94269 - Chemical Sustainability

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will be aware of the outstanding issue of chemical sustainability. She/he will know how to exploit renewable sources of raw materials. The student will know the principles and tool of Green Chemistry and how to assess the greenness of a chemical process, exploiting Green metrics. The student will be aware of the concerns for health and the environment that the industrial use and production of solvents raises, and of the alternative safer solvents that are available nowadays and the principles for designing new ones. The student is will be able to: 1. assess the "greenes" of chemical processes using internationally accepted metrics; 2. design and propose chemical products and processes base on renewable feedstocks; 3. propose the use of benign solvents in place of traditional problematic ones.

Course contents

The UC will be made of three modules with the following contents:

(1) Renewable Sources

This module will deal with the relationship between sustainable chemistry and renewable sources., describing the main components of biomasses (sugars, starch, cellulose, chitin, lignocellulose, triglycerides) and comparing the structure of fossil substances with that of renewable substances. Different types of pre-treatments applied to biomass to obtain chemical compounds, biopolymers and biofuels will be illustrated, targeting the concepts of biorefinery. The applications of some valuable chemical substances obtainable from biomass that have already been implemented or are under construction will be examined. Finally, the main biofuels (bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas) and the “generations” of biofuels will be analyzed and detailed.

(2) Green metrics

The module will initially discuss the parameters traditionally used to define the efficiency of a synthetic transformation (yield, chemo-, regio- and stereo-selectivity), then it will introduce new concepts related to the sustainability and environmental performance of a chemical process (chemicals toxicity and availability, hazardous reactions, waste production). Finally, starting from the seminal definition of Atom Economy by Trost, the principal green metrics introduced so far to evaluate the environmental efficiency of a synthetic transformation will be thoroughly discussed and applied to real case study examples.

(3) Alternative Green Solvents

This module will discuss the fundamentals of the relative assessment of environmental, toxicological, physical, and chemical reactivity hazards of the most common organic solvents compared to the available green alternatives represented by supercritical fluids, fluorous solvents, ionic liquids, liquid polymers. Selection guides for solvents will be proposed. Technical solutions for minimizing solvent use and recycling solvents will be discussed.


Lecture notes will be available for students.

Additional bibliography:

“Biomass Valorization: Sustainable Methods for the Production of Chemicals” - Ed. Wiley

Renewables-based technology : sustainability assessment; J. Dewulf, H. Van Langenhove

(Eds). John Wiley, 2006.

Green Chemistry for Environmental Remediation, R. Sanghi, V Singh Eds., Scrivener Publishing

LLC., 2012

“Green Chemistry Metrics: Measuring and Monitoring Sustainable Processes”, A. Lapkin , D.

Constable (Eds.), Wiley-Blackwell, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-4051-5968-5

Teaching methods

The course unit is divided in three modules. Each module is organized in theoretical classes where main concepts are explained, as well as tutorial classes with discussion of case-study examples. 

In the theoretical lectures main concepts are presented and explained. The tutorial classes, by problem-based case studies, it will be possible to consolidate the students’ competence in the fields.

Assessment methods

Each module is assessed through a written assignment, or power point presentation of an assigned topic, including a report on literature research.

Teaching tools

Lecture notes will be available for students.

Power points will be available for students.

Office hours

See the website of Chiara Samorì

See the website of Marco Lombardo

See the website of Claudio Trombini


Industry, innovation and infrastructure Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.