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CHEM3044 Sustainable Chemistry

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The module provides students with an awareness of the sustainability of energy generation and chemical processes. It will consider aspects of the availability and efficient use of chemical resources, and the use of new environmentally benign methods and processes to provide sustainable scientific innovation in our daily lives. More specifically, it will provide an overview of the fundamental principles of Green Chemistry and its applicability in Sustainable Chemical Processes Lecture component: The energy sustainability lectures will provide a summary of current understanding of climate change, and climate modelling. Possible routes to reduction in CO2 emissions will be covered along with technologies for sustainable energy generation and storage. As part of this topic we will also cover the energy embedded in materials and materials sustainability. The green chemistry lectures are aimed at providing the students an in-depth overview of the 12 main principles of Green Chemistry and will systematically investigate the emergence of sustainable alternatives for achieving these targets. It will provide case-studies and examples of typical industrial processes in petrochemical refining, bulk and fine-chemicals and will investigate the merits of viable sustainable alternatives. Coursework component: This takes the form of individual reports and group presentations. Topics for the latter are provided in advance and the students work as part of a team to deliver these joint presentations. Peer marking and evaluation are used for assessment of joint presentations. The topics covered here will be complementary to those discussed in the main lectures. The topics for the presentations are scoped on the basis of the main principles or key concepts that reflect the underlying chemistry involved. For reports, topics will be assigned individually and students are encouraged to include examples from the wider literature on progress that has been made in the field, with conclusions from this exercise highlighting the potential impact in the area.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the role of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in climate change, and be able to reproduce a simple atmospheric model
  • Discuss possible methods of reducing CO2 emissions and analyse their respective merits
  • Discuss how energy and chemical feedstocks can be sustainably sourced from either coal or biomass
  • Understand the chemistry of nuclear power generation, and extraction of metals
  • Assess the likely sustainability of medium and large scale chemical and energy related processes.
  • Elucidate the nature of catalytic processes and their impact in the context of Green Chemistry (E-factor, atom efficiency, F3 factory).
  • Rationalise the availability and utilisation of renewable feedstocks and their influence on energy efficiency and the environment
  • Discuss the role of porous architectures in the context of driving selectivity in chemical transformations.
  • Review the availability of alternate solvents and make informed choices based on Chemistry principles


1) Energy and materials demands on natural resources – population and economic growth. Assessment of energy demand and supply. Carbon and nitrogen cycles. Peak Oil. Medium term sustainability. Climate change and climate modelling. 2) Mainstream inorganic materials: eg. Iron and aluminium. Chemistry of manufacture. Energy and resource consequences. 3) Materials for renewable energy production: a) Nuclear energy. Actinide availability and chemistry patterns. Nuclear fuel. Materials for nuclear energy production. b) Carbon capture and storage with coal, and C1 feedstock chemistry from syngas c) Photovoltaics and other alternative energy sources. Silicon manufacture from sand. Semiconductors for photo-electric effect. Alternatives to silicon. Conducting glasses. d) Energy and feedstocks from Biomass e) Balancing renewable variability with energy storage options 4) Green versus sustainable chemistry: Principles & legislation; Atom economy, E factor, F3 factory; Reaction efficiency and selectivity; Waste: problems and prevention; Safety and toxicity; Role of catalysis. 5) Methods and tools for sustainable chemistry: Ionic/fluorous liquids; Supercritical solvents; Bio-inspired, biomimetic and biocatalysis; Homogeneous & heterogeneous catalysis; Porous materials – synthesis characterisation and applications; Photocatalysis; Process intensification; Solvent-free systems. 6) Renewable resources: Syngas and hydrogen economy; Biomass and hybrid biofuels; Chemicals from renewable feedstocks; Alternatives to fossil fuels; Chemistry using microwaves. 7) Designing sustainable processes – selected industrial case studies: Propylene oxide; Nylon production; Biodiesel; Vitamin B3; Polyethylene.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, problem-solving workshops with group working, Presentations and Report writing

Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Completion of assessment task40
Practical classes and workshops4
Follow-up work32
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

D.J.C. MacKay (2009). Sustainable energy – without the hot air. 

P. T. Anastas and T. C. Williamson (1998). Green chemistry – frontiers in benign chemical synthesis and processes. 

M. Lancaster (2010). Green chemistry – an introductory text. 

N.E. Carpenter (2014). Chemistry of sustainable energy. 

J. T Houghton (2009). Global warming: the complete briefing. 

N. Armaroli and V Balzani (2011). Energy for a sustainable World. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 30%
Examination  (2 hours) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework marks carried forward 30%
Examination  (2 hours) 70%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: CHEM2015 AND CHEM2016

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