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Inventing Success

By: Rachel L. Grabenhofer
Posted: February 2, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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One company, for example, introduced a Biorenewable Carbon Index that calculates the percentage of carbon in a material that is derived from biorenewable resources to provide a product rating. Another company began to internally rate ingredients with one to four green leaves to indicate what portion of natural, renewable components it contains—one leaf for a product based on natural materials but chemically combined with molecules from synthetic feedstocks, and up to four leaves to indicate a product derived entirely from natural, renewable feedstocks and purified using water, alcohol or energy treatment processes. Such ratings and metrics allow suppliers to transparently communicate with formulators to provide them varying levels of green or natural options.

Besides the raw materials, efforts to improve the chemistries used in producing them have been underway; entire product lines and new joint ventures have even been founded around making existing products and processes eco-friendlier.

During the SCC Annual Scientific Seminar in Chicago, for example, Arch Personal Care’s Smitha Rao introduced the company’s fermentation process to produce resveratrol for antiaging applications. This process uses a species of yeast to ferment the phytochemical resveratrol.

In fact, Elevance Renewable Sciences, a company founded in 2008 on the principle of green processing, hosted a media event that featured a panel discussion on green chemistry. During this event, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Robert Grubbs, PhD, shared his insights on the concept of green chemistry and the company’s technology used to convert renewable resources into specialty chemicals.

“These chemicals are important,” said Grubbs. “Evidence to this fact lies in the [chemical] market’s interest in them. Four of the last nine Nobel Prizes [in chemistry] have been awarded for work on catalysts. The other five were on biology.” Grubbs added that catalysts can reduce the number of by-products formed from chemical reactions and can create new products from old materials by scrambling the double bonds between carbon molecules. “It’s really exciting to watch this technology,” he said, adding that “catalysts will open up an amazing array of new materials. It will be a fun time.”

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