News Release

Sustainability of energy, food and water theme of ACS national meeting

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Chemical Society

CHICAGO — Sustainability of energy, food and water is the featured theme of the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, March 25-29 in Chicago. Representatives from academia, government and industry will discuss a wide range of topics that fall within this theme, including alternative energy sources, genetically-engineered crops and new water purification processes. More than 9,000 research presentations will be given during the week-long meeting. Selected highlights from the sustainability presentations are shown below. To view abstracts and nontechnical summaries of the papers listed, visit: To see ACS President Katie Hunt’s comments on sustainability, go to

Sunday, March 25

Symposium explores impact of genetically-engineered, glyphosate-resistant crops — Since their introduction in 1996, genetically-engineered (aka transgenic) crops that are resistant to glyphosate — the world’s most widely used herbicide — have had a profound impact on agriculture. Now, there is growing concern about losing some of the economic and environmental benefits of this technology because of increasing resistance of weeds to glyphosate. A two-day symposium that starts on Sunday features industry and academia scientists who will discuss the impact of these transgenic crops on the economy, health and the environment. (AGRO 1-7 and AGRO 18-23, Sunday, March 25, 8:30 a.m. - 4:20 p.m.; AGRO 38-43 and AGRO 51-56, Monday, March 26, 8:45 a.m.-5:20 p.m. All presentations in the symposium take place at McCormick Place East, Room E265, Level 2.)

How to select water treatment products — Purity and safety of drinking water is of paramount importance to everyone. For most people in the United States, the water that comes out of our taps is fine. But many home owners prefer to go the extra step and install water treatment products, and there is a multitude from which to choose. This presentation summarizes the different types of products, what they do (or don’t do) and how to select one that will protect your health. It will be presented by John Buteyn of Pentair Filtration, Inc., in Sheboygan, Wisc. (CHED 038, Sunday, March 25, 10:25 a.m., McCormick Place North, Room N227B, Level 2)

Monday, March 26

MIT chemist seeks to produce hydrogen fuel by reacting sunlight with water — Plants have mastered the art of harnessing sunlight to produce chemical energy, a process known as photosynthesis. Now, Daniel Nocera, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, envisions that a similar process one day can be used to force sunlight to split water molecules into its components — hydrogen and oxygen — for a renewable source of hydrogen fuel. Nocera is developing novel, powerful catalysts that show promise in achieving this goal, which could help solve the world’s energy problems in the future, he says. (PHYS 110, Monday, March 26, 1:20 p.m., McCormick Place South, Room S401B, Level 4)

New water technologies necessary to address world’s water needs — Large improvements in water technology that can help solve the world’s growing demand for clean water are scientifically possible, “albeit not at the current pace of advancement,” according to Mark Shannon, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Rapid and massive development of water science and new technologies in the next ten years is needed to affordably secure the water needs.” (SUST 007, Monday, March 26, 2:45 p.m., McCormick Place Lakeside, Arie Crown Theater)

Tuesday, March 27

Cyanotoxins: a growing contaminant concern in drinking water — Often called blue-green algae, cyanobacteria blooms and their toxins can cause symptoms ranging from skin rash to diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions and even death. One of the ways scientists are hoping to destroy cyanotoxins is though advanced oxidation technologies involving light-activated titanium-dioxide photocatalysts. This presentation, by Dionysios Dionysiou of the University of Cincinnati, will provide an evaluation of the effectiveness of TiO2 in destroying cyanobacterial toxins in drinking water. (SUST 013, Tuesday, March 27, 10:25 a.m., McCormick Place South, Room S106A, Level 1)

Low-cost, sustainable arsenic treatment systems — Collaboration between scientists at Lehigh University and in India over the past nine years has produced arsenic-free drinking water for villagers in many remote areas of India and Bangladesh. At least 150 simple, low-cost arsenic removal units have been installed in existing wells in these areas, which serve about 200,000 people. This presentation, by Arup SenGupta of Lehigh, highlights how the systems use chemical principles for efficient high arsenic removal with minimum impact on the environment. The National Academy of Engineering’s 2007 Grainger Challenge Silver Award was awarded to the scientists and the nonprofit organization “Water For People” for the community water treatment systems. (HIST 037, Tuesday, March 27, 11:35 a.m., Hyatt Regency McCormick, 20C)

