94270 - Chemistry from Nature

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will be aware that natural processes and natural products are sources of materials and inspiration for implementing green chemical production and products exploitation. Biocatalytic processes and green solvents will be chosen as examples of important tools to be applied in the development of new chemicals and in their production. The student is expected to be able to: 1. design synthetic routes to chemicla products that resembles metabolic pathways and exploit enzymes and fermentations; 2. design synthetic routes that exploit biomass-derived products as starting materials; 3. design chemical synthese and manipulations processes that exploit biomass-derived solvents as liquid media;

Course contents

The UC consists of three modules, with the following contents:

(1) Sustainability of biocatalytic processes

Basic principles of biocatalysis: enzymatic structure, origin of activity and selectivity, kinetic models. Reaction efficiency and green chemistry metrics for biotransformations. Application of biocatalysis to sustainable industrial processes: industrial biocatalytic reactions of one and several stages. Examples of biocatalysis in industrial mass production. Cascading multi-enzymatic systems. Immobilization techniques of isolated enzymes and whole cells: advantages in the recovery of environmentally friendly products. Examples of biocatalytic processes supported in nanoscale devices and enzymatic biosensors.

(2) Renewable Sources

In this module the relationship between sustainable chemistry and renewable sources will be explored. The main components of biomasses will be presented, 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, introducing the main concepts of biorefinery through various examples of existing biorefinery. Finally, the main biofuels (bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas) and the “generations” of biofuels will be analyzed.

(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:

J. A. Tao, R. Kazlauskas, “Biocatalysis For Green Chemistry And Chemical Process Development” John Wiley & Sons, Editor.

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

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.

Assessment methods

Each module is assessed through a written assignment, a presentation with a power point, including a report on literature research.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Alessandra Tolomelli

See the website of Chiara Samorì

See the website of Claudio Trombini


Good health and well-being Quality education Affordable and clean energy Sustainable cities

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