To-do list for sustainable future

Creating a zero-waste society through products and processes that are “benign by design” is essential to the future of humanity, Flinders University’s Professor Colin Raston says.

Rather than modifying existing technologies so that they are more eco-friendly, Professor Raston – the SA Premier’s Professorial Research Fellow in Clean Technology – says scientists, manufacturing industries and governments should start from scratch and make new materials that leave little environmental impact.

“You can only tweak existing technologies to a certain level but beyond that you need a paradigm shift, which is green chemistry,” Professor Raston, based in the Flinders School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, says.

“Clean technology is about improving products and processes so that they’re not so wasteful but green chemistry takes us back to the drawing board to create products that are benign by design,” he says.

“The use of toxic reagents needs to be avoided in more energy efficient manufacturing and the products need to be designed for recycling, or if they do end up in the environment they can simply degrade into something benign.”

Professor Raston will explain the principles of clean technology and green chemistry at a public seminar next Tuesday (August 13) at Flinders University Victoria Square, as part of National Science Week (August 10-18).

The seminar, Clean Technology – A Sustainable Future, will include a focus on continuous flow processing, which is a new method of chemistry that works to produce cleaner, less wasteful products using films rather than liquid.

“Continuous flow manufacturing, or green chemistry, has many major flow-on effects in that it minimises the potential for accidents because you don’t need to store things, it’s a lot more energy efficient than traditional chemistry and there’s little waste,” Professor Raston says.

“This technology has a variety of applications, from better wastewater treatment processes to more targeted anti-cancer drugs.

“Considering these things are so functional in society, they should be able to be recycled without waste implications.”

In other National Science Week activities, Flinders University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering will play a leading role in Science Alive – Australia’s largest science expo – as a major sponsor and exhibitor of the event.

Starting tomorrow (Saturday, August 10) at the Adelaide Showground, the two-day event will demonstrate science through various hands-on, interactive activities across a range of scientific disciplines, from archaeology and antiquity to space and astronomy.

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