My name is John Sutherland. I am the Fehsenfeld Head of Environmental and Ecological Engineering. And I would like to welcome
you all to the inaugural College of Engineering
distinguished lecture. At this point I would like
to introduce Mung Chiang who is in turn going to
introduce our speaker for today. Dr. Chiang is the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, and the Roscoe H. George Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The Dean has impacted
over 250,000 students via his courses and textbooks. Has co-founded several start ups, and a non profit consortium, and is also a recipeint of the prestigious
NSF Waterman Award. Dean Chiang. (applause) – Thank you John. Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the inaugural
Purdue Engineering Distinguished Lecture series. Today is the day that
we start this series. And we have been planning this for awhile. We know that Purdue engineering
has a proud heritage, a strong momentum, and
even brighter future, with outstanding talents, faculty, students, staff, and our partners. And we can and we will aim at the pinnacle of excellence at scale. And as one of the initiatives, to invite some of the best and brightest minds around the world
to Purdue engineering we started this series. And we’re delighted and excited that we have such an outstanding speaker to kick off the brand new series. And this is being streamed
live on Facebook right now. I just Tweeted about this important event on this important day. If you don’t follow
me, it’s PurdueEngDean. And the room turns out to be too small. (laughter) It is too small indeed for
today’s subject perhaps. And we are so honored to have one of the leading figures in this field. And the very person who coined the term green chemistry
to be with us today. Our distinguished lecture
Professor Paul Anastas is the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Chair in Chemistry for the
environment at Yale University. And he is appointed across
five schools at Yale. And I hope that Professor Anastas also receives five times
the salary and benefits. (laughter) Including the School of Forestry
and Environmental Studies, Department of Chemistry,
School of Engineering, Applied Sciences, School of Management, and School of Medicine at Yale. When we speak about
interdisciplinary teams I guess we have one whole team in our speaker here today. Professor Anastas also
serves as the founding director of the Yale
Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. He has co-founded four companies and serves as a science advisor to several venture capital
and private equity firms. Professor Anastas has served in multiple federal administrations including the Clinton, Bush, and
Obama administrations. And most recently as the Senate confirmed Assistant Administrator for
Research and Development at the United States
Environmental Protection Agency. His research focuses on molecular design, chemical synthesis, catalysis, bio feedstocks and transformations. He has also published 13 books. And has been recognized with many awards including the Heinz Award,
the Rachel Carson Prize, the EO Wilson Award,
and the John Jay Medal. And I can keep on going
with the credentials. But then again we’re all eager to learn more about green chemistry, the future, and the necessary journey that lies ahead. A big round of applause for
our speaker Professor Anastas. (applause) – Thank you, thank you very much. – Thank you Paul. – Appreciate that. I’m hoping I don’t need this. I’ll be happy to. First of all let me say thank you for that very kind introduction, and the kind invitation. It always astounds me when I get invited to talk about green chemistry, because I talk about it all the time, in restaurants, in movies, and people say, will you please stop talking about green chemistry. So to be invited. And it’s a special honor to have the invitation
from John Sutherland. Somebody who I believe is
one of the true pioneers who has and continues to redefine what Environmental Engineering really is. So thank you John, it’s a real
pleasure and a real honor. My goodness, it’s gonna be fun. This is gonna be fun. Hold on this is a five ticket ride. Now I could go on and on. And I was asking some guidance as to how long should I speak. And I was told wow, remember Socrates. And I said ah yes, Socrates. What about Socrates? And he said well, he can wax on, he can wax on philosophically
for hours and days. And they killed him. (laughter) So I’ll be brief. (trails off turning away) But it is, it is a topic
that I think is important. It’s gonna be a pleasure to talk with ya. But I’m going to start, I’m going to start by telling you what I’m actually not going to talk to you about this afternoon. Because you know, one of the things that I would love to have conversations with each of you about
is some of the things that we have going on at my center, and the work that we
have going on about Yale. But what I’m not going to
talk to you about today, is I’m not going to spend
time on this center. This center is actually
founded across the university. Across arts and sciences,
across engineering, across the environment school. But perhaps at least as importantly, the work that we do with the law school, the school of medicine,
management, architecture, and yes even divinity. And why. Because if you’re going
