October 18, 2019 at 11:30am
Dane Lisser

Textbook to help students learn more about green chemistry and its future

Green Chemistry George BennettGreen chemistry is defined as the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. It involves the design of materials and methods to help reduce negative impacts, whether they are environmental, economic, or effect personal health and safety.

There are many benefits to green chemistry. For instance, it provides cleaner air; cleaner water; increases safety for workers in the chemical industry; helps provide safer consumer products of all types; helps products become more energy efficient and reduces the amount of waste or harmful matter that can found in the environment. The hope is that eventually all chemistry will become green chemistry.

To help students learn more about green chemistry and its future, Dr. George Bennett, professor of chemistry at Millikin University, published his first online, interactive textbook titled "Green Chemistry and Laboratory Safety."

The textbook serves as an introduction to green chemistry and the relationship between green chemistry and laboratory safety. Chapter topics include an introduction to green chemistry, hazard and risk assessment, green chemistry and lab safety, toxicity, green chemistry metrics, green chemistry in industry, green chemistry ethics, and case studies and future work in green chemistry.

"I wanted a book that related green chemistry and laboratory safety together," said Bennett. "Specifically, I wanted it to be more widely available and to make it an introduction to green chemistry. Most of the books on green chemistry are more extensive and would be unnecessary for a lab course. This book can be used as a way to introduce students to what green chemistry is, the core principles, and then relating it to the students' lab work."

According to Bennett's textbook, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed 12 principles of green chemistry: Prevention, Atom Economy, Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses, Designing Safer Chemicals, Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries, Design for Energy Efficiency, Use of Renewable Feedstocks, Reduce Derivatives, Catalysis, Design for Degradation, Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention and Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention.

George Bennett

Dr. Bennett began working on the textbook during his sabbatical in spring 2018. Initially, the textbook was going to be a study module, but after discussions with his publisher, it evolved into something more. The textbook was available to Millikin students during the spring 2019 semester as a "trial run." After a few edits were made, the textbook was released publicly in July 2019.

"It took little more than a year to publish the book," said Bennett. "Sophomore organic chemistry students at Millikin have already been using the book this fall as well as last spring. I hope people find it useful."

Green chemistry involves an intentional design to reduce or minimize hazards, and that has become a growing concern with academic labs, industrial labs and government labs says Bennett.

"As we get scarcer resources – the need to find more efficient ways to use those resources that are less depleting is becoming more and more important," said Bennett. "For instance, a lot of the materials that go into our electronic devices use exotic metals that are scarce in supply, and whether we can reuse what's in the current devices for future ones or finding alternatives that are easier to acquire, those are problems that are looming."

Even though green chemistry has been around for over 25 years, Dr. Bennett says the process isn't quite mainstream yet, but it's getting close. "There's always new generations of students who are coming along to learn about it, and there are organizations that are trying to get to the point where green chemistry is just chemistry."   

Dr. Bennett's primary teaching responsibilities at Millikin University include organic chemistry lecture and laboratory. His research focuses on green chemistry and synthetic organic methodology. He began working at Millikin University in 1997 after completing his Ph.D. at The Ohio State University.