Song Lin wins EPA Green Chemistry Challenge award

Chemistry professor Song Lin has received a 2022 Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for his contributions to environmentally sustainable chemical development.

The Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, which recognize chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture and use, were presented June 6 during a ceremony at the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Virginia.

The award recognizes Lin, Howard Milstein Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, for creating a new process that uses readily available substances and inexpensive electrodes to create the large and complicated molecules widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. The new technology eliminates the need to use potentially hazardous metals as catalysts that are often used to bring together smaller molecules, which has the potential to reduce both energy use and wasteful byproducts.

Lin’s research group is an organic chemistry lab specializing in synthetic electrochemistry, asymmetric catalysis and organic materials. For years, the lab has been exploring the advantages of synthetic electrochemistry, in which electrodes pass an electrical current through a chemical reaction, providing clean energy to activate molecules.

In February, Lin’s lab reported a specific advance that enables more sustainable pharmaceutical products using such a tool to activate alkyl halides – a common commodity chemical – without the need for precious transition metals or harsh alkali metals which have been traditionally used as catalysts or reagents. The process uses variable levels of electrosynthesis to stitch together simple carbon molecules and form complex compounds – a new, efficient tool for using commodity feedstock chemicals to form large pharmaceuticals in an expedient, safe, and environmentally friendly way.

In 2021, Lin received the National Fresenius Award from Phi Lambda Upsilon, the national chemistry honor society. He became an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 2019 and received the National Science Foundation’s Career Award in 2018.

The EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community.

Through 2021, 133 winning technologies have: eliminated 830 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents each year; saved 21 billion gallons of water; and prevented 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents from being released into the air – equal to taking 770,000 automobiles off the road.

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Song Lin
Jason Koski/Cornell University Song Lin, associate professor of chemistry