to truly make a difference at scale on sustainability and changing the trajectory we’re on, you’re going to need all of the different
disciplines, skillsets. And that’s what we try to do. I’m not going to talk to you
about how we divide our work. Up into not only just simply advancing the science through fundamental research. But also how you prepare
the next generation, catalyze implementation
by working with industry. Some of the largest companies
and the largest manufacturers. And raising awareness
by getting out there, getting the message out there. Getting it into policies. I’m certainly not going to be talking to you about our research areas, the materials, energy, and water systems. I’m not going to spend any time at all, any time at all talking with you about our work on the
integrated biorefinery. Where we do things like transform lignin and other bio based feedstocks. The one thing that I will say is, I’m guessing in this room, there’s an understanding,
a general recognition that petroleum didn’t conquer the world. Oil didn’t conquer the world by saying, oh we have this black goo, let’s burn it for energy and
do northing with the rest. But rather by squeezing value out of absolutely every
distillation fraction. And yet what we’ve seen when we talk about the bio based economy is well, we’ll make bio fuels and
count on government subsidies to make the value proposition. That transition to a true bio refinery, a true bio based economy will require the same kind of technological elegance. Yes, technological elegance that we see in the petroleum past century or more. Biomaterials from that
wide rage of biomaterials including as I mentioned, pretty much, the only viable source of aromatics, aromatic chemicals is lignin. And yet we burn 98% of
it for its fuel value. We do a lot at low temperatures, low pressures for specific chemicals. Now I’m not gonna talk to
you about nanomaterial design except to say it’s not all about the size. The toxicity of
nanomaterials can be designed to give you all of the function without so many of the hazards. And this is certainly true of molecules. And generally we have established something called the Molecular
Design Research Network with a number of other universities to say from basic fundamental
chemical principles using quantum modeling like
density functional theory. How do we understand how to design molecules so that they’re intrinsically safer from the beginning. Okay, last thing I’m
not going to talk about is our educational outreach and our work to build
these things into policy at the state, federal
and international level. And our work with the United Nations, or how we spin out companies. Right now we have about four companies that we’ve spun out of the center because, as we all know,
nothing is going to change the world if it doesn’t do it at scale. So that’s why I’m not
going to talk to you about all of that stuff, and
why did I spend that time? Because I want almost every one of you. Not the faculty. Want almost every one of you to apply to come to the center and work for my lab. That’s why. (laughter) (claps hands) But what we’re gonna
be talking about today is this great grand
challenge of sustainability and how it relates to green chemistry. And we’re going to be
talking about the future. Now some of us are old enough to remember when we were growinhg up the views of the future were utopian. The views of the future
was like Star Trek. You were just sittin’ there waiting on Saturday morning to say, this is the day that my jet pack is going to come in the mail. It was genuinely utopian, of plenty and harmony,
and things like that. I’m going to suggest that
now views of the future, utopia, as Yogi Berra likes to say the future ain’t what it used to be. Yeah, because the views of the future, pretty dystopic, huh. Pretty ugly. I mean you can’t, you can’t look at a
projection of the future and movies, and culture are, God knows the, on TV without saying, oh it’s all a great, horrible abyss that we’re staring into. Well I have to tell ya, that’s not something
that I think any of us should be, should be accepting. Right, as much as it’s
difficult to predict the future, as Neils Bohr always reminds us. The nice thing about giving
a lecture on the future is you know, I don’t
know and neither do you. So we’re all just projecting, what can happen, what should
happen, what needs to happen. But the future, I genuinely believe is going to look largely what we design it to look like. The influence that we have
over society, civilization, in terms of, especially
what I’ll be focusing on, is the material and energy flows of our society and our civilization, is going to be affected by design. The 21 word definition of green chemistry, the design of chemical
products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. If that one sentence definition is going to have launched
a worldwide community that where companies around the world are using that for their
R and D portfolios, then that definition has
to have some meaning. And the most important
word in that definition is the word design. Because the important thing is that you can’t do design by accident. Everyone in this room knows that design is a statement of human intention. And so when I hear folks say, oh well we were doing green engineering and green chemistry back in the 70s, because I seem to remember a process where we eliminated cyanide. Can’t do design by accident. Unless you have thoughtful
