations for the 2024 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards from companies or institutions that have developed a new green chemistry process or product that helps protect human health and the environment. Nominations are due to EPA by December 8, 2023.