Recently, UNESCO stated that we NEED Green Chemistry to drive the change towards a more sustainable future. This is quite a strong statement and I will explain why this is the case.
One of the biggest points of Sustainability is recycling. What we learned at the Summer school is revaluating this ides and talk about the concept of bringing value to waste.
Smelly, dirty and ugly rubbish in an incredible source of money.
For example, the leather industry produces loads of waste. How to bring value to this? By understanding the chemical composition of it. Leather is animal skin that contains loads of collagen. This is one of the main ingredients of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics etc. A research group in Spain managed to extract collagen from this waste and procure polymer films for wound healing and these films found application in some hospitals in Spain.
Have you also heard of microbeads? They are tiny pieces of plastics used in almost all detergents. They are a treat for aquatic animals and there’s no way to remove them from water because they pass through the common filters in water purification system.
Cellulose, one of the most abundant stuff in nature are one of the biggest waste of the wood industry. It’s incredibly strong and has similar physical properties as plastic. A research group in Bath development a whole new process to create sustainable microbeads by using wood waste in alternative to the plastic ones.
One of the 17 #globalgoals is about affordable and clean energy. How can we provide this? Taking inspiration from the best example of Chemistry we have: nature. Prof Graetzel designed a device that is able to convert solar energy into electricity by mimicking the photosysntesis. GENIUS.
The device is made of a thin layer of titanium dioxide and a dye which is put on top to absorb the solar radiation. After 27 years of work and research since the first prototype, they managed to bring this device into the market.
Let’s get back to the point of chemistry = money. At the end of the talk, I asked how they managed to commercialise the device competing with the giants of energy and fossil fuels. He gave a genuine answer. If you want to stand up from the crowd, you need to be UNIQUE, do and provide the things that none does. This device is very colourful❤💙💚💜 due to the presence of the dye. They look nice and fancy which I something unique among the energy devices at the moment.
So, why do we need chemistry to pave the way towards a more sustainable future? Because chemistry is behind every single process on earth.
But science is a tree and every discipline is a branch of the tree.
We need the contribution of everyone, engineer, biophysics, biology, mathematics, computer science and work together to achieve sustainability. #strongertogether and as we say in Italy union makes strength. When I applied for the summer school, I thought it would be a meeting among a few Italians. You guys know that we like to stick to each other. Totally wrong we were 80 students coming from 22 different countries from all continents.
And we get to the point where it’s seriously true that science needs everyone and belongs to everyone.
Finally, The summer school was also a big oppurtunity of Networking. I met the big names in the field of sustainability in Italy and I am not gonna lie, my biggest dream is to go back to Italy one day and bring this knowledge about green chemistry and science communication to my country. I met big names in science and industry. For example, the nice guy who holds the patent for the perfume Calvin Klein, we also had talks from a representative of L’Oreal and ENI, the biggest energy supplier in Italy.