statements of intention, you understand your methods, you have systems under control. Design is going to be
the single most important motivator, factor,
framework that we’re going to have if we’re going to
get off the unsustainability, unsustainable trajectory that we’re on. So I’m going to suggest
that tomorrow’s going to be measured and will look like whether we succeed or fail
in our design challenge to move to a sustainable world. What do I mean by that? How do we frame what the design challenge is for 100 years into the future? Well if we take a look back. Let’s take a look a century or so ago. Let’s go back about 100 years or so. In order for us to have
realized what today looks like, the imputed design
challenge must have been, “Maximize near-term economic gain “for a small percentage of the population “while destroying the very resources “that allowed you to
realize that economic gain.” Because that is certainly what
we have succeeded at doing. That is what we have succeeded at doing. We have been able to realize
tremendous economic gains. And anybody who ignores the fact of you know, the
productivity of the planet being magnified isn’t paying attention. But anybody who ignores the damage to the essential resources necessary to have realized that also
isn’t paying attention. So that’s why I say the
imputed design challenge had to have looked something like this. So how are we going to
change what our explicit design challenge needs to be, in order to effectively make tomorrow look different than today? Now as we look back I could reel on and on about the various, not just environmental, but the much broader
measures of sustainability and talk about all of the the things that have been done wrong
over the past 100 years. But quite frankly, that’s not only not particularly interesting, downright depressing. You all know it already. And quite frankly it’s really not useful. Because if we look back and pass judgment on those that came before us, even when we’re right. Even when our condemnation
is 100% justified, it kind of just makes us feel good, and you know, feel superior. And we’re anything but superior. What’s more important perhaps, is to look 50 or 100 years into the future and start saying, alright, what are they going to look back on us, and correctly judge us on our absurdities? And when I say absurdities I mean the things that are, that
we do, believe, value today, and pursue today that are so demonstrably false and flawed that it will, that it will tax our imagination to see, you know, why these things
are considered acceptable. Socially acceptable,
intellectually acceptable, legally acceptable. So I do say that today is somewhere between an absurdity and an obscenity. When we talk about the
status of the world. The inequity. The situation we are with running an experiment on the only planet that we’re ever gonna get. I’m going to talk about the
status quo a little bit. Not as some kind of, you know,
nebulous, undefined system. But the way that it really
impacts the decisions we make. Definition of status quo. Cognitive bias. An irrational preference for
the current state of affairs. A body of evidence that chose an irrational preference
for the status quo. Status quo bias frequently
affects decision making. So the status quo, the way things are. The way things have been and are continuing to be in so many ways. It’s the job of the status
quo to preserve itself. When we talk about the need for discovery, for invention, for innovation. Which is something that drives all of us as scientists and engineers. We have to recognize that, it’s important to know
that there are forces there to make sure that those changes, are being, there’s attempts to make them fit into the status quo box. So we like to think, no, we
want to bring about change. And change is necessary. If we are actually in agreement that the current situation of the world in terms of resources and sustainability is on an unsustainable trajectory. Then change is the only option. Delta is the only key. So we need to understand those forces opposed to change. I like this New Yorker cartoon. Never, ever think outside the box. People want to think, but every time a company rejects a superior, perhaps
transformative technology because it would disrupt
the existing supply chain, that is the status quo defending
itself, preserving itself. When a venture capital firm says, well that doesn’t fit into
our investment buckets, our models for ROI, that is the
status quo defending itself. When a government funding agency that funds basic research says, well it didn’t really fall into the grant solicitation that we wrote, and quite frankly we don’t have reviewers on our panel capable of understanding or judging these proposals. That is the status quo preserving itself. When the status quo does
its job, it has impacts. So as much as we’d like to think, we’re scientists and engineers, and we believe in innovation, and transformation, and invention. Simply stated, it’s also very true, that people have aversion to change. Lord Kelvin, Lord Kelvin, the inventor of the temperature scale that we were talking about at lunch, refused to believe that the Earth was more than 24 million years old, after Rutherford, the great Rutherford showed him the data, the radioisotope data proving it to be false. Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic table of the elements, refused to believe in the existence of radiation
