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Eastman Awarded for Biocatalytic Process

By: Katie Schaefer
Posted: July 8, 2009

Eastman Chemical Company was honored with a 2009 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its green biocatalytic process. The award was presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the White House, and recognizes technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture and use.

The process uses enzymes and closely controlled conditions to make esters, eliminating the high temperature and strong acids traditionally required in their manufacture. Esters are a vital building block in thousands of products. The cosmetic and personal care industry in North America annually consumes an estimated 50,000 metric tons of esters for a variety of uses including emollients, emulsifiers and specialty performance ingredients.

The company's process, according to a statement, consumes less energy while making high quality products, even when beginning with sensitive starting materials. The process uses no solvents and virtually eliminates by-products, reducing the number of processing steps required for manufacture.

"This latest recognition offers eloquent testimony to how our continued investments deliver real-world results—the creation and nurturing of sustainable technologies and products," noted Jim Rogers, chief executive officer of Eastman, in a company press release.

At the Washington, D.C. award ceremony, attended by GCI magazine, Thomas Lane, president of the American Chemical Society, noted that the work of Eastman and the other winners (including P&G for sucrose esters that enable high-performance paints and coatings) achieved their lofty green goals because of the companies' and their chemists' ability to understand and anticipate the consequences of their work. Amelia Salzman, associate director for policy outreach, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, noted that the award winners designed with the environment in mind from the start.