SMC's Sustainability Initiative

For researchers at the research program in Synthetic Molecular Chemistry (SMC), sustainable practices within the lab are an important part of their research towards renewable energy solutions. The research program includes four interconnected laboratory spaces utilized by five research groups, whose work ranges from developing optoelectronics and fluorescent probes to studying photochemical reactions and catalytic mechanisms.

Emilie Mathieu and Brian McCarthy, postdoctoral researchers in the Borbas and Ott groups, respectively, started a sustainability initiative out of a concern that while alternative energy solutions motivate much of the department’s work, many day-to-day laboratory practices could be environmentally friendlier. Since the first meeting in May of 2019, the team has grown to more than 10 members, including senior faculty that contribute their expertise and commit program resources to the initiative. The team meets once a month to discuss ongoing work and brainstorm new solutions and practices to use resources more efficiently, and have begun publishing results of the initiative on their website.

Improperly functioning or open fume hoods use an enormous amount of energy, consuming as much energy as 3.5 homes. Therefore, the sustainability team kicked off the initiative with fume hood maintenance, checking that the fume hoods were functioning properly and that the hoods automatically close when not in use.  Other sustainability measures have been implemented by providing equipment along with educational resources. For example, the team purchased air reflux condensers for each lab and posted guidelines for their utilization in place of water-based reflux condensers in organic syntheses. The lab also acquired small vacuum pumps for filtration instead of water aspirators. Both of these actions reduce the amount of water used, especially on overnight reactions. For situations that require water cooling, water recirculation systems are being implemented. In a move towards improving lab safety as well as reducing waste, mechanical timers are interfaced to rotary evaporators to automatically turn off equipment outside of normal working hours. Ongoing efforts include the replacement of solvent stills with solvent purification systems to reduce water and energy consumption and the writing of standard operating procedures taking more sustainable practices into account. By continuing to take steps towards environmentally friendly lab practices, SMC hopes to be a leader in sustainability at the Ångström Laboratory.

Heavier pnictogens – treasures for optical electronic and reactivity tuning


Ahoy Mateys!

The Orthaber group has boarded the front cover of this week’s issue of Dalton Transactions, with a Hot invited Frontier article on the Treasures of the Heavier Pnictogens (DOI: 10.1039/C9DT00574A).

The paper compares and contrasts the bountiful chemistries of the group 15 elements, with a focus on selected riches from recent articles. New applications for organopnictogens are being developed in the SMC and beyond, with discoveries involving new bonding situations, reactivity, and opto-electronics emerging as prominent directions of current research. Delving deep into the chemical treasure chest of the heavier group 15 elements will provide a map to small molecule activation/reactivity and materials applications.

Article link:

We highlight recent advances in organopnictogen chemistry contrasting the properties of lighter and heavier pnictogens. Exploring new bonding situations, discovering unprecedented reactivities and producing fascinating opto-electronic materials are some of the most prominent directions of current organopnicogen research. Expanding the chemical toolbox towards the heavier group 15 elements will continue to create new opportunities to tailor molecular properties for small molecule activation/reactivity and materials applications alike. This frontier article illustrates the elemental substitution approach in selected literature examples.

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Last modified: 2021-11-17