or even the electron after JJ Thompson showed him the evidence of the electrons existence. JJ Thompson, the inventor of the electron would refuse to believe that the ether was anything other than essential to us, as to our lives as the air we breathe, after, long after it was disproven. And of course Einstein’s
criticism of quantum mechanics, that God does not play dice
with the universe is legendary. So what am I doin’, just
picking on the giants? Picking on our scientific giants. That’s not very nice. That’s rather uncouth. No I’m not picking on the giants. What I am suggesting is
that even scientific giants, who have led us to new
levels of knowledge, new understandings, new
conceptual frameworks that did not exist before them, does not mean that
they’re going to be able to realize, understand, much less advance and adopt the next
levels of understanding. Einstein says problems can’t be solved at the same level of
awareness that created them. So what we’re talking about
is a new level of awareness. And there is no quote
better than Isaac Newton’s. How many folks are familiar
with Isaac Newton’s famous quote of “if I can see the horizon, “it’s because I stand on
the shoulders of giants.” Everybody knows. Everyone takes that saying to say, look at that Isaac Newton, he was giving a lot of
credit to those giants. Well there’s another
reading to that isn’t there. And that is implicitly, that means Newton was saying, the giants cannot see the horizon. So who’s going to be seeing that horizon? That would be you, standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants that you have right here at Purdue. So what are we doing to
preserve the status quo in academia, in the research enterprise, and business and industry? I think that’s something that
needs to be reflected on. Because this is going to affect what research we do, what companies we launch, and whether or not the tapestry of society is going to move toward
sustainable or away from it. “Progress is a nice word. “But change is it motivator. “And change has its enemies.” So one of the things
that I just wanna spend a minute on is efficiency. Because so much of the
discussion around sustainability, so much of the discussion
around invention, innovation, is around improved efficiency. Energy efficiency, material
efficiency et cetera, et cetera. Is it possible, that efficiency will help you do the thing you’re doing better, but it won’t help you do a better thing? Is it possible that just making unsustainable products,
processes, systems, a little bit less bad, a
little bit more efficient, a little bit more material
and energy productive is not going to get us off
the sustainable trajectory? Is it possible that what we
need to be thinking about is the inherent nature,
the qualitative nature of the material and energy that we use? What would a genuine
transformation like that look like? What do we mean when we
talk about inherent nature? Could we move from a
society that is reliant on a material basis, and transform from healthful rather than toxic, renewable rather than depleting, and enhancing rather than degrading? Because right now, the material basis of our society and our economy is toxic. When I say toxic I mean
not conducive to life. Directly and the opposite of life, species thriving, eco systems existing, habitats thriving, renewable
rather than depleting. Everyone in this room recognizes that whether it’s our energy sources, our reliance on fossil fuels, our reliance on rare earth
metals, et cetera, et cetera. That we are depleting the basic seed corn, if you will, at a rate that does not allow for the continuation, much less the growth of our current, whether it’s
economic or societal goals. Okay so if that wasn’t picture for ya, let’s go big picture shall we. We start at 40,000 feet and we go up. Because let’s talk about the big picture. If we are saying, that there needs to be a transformation on a civilization wide level in order to have a sustainable society then we need to understand what is it that brings about
transformation at this level. Even historically. And I’m going to suggest
that this has happened a number of times throughout history. I just throw up the emergence of civilization and the fertile crescent, the reformation, the
scientific revolution, the Renaissance, the
industrial revolution. There have been times when there have been transformations on a
civilization wide level. And what that extremely complicated transformation involves is often, that it accompanies a shift in thinking. And that shift in thinking is often in the form of how we answer questions. What is knowable verus unknowable. What is possible versus impossible. What is our place and
purpose in the universe, or vis a vie a supreme being. When you see these shifts in thinking they are often, let’s call it co-incident with these civilization types of changes. So here’s what I’m going to suggest. I’m going to suggest that there are forces in play right now, even if we limit it to technological forces, that shift the way that
we answer these questions. That can shift one or more of the way that we answer these questions. So for instance, and this
