BCGC wins two major grants

September 19, 2014

Marty Mulvihill

BCGC executive director Marty Mulvihill.

The Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC) has won two major grants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded more than $335,000 to BCGC and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for projects to help businesses and manufacturers reduce hazardous chemicals in consumer products.

In addition, the National Science Foundation has awarded BCGC executive director Marty Mulvihill a three-year $500,000 fellowship under their Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program.

The EPA grant will explore innovative ways to make consumer products safer and more environmentally friendly while training a new generation of engineers, chemists and product designers to use green chemistry for safer products.

The grant will also help fund an interdisciplinary graduate course to teach 25 students per year how to use green chemistry techniques to solve real-world business problems. Students will apply their green training to help companies find ways to reduce hazardous chemicals and products in their supply chains. BCGC will share innovations from these projects through training materials and pollution prevention case studies.

In a similar vein, Mulvihill’s NSF fellowship will allow BCGC to integrate computational toxicology and green chemistry to design inherently safer replacements for harmful industrial chemicals.

The majority of synthetic chemicals are based on roughly 140 petroleum-derived feedstock chemicals. The environmental and health costs of using some of these non-renewable petrochemical feedstocks are high. There may be biological molecules that are functionally equivalent to toxic petroleum molecules with fewer negative attributes. Mulvihill’s research will help identify potential non-toxic renewable replacements and explore how to produce them at industrial scale.

The products of this research will be disseminated to students through the BCGC Greener Solutions Program and to relevant industry partners through the BCGC Consortium Program and the UC Berkeley Industry Research Alliances.

Says Mulvihill, “I’m very grateful for this support which will allow me to work with colleagues in chemistry, bioengineering, and toxicology to design the next generation of safe and renewable industrial chemicals.”

About BCGC

The Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC) is building a novel academic program to advance green chemistry through interdisciplinary scholarship. It consists of faculty, researchers and students in the College of Chemistry, School of Public Health, College of Engineering, College of Natural Resources, the Berkeley School of Law and the Haas School of Business.

The Center's interdisciplinary approach stems from the recognition that successful development and adoption by society of benign chemicals and chemical processes will depend on the integration of innovative chemistry and engineering with an understanding of the health and ecosystem effects of synthetic chemicals and the ways in which policy and law guide industrial innovation and change.