Biofuels featured during three-day symposium — Representatives from academia and government will discuss challenges and advancements related to biofuels during a three-day symposium, “Agricultural Biomass, Biobased Products, and Biofuels,” March 27-29. Topics range from novel bioenergy sources to new processes that make the conversion of biomass to fuel more efficient. Tuesday’s session will begin with a presentation at 1:25 pm. by Gale Buchanan, Ph.D., the USDA Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, who is scheduled to discuss the benefits of renewable energy and government efforts to speed the commercialization of alternative and renewable energy sources. Tuesday’s session will be followed by a panel discussion that is scheduled to begin at 4:40 p.m. (AGRO 125-131, Tuesday, March 27, 1:20-5:00 p.m.; AGRO 147-154, Wednesday, March 28, 8:30 a.m.-5:35 p.m.; and AGRO 195-202, March 29, 8:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m. All presentations in this symposium take place in McCormick Place South, Room S103D, Level 1)

USDA study confirms sustainability of switchgrass for future U.S. energy needs — Most biofuels currently produced in the United States are derived from corn grain, but the capacity of corn to meet both food and fuel demands is limited, experts say. Switchgrass, a perennial tall grass native to North America, is being hailed as a promising and abundant alternative bioenergy source. The USDA recently completed a five-year field trial, conducted among 10 farms in the Northern Great Plains, to evaluate the energy balance for switchgrass grown for cellulosic ethanol. The study confirmed that switchgrass can be grown in a sustainable manner for biofuel production to meet future U.S. energy demands, according to Marty Schmer of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Lincoln, Neb. (AGRO 131, Tuesday, March 27, 4:15 p.m., McCormick Place South, Room S103D, Level 1)

Researchers develop device that converts food ‘leftovers’ into biofuel — Food wastes, which account for 16 percent of the materials going to landfill, could become the fuel of the future. Ruihong Zhang and associates at the University of California-Davis have developed a new experimental device, called an “anaerobic digestion system,” that is capable of efficiently converting a high volume of food and other organic wastes into hydrogen and methane gas. If converted to electricity, the biogas produced from one ton of food waste is enough to power 10 homes in the United States per day, the researchers say. (SUST 067, Tuesday, March 27, 4:20 p.m., McCormick Place South, Room S104B, Level 1)

Wednesday, March 28

Sugar may help reduce toxicity of chromium in industrial waste — Sugar shows promise in lab studies as a environmentally-friendly, economical alternative for reducing the toxicity of chromium waste products from the plating, mining and leather industries, according to a joint study by researchers at Xavier University in Louisiana and the Universidad Autonóma del Estado de México. Chromium is normally converted to a less toxic form by treating industrial wastewater with large amounts of acid, which can foul lakes and rivers. In the current study, Xavier’s Bryan Bilyeu and his associates showed that they could achieve a similar reduction in toxicity, up to 94 percent, by using natural sugars like fructose and sucrose. (ENVR 100, Wednesday, March 28, 9:35 a.m., McCormick Place South, Room S100 B/C, Level 1)

Ozone oxidation effective in removing contaminants, reducing estrogen alterations — A study by researchers at the Southern Nevada Water Authority shows that ozone and ozone AOP (advanced oxidation process) are “highly effective” in the oxidation and removal of many organic contaminants in water and for reducing estrogenicity. Some contaminants, however, were not destroyed, including TCEP (a flame-retardant), meprobamate (an anti-anxiety pharmaceutical), musk ketone (a synthetic fragrance) and iopromide (an x-ray contrast media), according to Shane Snyder, a researcher with the Water Authority. (SUST 097, Wednesday, March 28, 2:50 p.m., McCormick Place South, Room S106A, Level 1)

Thursday, March 29

‘Beauty’ berry tames the beast: Folk remedy shows promise against mosquitoes — Chemicals extracted from the leaves of the American beautyberry, once used as a Southern folk-remedy to keep insects from biting, show promise in lab studies as natural mosquito repellants that may be as effective as DEET, one of the most widely used insect repellants, according to researchers with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The chemicals, particularly one called callicarpenal, showed significant bite-deterring activity against Aedes aegypti, the yellow-fever mosquito, and Anopheles stephensi, which spreads malaria. Callicarpenal and other compounds isolated from the plant also showed repellency against fire ants and ticks, says Charles Cantrell, a researcher with the USDA-ARS in University, Miss. (AGRO 199, Thursday, March 29, 10:30 a.m., McCormick Place South, Room S103D, Level 1)

Electrocoagulation improves destruction of algae in water — Algae blooms can cause water to taste and smell bad, clog filters and even form hazardous disinfection by-products during water treatment. But research by Jia-Qian Jiang of the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom shows that electrocoagulation is “superior” to conventional coagulation treatment in removing algae from water. (INOR 1241, Thursday, March 29, 11:20 a.m., McCormick Place Lakeside, Room E271B, Level 2)


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