is just even limiting it to technological forces. Big data analytics and synthetics. So there’s a lot of folks in this room that know the absolute explosion of data, the exabytes of data that
are produced every year where we have shifted from
simply looking at data in a reductionist way in
order to get our learnings, to get our, transform
our data into knowledge, and our data into information, information into knowledge. But now we are starting to be able to look at the trends and flows, and get the learnings and the knowledge, and the insights from those data flows. This capability of big data analytics allows us to have insights on everything from pandemics, to social
morees, to predicting markets. This can influence, and is influencing how we answer the question, what’s knowable versus unknowable. And this is just some of the investments that are being made in different sectors. When we think about
ubiquitous integrated sensors the fact that over the past, shall we call it 10 or 15 years, the sensor revolution where we can so often now go to, what’s the phrase that my friends like to say smart dust with, where we can have sensors
that are so cheap, so ubiquitous, integrated, real time, that you know, if I want to, if I want to know if my dog has run away, and that it’s oh, 50 yards
from my neighbor’s house, so that I call because he has a sensor on, that happens all the time. It’s such a pain. I gotta tell ya, in fact my wife has to chase him cause
I’m in West Lafayette, so it’s okay. If I wanna know what
the average heart rate, or the heart rate of the
winner of the Beijing marathon, or the average heart rate of all of the winners of, all of the runners of the Beijing marathon, I can do that in real time, and on, and on, and on to the point where again, what is knowable versus unknowable is dramatically impacted. And these sensors are being integrated, well let’s just say everywhere. 3-D printing and 3-D scanning, I’m guessing there’s not a person in this room that hasn’t touched and played with 3-D
printers and 3-D scanners. But I have to tell ya, being a little older than some of you, just a couple years
older than some of you. The first time I did see
one of these 3-D printers inexpensive, under $1,000, a 3-D printer, and looking at it, and recognizing that I had the same feeling that I had when I saw my first PC back in 1984 inasmuch as I knew that I could never imagine all of the ways that it could change life. So everyone in this room knows that these 3-D printers on about gadget or missing chess
pieces, or a missing button, but rather how do you, out of MIT, and perhaps here at Purdue, printing out functioning kidneys, or functioning livers, or not big enough for you, how about the house that was built in the Netherlands using 3-D printing, and 3-D printed cars,
et cetera, et cetera. Coupling 3-D printing with 3-D scanning, again, it changes so many of our paradigms about what’s possible versus impossible. This is clearly an old slide. (laughter) Synthetic biology. Alright, so how many
biologists in the room? Please raise your hand. Biologists? A few, okay. How many folks in this room think that we have created new life? New life forms? Not tweaked old ones, and not cloned, not genetically engineered, how many people believe that we have created new life forms? Anyone who believes that raise your hand. Anyone who doesn’t raise
their hand, hang your head. So yes, we have created new life forms. Craig Ventner of the Ventner Institute, really the first one
through the minimal genome, (trails off) Yeah, the minimum genome has done it on a number of occasions out
of the Ventner Institute. And about a year ago I had the opportunity to be in a conversation where was talking about how he was digitizing
the minimum genome necessary for viable life, so not replicating existing life, but new base pair sequencing. And beaming that digitized sequence to his lab in the Mojave
dessert in order to assemble. So I said why the Mojave dessert? Well this particular
organism consumes CO2, and it generates oxygen, and the Mojave dessert is marvelous. So that was interesting. I’m going to suggest that again, this comes down to our
role in the universe. What we see as possible versus impossible. And finally artificial intelligence. I happened to be good
friends with Dave Ferrucci the inventor of Watson, or the person that lead the team that
invented Watson for IBM. He said, you know, most
folks seem to be thinking, he’s since left IBM but, says mostly folks in
AI seem to be thinking within the next decade or so, we’ll have an entity with an IQ of 100. And if you have something
with an IQ of 100 what’s the barrier to 500, and 5,000, and can any of us imagine
what an IQ of 5,000 even is? So let’s pause and just think about, oh over the past 10 or 15 years. The price of computer memory. The price of memory
plunged to almost zero. Memory was essentially free. Information was essentially free. Knowledge is three clicks
away on the internet. Now we could have a really good debate over what the effect of that has been. Has the quality of knowledge gone up? Has the quality of information, and awareness gone up,
or are we so flooded with information, and
knowledge, and data certainly, that our biggest challenge is curation. And have humans shown themselves up to the task of adequate curation of all of that information. Now, pause and say, what if
