What is Green Technology and its Importance?
‘Green Technology’ is a technology that has a ‘Green’ purpose. This means the technology which is environment friendly, developed, and used in such a way that will reduce environmental footprints and conserve natural resources, and thus keep nature green. These are the innovations that often involve Energy Efficiency, recycling, safety and health concerns, renewable resources, and many more.
The research fields that come under green technology are Green Energy, Green Building, Green Chemistry, and Green Nanotechnology. Green Energy is the most urgent need for Green Technology today. It includes the development of alternative fuels as means of generating energy and increasing energy efficiency. The fossil fuels (such as natural gas, coal, petroleum, etc.) should be replaced by the use of agriculturally obtained fuels, biodiesels, and many more. The use of biofuels, hydropower, solar power, wind power, biomass, etc. must be encouraged. Higher mileage vehicles, green transportation, GPS, electric motors, and green mobile phones are good examples of energy-efficient devices and must be used. More energy-efficient refrigerators must be designed. This means generating electricity and using fuels with less environmental footprints and pollution should be emphasized in near future.
Green Chemistry: A Key Element of Green Technology
Green Chemistry is equally important as well. It is the schematic design and use of the chemical products as well as the methods to eliminate or decrease the use and generation of toxic solid, liquid, or gaseous waste. Green Technology is the application of green chemistry and green engineering principles. There are twelve principles of green chemistry. The first principle is to ‘Prevent Waste’. As a green chemist, chemical transformations should be designed in such a way that the generation of hazardous waste or toxic chemicals can be minimized. This will further reduce waste transport, storage, and treatment hazards in waste treatment plants. The next and very vital step is to maximize the ‘Atom Economy’, which is a measure of the proportion of reactants that convert to a useful product. As a green technologist, experiments should be designed in such a way that all starting materials should be able to get converted into the product, resulting in fewer waste atoms or by-products. This will be a more efficient and waste-minimizing step.
Designing Less Hazardous Chemical Synthesis
The next principle is ‘Designing Less Hazardous Chemical Synthesis.’ Wherever feasible, synthetic projects should be designed to generate and utilize the substances or chemicals which possess minor or no hazard to human health and the environment. The goal should be to use an environmentally friendly substance that simulates the minimum hazard and produces fewer side products as waste. However, the materials should be designed in such a way that they will be potentially effective for the target application and inherently minimize toxicity. In academic labs and industries, the principle ‘Design Safer Chemical and product should be applied in designing new target products. However, to achieve this goal, the principle of ‘Safer Solvents and Reaction Conditions’ should be used which is very important as the solvent used leads to waste. The reduction of the solvent amount to complete the exclusion of solvents should be preferred. In cases, where the solvent is required, less toxic solvents should be used so that environmental and economic impacts would be minimal.
Increasing Energy Efficiency in Green Technology and other Important Principles
Whenever possible, methods should be designed for the use of ambient temperature and pressure; this would minimize the energy costs and will follow the next principle of GreenTechnology i.e. ‘Increase Energy Efficiency. In addition, the use of catalysts should be encouraged as a green chemist. As it is well-known that catalysts can (i) reduce the temperature of a reaction, (ii) enhance the selectivity of a reaction and (iii) thus can improve the extent of conversion of reactants to a product. However, by reducing the reaction temperatures, one can minimize energy uses and potentially can avoid undesirable side reactions and thus can minimize side-product formation.
The next most important principle is ‘Avoid Derivatives’. This means that unnecessary protection and deprotection of functional groups should be avoided because such steps require additional chemicals and generate waste. Wherever applicable, ‘Renewable Raw Material should be utilized.’ The targets should be designed in such a way that renewable raw materials such as agricultural products or agricultural wastes can be used as much as possible. This will help in depleting feedstock that is mined or generated from fossil fuels (e.g. coal, natural gas, petroleum, etc.).
The next vital principle of green technology is designing for ‘Degradation’. The efforts related to this principle emphasize designing and synthesizing materials that degrade or reduce into nontoxic substances when released into the environment. This implies that projects or materials should be designed in such a way that at the end of their function, they break down into harmless degradation fragments and do not persist in the environment. The principle ‘Analyze in Real-Time to Prevent Pollution’ should be implicated strongly. This principle is actually about monitoring the prevention of pollution during the progress of a reaction or a project to identify the development of any undesirable hazardous waste. Whenever feasible, experiments should be designed and used to permit real-time, in-process monitoring and control of the growth of toxic materials.
Another important principle is ‘Minimizing the Potential for Accidents’ should also be encouraged. One way to reduce the probability of chemical accidents is to select green solvents (e. g. water, glycerol, ionic liquids, etc.) and reagents that minimize the potential for explosions. In fact, by understanding and implicating the ‘Green Chemistry’ at every step, humans will be aware of developing an aptitude for innovative green methodologies that will minimize the toxicity and other hazards on earth. This will lay the foundation for green pathways in our life and will be a step to prevent ‘Global Warming’.
Dr. Kamlesh Sharma
Department of Chemistry
Faculty of Science