Tiny Particles, Huge Greening
We live surrounded by chemically manufactured goods: paints, plastics, medicine, cars, computers. None of these would exist without chemistry. The chemical processes that create these goods, however, are a major contributor to industrial waste and pollution. As we move to “green” chemistry, we will have to re-format, re-invent or rediscover many chemical processes.
To this end, Dr. Audrey Moores, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry, is working on microscopically small particles called metal nanoparticles. In some chemical reactions, these nanoparticles are like catalysts, meaning they make reactions more likely, decrease the energy input necessary for the reaction, and reduce the waste that is generated.
Moores is designing new catalysts by modifying the surface of the nanoparticles, where the catalyzed chemical reactions happen. She is also designing complex materials. For example, she is putting nanoparticles in solvents or other materials, like silica. This way, several reactions can happen at the same time in the same vessel, which is very important, since it means the chemist can cut out some expensive steps.
Moore’s work may give us, to paraphrase the old DuPont slogan, greener living through chemistry.