thought becomes dirt cheap. What if thought becomes free, so that I can hand you any book, any song, any poem,
any idea, any invention and you have no way of knowing whether or not it is invented
by a human or a machine. When we pause and think about artificial intelligence,
and I will say that, Elon Musk believes artificial intelligence may be the end of the world. I don’t know if he’s right or wrong. But what I will say, is
any one of these areas, artificial intelligence,
synthetic biology, 3-D printing, scanning,
ubiquitous integrated sensors, (sighs) anyone of them can affect the way that we answer those questions. About what’s knowable, what’s possible and what our role is. Together in an interplay I’m going to suggest that perhaps none of us in this room can begin to understand how those are going to affect the future. Because those can lead us
in tremendously powerful new directions and cascading
positive sequences, or not. And the difference between whether or not it’s going to be a positive cascade or not is going to be the frameworks
in which we do that. So in other words great transformations come when we have new
perspectives and new awareness. That new level of awareness
that Einstein talked about. I will suggest that green chemistry is a new perspective and a new awareness on the material basis of the character and the inherent nature of
our society and our economy. For many years green
chemistry, green engineering has been perhaps thought of as a way of making things less bad,
less toxic, less wasteful, more efficient, and use less energy. What we’re seeing is a new understanding that this is not about
doing things less bad, making something a little
more regulatorily compliant, or something like that. It’s about how do you invent things that haven’t existed before, with performance and function that we haven’t thought about in a way that we’ve thought it before. So yes, the journals
are filled to the brim with new inventions, new
science, new perspectives. But is business adopting green
chemistry, this new model? Yeah, these are just some of the ones that have green chemistry built into their business DNA,
their business plans. Now if I were to stand up
here in front of you and say, green chemistry has
the potential to affect all these different industry sectors, defense and aerospace, pharmaceuticals, electronics, agriculture, and on and on, that would be a bold statement. And I’m not saying that. I’m saying it already has affected all of these industry sectors with award winning technologies represented by the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. Why, because at the molecular level the molecules don’t care at all whether or not they’re going to be a glue, or a circuit, or a paint, or a medicine, or a pesticide. They just have their basic physical chemical properties ready to be transformed and manipulated
for good or evil. And if you had a conceptual framework from getting new
function, new performance, and oh yeah, it just happens
to be more sustainable, all to the good. So at the end of the day
it all comes through, down to the breakthroughs,
down to the science. And some of the science is everything from biobased materials,
new solvent systems, ionic liquids, biofuels, reactor designs, super-critical fluids,
and on, and on, and on. And every one of these
has been a building block toward making a more
sustainable material framework. Alright what I’m going to suggest that while all of this work is nice, and I’m just happy to be part of this worldwide community that’s done this work, it’s scratching the surface. It’s time for act two. What we’re talking about is
introducing new approaches. So some of the questions
that I’m just going to wrap up and answer, well not answer, I’m asking, is some of the challenges
we’re looking at. When we look at the fact that somewhere around 95% or so, of all of the synthetic materials that are made are petroleum based, I’m asking the question, what is going to be the way that we think about our biobased feedstocks. Will it be that we rely on renewables, and only save those
precious fossil feedstocks for those things where renewables are not possible, or not optimal? I’d love to go on and
on talking about this because there is so much elegance and complexity to take advantage of in these biobased feedstocks. And because we have 150 years of, petroleum based infrastructure, industrial infrastructure
that what comes to mind, to people’s idea, oh, let’s
take the biobased feedstocks, strip off all of the
elegance and complexity so that it looks like oil. (laughter) Woo hoo. You know, why, because it’s drop in. Drop ins great, drop in means that you don’t have to
have capital investment. You don’t have to pipe in the ground. Is that what elegance looks like? Is that what real transformative
innovation looks like? Or is that what the status quo looks like when it’s preserving itself? Synthetic methodologies. Right now we think about
