Helping Chemistry Go Green
Most people recycle used cans, bottles, and paper, but how many consider recycling carbon dioxide? Power plants, cement factories, and breweries rarely recycle the carbon dioxide they emit as waste gases.
Dr. Philip Jessop, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry, wants to make the chemical and energy industries greener by identifying ways of recycling waste carbon dioxide. Dr. Jessop believes reusing carbon dioxide can help the environment and make industrial processes more efficient and economical, using less energy and fewer raw materials.
The most environmentally damaging and financially costly steps in chemical processes are usually those in which desired products are separated from solvents, reagents, and other materials.
Dr. Jessop focusses on the design of “switchable” or “smart” materials, including solvents and detergents, to make these separation steps much easier.
Using recycled carbon dioxide as the trigger, these switchable materials will be able to shift between two forms possessing very different properties—such as a solvent that can switch between a form that dissolves things and one that does not, or a detergent that switches between a form that picks up oil and one able to release it again.
Dr. Jessop’s research will lead to the development of flexible switchable materials. The result will simplify separation processes, using less energy, consuming fewer raw materials, and recycling more materials, including waste carbon dioxide.