This week the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, which promote innovation and use of green chemistry for pollution prevention.

A couple of noteworthy winners include Dow and BASF, who were recognised for developing an environmentally friendly process for producing propylene oxide using hydrogen peroxide, and a joint award for Merck & Co and Codexis, who developed a greener way to make Merck’s best selling diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin).

Propylene oxide is a key chemical building block used in huge volumes as a raw material to make a whole range of products from detergents and de-icers to food additives and pharmaceuticals. Traditional production methods tend to generate large quantities of byproducts and waste, and the organic intermediates used need to be recycled.

Dow and BASF’s new process is based on the reaction of hydrogen peroxide and propylene, using a zeolite catalyst. The process boasts high yields of propylene oxide and only generates water as a byproduct. An added bonus is that the wastewater that is produced is reduced by up to 80 per cent compared to traditional approaches, and energy use is reduced by 35 per cent. You can read more about it here. If you’re interested in this kind of thing we also published a story recently about research using a new class of catalyst based on clusters of silver atoms that could provide an alternative green route to propylene oxide.

Codexis and Merck’s project may sound familiar to regular Chemistry World readers – we covered their development

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of a biocatalyst to improve industrial production of Januvia just last week.

Together the companies developed a greener route to produce sitagliptin, the active ingredient in Januvia, which eliminated the need for metal catalysts, a wasteful chiral purification step, and the need for specialised high pressure hydrogenation equipment. They managed a 56 per cent increase in productivity, a 10-13 per cent increase in yield and a 19 per cent reduction in waste compared to the current production methods.

More information about the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award can be found here, and this year’s winners are listed below.

Anna Lewcock

2010 winners:

  • Greener Synthetic Pathways Award
    The Dow Chemical Company, BASF
    Innovative, Environmentally Benign Production of Propylene Oxide via Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Greener Reaction Conditions Award
    Merck & Co, Inc.,Codexis, Inc.
    Greener Manufacturing of Sitagliptin Enabled by an Evolved Transaminase
  • Designing Greener Chemicals Award
    NatularTM Larvicide: Adapting Spinosad for Next-Generation Mosquito Control
  • Small Business Award
    LS9, Inc.
    Microbial Production of Renewable PetroleumTM Fuels and Chemicals
  • Academic Award
    James C. Liao, Ph.D.
    Easel Biotechnologies, LLC
    University of California, Los Angeles
    Recycling Carbon Dioxide to Biosynthesize Higher Alcohols
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