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What comes in your mind when you hear the word ‘chemistry’? Do you visualize the laboratory or does your mind starts picturizing all sorts of symbols and chemical reactions? Many of us feel that chemistry is only about balancing and naming organic compounds but if we just spare some hours of our precious time in understanding the chemistry of things around us, we will soon realize that chemistry is everywhere and in everything. The soaps we use, the bags we carry and all those daily commodities that have today become indispensable for our survival come from chemistry and the most interesting fact is that we, ourselves are also a product of chemistry. Oxygen, phosphorus, calcium are integral life components and after all, water too is a chemical compound.
We have already learnt how to use oxidation numbers to balance chemical equations but now it’s high time that we learn to apply chemistry in our daily lives to help maintain the natural balance before it’s too late. The future of our planet is already at risk and unless we ourselves take pragmatic steps, things are not going to change. Small things can help bring big changes and a “something” from each one of us will be a “great thing” if we work unitedly. We, the 7 billion members of human family have an essential and a herculean task ahead of us, that is to save Mother Nature and luckily in this great mission of ours, we have green chemistry for our aid.
Green chemistry mainly emphasizes on designing products that minimize use of hazardous chemicals and promotes energy saving. The basic principles of green chemistry such as energy efficiency and use of renewable feedstock strongly emphasize on protecting nature and by applying its various concepts we can do a myriad of things to save our environment.
According to the IPCC (2014), vehicles alone accounted for more than14% of the global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.That means that if we can just work out on minimizing the use of fossil fuels in our vehicles which are a major source of carbon dioxide, air pollution can be controlled to a really large extend. In this regard, generating and promoting the use of alternative sources of energy can be the best solution.
The people of Brazil have successfully manufactured fuel from sugarcane and till date the sugarcane ethanol of Brazil is considered as the most successful alternative fuel. It’s not only eco-friendly but also economical and sustainable. They have generated sugarcane ethanol fuel from sugarcane by using techniques such as fermentation, milling, distillation of ethanol and dehydration which are among the methods that we learn in chemistry for separation of mixture. Applying the concept of green chemistry has not only helped them in reducing the pollution levels but in the long run it has even contributed in promoting the rational and sustainable use of resources.
Developing an ecofriendly vehicle that uses hydrogen as a fuel can help a lot in reducing the carbon emissions. Toyota Mirai,which was manufactured in 2015v is amongst the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to be sold commercially. It uses hydrogen as its onboard fuel and its power plant is designed such ingenuously that it can covert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy. It can be done using various methods but two methods extensively depend upon application of principles green chemistry.
Producing hydrogen from water by electrolysis at working efficiencies in the 50–60% range for the smaller electrolysers and around 65–70% for the larger plants and generating hydrogen by chemical reduction using chemical hydrides or aluminum, both are chemical processes largely based on the application of chemistry and they do little harm to the environment .
Bioplastics which are made from natural materials are much eco-friendly in comparison to polythene bags which are non-degradable and take nearly five hundred years to decompose. Among various types of bioplastics, Polylactide acid (PLA), a type of thermoplastic which looks and behaves like polyethylene and polypropylene emits nearly 70% less greenhouse gases in comparison to traditional plastics when it degrades. The fascinating fact is that the recipe for PLA bioplastics too is designed by keeping in mind the biodegradability which is amongst the major concepts of green chemistry. It is prepared by processing corn kernels to extract dextrose from their starch and then fermenting vats are used to turn the dextrose into lactic acid which are kept in a chemical plant to convert the lactic acid into lactide. Finally, the lactide is polymerized to make long chain molecule of PLA.All these complex chemical processes are based on chemistry’s application and applying this innovative idea can do a lot to mitigate the adverse effects caused due overuse of plastics.
Have you ever visited Kagbeni? If you have there, then you must have seen the blades of wind turbines. They are made of fiberglass reinforced polyester to stand even the harsh weather which too is a material produced in the chemical industry. The solar panels require certain glass which too is chemically silica manufactured in chemical industries. Wind and solar energy both are renewable and non-polluting sources of energy and strongly emphasize upon energy conservation which is an another integral principle of green chemistry.
Organic Light Emitting Diodes, popularly known as OLEDS are really energy efficient and save not only energy but also money and if just go through its working principle we will find that a typical OLED’s composition contains of a layer of organic materials between the cathode and anode deposited on a substrate. More or less the concept of energy efficiency given by green chemistry is involved in it too and in the long run, OLEDS also assist extensively in saving energy.
Petro chemistry is a branch of chemistry mainly related to petroleum and natural gas and deals with their refining and processing. It refers to transferring the petroleum and gas into useful materials. With growing industrialization and modernization, petro chemistry has become a major part of chemistry. Application of the concept of green chemistry in petro chemistry has been helping us immensely in mitigating climate change.
Foam insulation materials which used especially in cold countries to prevent the escape of heat through its external walls is expected to cut the loss of energy by nearly 60% which ultimately helps in saving the electric energy that is used to heat the room. Rigid polyurethane foams which are commonly used in refrigerators have assisted in lower energy consumption reducing nearly 15% of the energy consumed by refrigerators in the past 15 years. The use of certain chemicals has helped in designing advanced and modern chips that has cut the energy consumed by the computers and all thanks to those who applied green chemistry’s concept in petro chemistry, fluorescent bulbs have been invented that significantly reduce the energy consumed in comparison to conventional bulbs. The another great contribution of petro chemistry is the development of Innovative polyamide (nylon) engineering plastics, used instead of metal parts which have helped enhance the fuel efficiency of vehicles ultimately helping in saving fuel energy.
Reducing the production of waste in another essential principle of green chemistry which has been successfully practiced even in our own country Nepal. The agricultural residues have been converted into biogas which is an elementary form of waste management. The biogas has been utilized efficiently for cooking and as a result, the excessive dependency of firewood as a fuel in rural Nepal has gradually decreased. Emissions of smoke and deforestation both have been controlled by this. Moreover, it has helped generate income too.
The multistep anaerobic digestion is an effective chemical process which can be used to generate biogas from biomass. The process involves four major steps : hydrolysis, acidogenesis, acetogenesis, and methanogenesis finally biomass is converted into biogas. Large organic polymers are broken into smaller molecules using chemical and by the action of microorganism, helping convert biomass into biogas.Concepts of green chemistry and chemistry’s knowledge has been applied meticulously and ingenuously in this regard which has helped extensively not only in managing water products but has enabled people to generate energy at a relatively lower cost.
It is rightly said that “We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children. “Mother Nature has gifted us with everything ranging from clean water to drink to a treasure of natural resources. All we need to do is to use them rationally. We must make sure that environment and development works go hand in hand and truly speaking, green chemistry is one the most innovative and proactive approaches, perhaps the best approach of the twenty-first century that can help us tackle environmental hazards in a viable manner. By application of various concepts and principles of green chemistry, we all can help reduce the adverse effects of climate change and as students of chemistry, it is our utmost obligation to make sincere attempts in trying out something innovative to help save nature.
Last but not the least, I would like to thank the Chemistry Club of Saint Xavier College for providing all of us a golden opportunity to do a article on “Green Chemistry: How We Can Save Our environment”. It has not only assisted in broadening our knowledge but has also inspired us to be more creative and become environmentally conscious. Thank you.
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