[ASC-media] Profitable pollution free manufacturing available now

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com
Wed Mar 10 23:21:31 EST 2004

Dry cleaning without toxic solvents; 

paper making without megalitres of water; 

computer chips without toxic waste

 - the public should demand these things today, as the technology to provide
them already exists, says US Professor Joseph DeSimone, in Melbourne this
week as a Monash North American Fellow.

Most manufacturing processes require solvents - either organic solvents
(which are often toxic) or vast amounts of water. Manufacture of a single
microchip, for example, requires more than 32 kilograms of water and two
kilograms of toxic chemicals. 

Some green activists regard chemical engineers as pariahs for their role in
chemical manufacturing. Professor DeSimone says they've got it wrong, "Clean
manufacturing doesn't come from green rules and regulations; rather it comes
from the application of science to create manufacturing processes that are
clean and profitable."

Professor DeSimone and his colleagues at the University of North Carolina
and North Carolina State University have invented a series of processes that
use liquid and "supercritical" carbon dioxide as a solvent. US chemical
company DuPont has already built a $40 million Teflon plant using the
process and dry cleaners across the US are starting to switch to the clean

Supercritical carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide that has been heated slightly
above room temperature such that it enters a phase somewhere between a
liquid and a gas called a supercritical fluid. This dense carbon dioxide can
replace existing solvents such as perchloroethylene in dry cleaning. 

Supercritical carbon dioxide can also replace water in many mining,
biotechnology, agricultural and industrial processes that use large
quantities of water as a solvent. Vast amounts of energy are often required
to dry the products and megalitres of contaminated water often result, which
then has to be treated. Using supercritical carbon dioxide saves money and
water and reduces the overall emissions of greenhouse gases.

Professor DeSimone is working on new applications for carbon dioxide in
areas as diverse as gene therapy, drug delivery, and developing novel
materials for fuel cells.

Professor Edwina Cornish, deputy vice-chancellor (research), says Professor
DeSimone's visit is part of a larger university initiative of building
strategic links with scientists working in fields that complement Monash

"Professor DeSimone has successfully bridged the gulf between university and
industry," she says. "Monash, through its Centre for Green Chemistry and
other areas, is also bridging this gap which is important if manufacturing
is to be sustainable into the future."

Further information from Niall Byrne ph 03 5253 1391,
niall at scienceinpublic.com, background information online at

Professor DeSimone is available for interview from Thursday morning.


Niall Byrne

Science Communication Consultant
Science in Public
PO Box 199 Drysdale 3222 Australia
(185 Scotchmans Road Portarlington 3223)
Ph +61 3 5253 1391, fax +61 3 9923 6008, mobile 0417 131 977
niall at scienceinpublic.com, www.scienceinpublic.com

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