how we transform molecules. Whether it be biobased or petroleum based, and we transform them. And now this is a room where folks are, I don’t know this, of the material that goes into a manufacturing scheme, process. Across all of manufacturing, okay, you can’t answer this John. What percentage of all of that material winds up immediately as waste? I’ll take, let’s see, I’d like a guess from you. Sir, yeah. (speaking off camera and mic) 70%, you? (speaking off camera and mic) 75, sir? – [Audience Member] 90 – Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. 90 plus percent immediately as waste. And of course, because of so many. At the molecular level what we do, is we put together our molecules so that the vast majority of it goes immediately into waste yet, the whole concept of atom economy, making sure that every atom that enters into a synthetic methodology
winds up in your product, that’s something that we need to have as a definition of synthetic elegance because that can, not always will, can cascade throughout the
manufacturing processes. Right now we have catalysts. Catalysts were the, maybe
the first green chemistry because in addition to the
fact that it uses less energy, uses less material, does
it more efficiently, it generates less waste,
and oh yeah, by the way, there isn’t a chemical, or petrochemical, or specialty chemical company in the world that would be existing, economically viable without catalysis. And yet, we don’t really invent catalysts from first
theoretical principles. We kinda find, oh that
metal worked kinda good, maybe we’ll stick some decorations on it. Maybe we’ll tweak it. Maybe we’ll, yeah, getting a better level, first level understanding of catalysis is something I’d love to get into a
long discussion about. Will we be multi-functional and designed to separate from the product? Solvents, everyone in this
room appreciates solvents. But how can we get our
solvent systems in 2018? I mean one of the companies
I own is a solvents company. How do we get our solvents in 2018 to not merely facilitate
energy and mass transfer but also to genuinely catalyze and facilitate self separations? Don’t get me started on separations. Okay get me started on
separations and I’ll go all day. And will we be able to
rather than just taking, selecting from a couple dozen solvents. Will we actually be able
to design our solvents to respond to imparted stimulus. Have obedient solvents We tweak and design almost everything about our manufacturing processes. And then when it comes
to one of the crucial elements of solvents we say, well, here’s your list of a
couple dozen to choose from. Biomimicry. So we have a century and a half of recognizing that we wanna make Our feedstocks and our reagents
more and more reactive. ‘Cause if you make them
more and more reactive your reactions are gonna go faster, maybe you can save some energy in it. Oh, the only problem with that is, reactivity is extremely,
closely linked to toxicity. And when you start looking
at how nature does it, nature, which can be
deadly when it chooses to, it just does it more elegantly. It doesn’t just have clouds of phosgene and chlorine, and lakes of cyanide. No it imparts reactivity
at the time and the place that it wants it using
geometric contortion in order to create strain. And we need to learn some of
these lessons and impart them. And have it be the rule rather
than the elegant exception. And weak force interactions. I gotta tell ya, as a chemist I can, I can be critical, but
for a couple hundred years we’ve flexed our muscles and say, oh we are masters of the covalent bond. We know how to make
anything that you can draw. And yet at the same time
we all have to recognize that when you look at nature, so much of performance, so much of the character,
of the properties is derived from weak force
interactions not covalent bonds. So many of the synthetic pathways are driven by weak force direction. Now we know how to describe things about weak force interactions, but can we design them. Do we have the same mastery of weak force interactions as we do of the covalent bond so that we can use it as a design tool. And I’m going to suggest that no we don’t. There’s again, a sliver of brilliant folks working on this area. I can say that ’cause I
don’t work on this area. The molecular basis of hazard. Do we have a fundamental first principle understanding of the molecular basis of hazard, of toxicity? The short answer is no. And that is what our Molecular Design Research Network is all about. And will we be able to
design our molecules. So when we design our molecules to be a great adhesive, a great conductor, a good glue, a good plasticizer, all this different functionality, yet do we have the design guidebook about how to design
things to not be toxic. No. Why, because the people that make the molecules don’t talk to the people that assess their toxicity. Quick rant. So this astounds me. Here we are, it’s 2018. If I was standing up here
and I said, I’m a chef. I make the most delicious meals that people travel from far and wide to eat at my restaurant. Yes, people get poisoned
and die from my meals, but there are other people
working on sustainable cooking. (laughter) You would think I was insane. I’m a car designer. I make luxurious and
fastest cars in the world. Yes, the tires fall off and
they explode unexpectedly. But there are other people
working on sustainable cars. You would think I was insane. But if I stand here and I
say, I’m a synthetic chemist. I make molecules and
synthetic transformations that are elegant and efficient. Yes, people are dying from the products of the molecules that I make, but there are other people
working on green chemistry. The same reason those first
