Students developed green chemistry laboration – led to publication
Three chemistry students developed a ”green” laboration in organic chemistry as part of their B.Sc. project and have been published in the Journal of Chemical Education.
Three CBH students, Philip Josephson, Viktor Nykvist and Wafa Qasim, have modified a common course lab experiment in organic chemistry as part of their B.Sc. project and also introduced it in the course lab for undergraduate education. The modifications were done following the 12 principles for green chemistry in order to make the chemical procedure more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
– We looked at an old synthesis of Lidocaine which was already established, but had poor adherence to the 12 principles of green chemistry, says Philip Josephson.
The synthesis of the local anaesthetic Lidocaine is a popular course lab experiment carried out by chemistry students in universities around the world. To modify this particular synthesis was not something that the students had planned.
– What we did was something new. It was something good and we discovered that organic chemistry is really fun. At first, we didn’t know that we were going to look at these aspects. Our supervisor Peter Dinér opened our eyes to organic chemistry, in which we had little prior knowledge of how to actually design synthesis procedures, says Wafa Qasim.
The students were merely provided with a framework and got to independently develop the project by analyzing the 12 principles of chemistry, developed by American researchers Paul T. Anastas och John Warner and which nowadays are integral to organic synthesis in education and industry.
The students improved the standard procedure in several ways, such as decreased reaction temperature, solvent replacement, fewer equivalents of the starting material by the use of an inorganic bulk base, and use of catalytic amounts of potassium iodide to promote the Finkelstein reaction, which improved the reaction’s energy efficiency.
– We managed to diminish the amount of starting material, to lower the temperature and thereby also the energy consumption and to replace a few petroleum based solvents for bio-sourced ones, says Philip Josephson.
On the advice of their supervisor, they also wrote an article about their work, which was accepted for publication in the scientific journal Journal of Chemical Education.
The students were also part of the implementation of the developed procedure in an undergraduate organic chemistry course. The response from the students who carried out the experiment was positive, and a survey showed that the students experienced a greater understanding of green chemistry, and an increased interest in organic chemistry after having carried out the greener synthesis of lidocaine.
– It felt like what we had been doing was worthwhile, says Philip Josephson.
– An improvement from the health aspect was that we replaced an experiment containing a lachrymatory chemical, which behaves as tear gas. The chemical was part of the previous experiment, which isn’t dangerous, but can cause very much irritation, says Viktor Nykvist.
Green chemistry and sustainable development have become important topics within the education of future chemical engineers. In the paper, the authors describe a way to make the implementation of green and sustainable chemistry more efficient and beneficial by letting undergraduate students develop green chemical experiments as part of their degree projects.
– This type of quality development is too “simple” for doctoral students, while bachelor’s students have the time to do it, and at the same time it is good training for their future career, says Viktor Nykvist.
The bachelor’s project has given them experience with thinking in a larger context and valuable knowledge for their working lives, where green chemistry is becoming increasingly significant.
– It is absolutely essential. Humanity depends on huge chemical industries for a lot of things that we take for granted, and people are not aware of it. If we want to keep these luxuries, we need to continue building on the chemical industries’ sustainable development , says Philip Josephson.
– It’s also good if you want to start your own business, to know which aspects are less dangerous when it comes to for example solvents, Wafa Qasim.
Another reward has been to create something that continues to be used in undergraduate education and the students hope that others will want to work in developing course lab experiments in a greener direction.
– Now, I guess the idea is out there. It’s fun and I think we can inspire other professors to do the same thing and ask other bachelor’s students to start developing new syntheses, says Philip Josephson.
Text: Sabina Fabrizi