two things were absurd, the last one’s absurd. And yet for too long that’s been okay. Complex systems. I’m just going to say we need to be at least as comfortable with complexity as we are with reductionism. We are profoundly uncomfortable
with complex systems. And this cascades through our metrics in the way that we measure success. I’ll take that as a question if need be. Without transdiciplinarity we’re gonna pretty much get what we always got. We are not going to solve
the complex problems that we’re facing by
individual disciplines. All of us, all of us as
scientists, engineers, and technically competent people are suffering today by our lack of ability to communicate, and communication does not mean publishing a journal paper. Okay, we’re going to press on with the most pressing
problems listed here. But what we really need to do is work in fusion with all of the
disciplines coming together because systems thinking is essential. Nobody’s talking about
replacing reductionism, but coupling it with
integrative systems thinking is essential because you can’t make a structure that stands with just bricks or just mortar in order for it to last. Can’t beat this quote. “When we try pick out anything by itself, “we find it’s hitched to
everything else in the universe.” John Muir. It’s all hitched. And the more that we think
that our piece of the puzzle in pursuing absolute
truth is the only piece, and we don’t see the puzzle, we’re not gonna get on a
sustainable trajectory. Do I think we can? I think we can. I think we will. Because we must. Thank you for the opportunity
to speak with you today. (applause) Thank you sir. – We have time for perhaps
one or two questions. If you have class you
know, please leave quietly. But we do have time
for a couple questions. – Hello professor. You talked about how status quo can slow down change and prevent us from making changes that we want to make. But then you also talked about how the industrial revolution was also transformative event which didn’t quite, which caused a lot of negative effects with positive effects as well. So how can we ensure that if we undergo a transformation right now. How do we make sure that it will not have any negative effects? – So we have to understand the fundamental framework of sustainability. If we were to guess and say, oh here’s an innovation,
I wonder what it will do? That’s probably not a good way. So this reason we’re
talking about complexity is understanding how systems are linked. That’s going to be tremendously important. Those three points of you know, renewable rather than depleting, healthful rather than toxic, and enhancing rather than degrading. We need to have a framework where that is actually how we define performance. We have so narrowly defined performance that we talk about functional performance. Oh, is this a good red dye,
is this a good plastic. Well we don’t want just a good red dye, we want a good red dye
that doesn’t cause cancer. We want to have a good plastic, plasticizer that doesn’t result in endocrine disruption,
and birth defects. So understanding the
fundamental basis and goals. And building that into
our design proto~cols, coming back to the beginning of the talk. How you define that
sustainability challenge, that design challenge, that will be how we avoid doing the
same things over and over. And it’s not easy. – Alright before we get to you I want to remind everyone
we have a panel session tomorrow morning at 9:00. We’re gonna continue (fades out off mic) great discussion, it’s in 3138 in the Active Learning Center. Alright, speak up. (student asking question off mic) – Hold on. – So you were talking
how our infrastructure is dependent on fossil
fuels, infrastructure, so when it comes to integrating it with renewable infrastructure
there are a lot of problems. Like supply and demand problems, and then like when we
are trying to integrate there are a lot of policy maker issues, and there are a lot of integrated firms that don’t want new end grants and no competition so how
do you get around that to make a more sustainable
choice when it comes to energy. – And I, this is not, this is not in any way a critique it’s just, that is what the status quo looks like when it’s preserving itself. And so when we start thinking about the various energy sources, and we say, well we have an energy grid, and we have an energy grid. Everybody’s red flags outta be goin’ up. What do you mean an energy grid. The energy grid. Sorry last I checked,
we’re swimming in energy. Everything about us, every atom in our body, we’re swimming in energy. And what we’re talking about is how access, convey and realize
and utilize this energy. So is the purpose to get energy and the performance of energy. Or is the purpose to be
compatible with the energy grid. Clearly I’m going to, guess that you don’t
believe that we need to be you know, beholdin’ to the energy grid. So what does that mean. It means, well for one
thing that you know, in gross terms, distributed energy. For instance it means a
whole lot of different types of energy, energy
harvesting technologies rather than you know, we talked
about generating our energy. I understand we were running low on time, and I’ll be happy to talk a lot more. But most of all what
it means is not taking the status quo including the status quo infrastructure as unchangeable. – [John] Let’s thank Dr.
Anastas one last time. (applause)