College curriculum grant projects

These grants support the development of Green Chemistry and Design curricula at more post-secondary institutions in Minnesota and strengthen the Minnesota and national network of post-secondary faculty teaching aspects of Green Chemistry and Design.

2012-2013 grant projects

These two grant projects, funded through MPCA’s Environmental Assistance Grant Program, supported the development of Green Chemistry and Design curricula at Northwestern Health Sciences University and a new laboratory experiment at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities to teach introductory chemistry students about sustainable polymers.

Development of Green Chemistry Program

MPCA contact: Mark Snyder

The purpose of this project was to increase the awareness and understanding of NWHSU's faculty and students in relation to green chemistry concepts. It will directly educate students in green chemistry concepts, and expose the entire campus community to green chemistry through posters displayed in hallways on campus.

Curriculum development

Extensive review of materials was performed within the institution. Project Manager and Investigator performed reviews of materials developed by the other individual. External review was performed by Dr. James Wollack, Assistant Professor, St. Catherine’s University. Both the internal and external reviews proved valuable tools for improving the materials generated, resulting in five new syllabi being developed that signify a commitment to green chemistry.

The General Chemistry sequence now incorporates Green Chemistry concepts into the lecture curriculum for the majority of major topics. Exercises from “Introduction to Green Chemistry” from the ACS as well as questions/assignments developed in-house are employed to give students a chance to apply the Green Chemistry knowledge acquired in the lectures. General Chemistry labs correlate closely to lecture material and several experiments highlight principles of Green Chemistry.

The same philosophy is employed in the Organic Chemistry sequence, including discussion of Green Chemistry topics in the lecture and highlighting application of Green Chemistry principles to change or improve the experiments performed by students. One additional feature of the Green Chemistry curriculum for Organic Chemistry involves students preparing posters highlighting Green Chemistry concepts and presenting them to other students in the class.

Initial project results

Students complete a Green Chemistry Quiz (adapted from ACS) at the start and end of the course in order to assess student learning of Green Chemistry concepts. A class of 28 Organic Chemistry students scored on average 16.1/25 on the quiz prior to any introduction to Green Chemistry curriculum. After the lecture and laboratory exposure to Green Chemistry, their score on the quiz increased to 20.1/25. This was an increase of 4 correct answers which relates to a 16% increase. Students that completed the quiz at the start of General Chemistry and then again after Organic Chemistry showed a more modest increase (17.5/25 to 18.9/25). This increase of 1.4 correct answers (5.6%) reflected the outcomes for the 10 students that progressed from the General Chemistry course in the winter trimester of 2013 to Organic Chemistry the following term.  

Another measure of the successful implementation of Green Chemistry principles is how these principles have been used to improve the “greenness” of the experiments themselves. One measure of this is Green Chemistry Principle #1: Prevent waste. The amount of waste generated for each individual Organic Chemistry experiment was tracked during the trimester prior to implementing the Green Chemistry curriculum, and then again after implementation of the newly developed experiments. It was shown that the amount of waste generated was reduced by an average of 23 mL per individual completion of an experiment, which correlates to a 28% reduction in organic waste. Some of this was achieved by re-use of certain chemicals, but most of the reduction results from changes in cleaning of glassware. Specifically, use of acetone was avoided when possible or reduced by more thorough instruction and monitoring of students with respect to cleaning glassware.

Polymeric Sutures in the Teaching Lab

MPCA contact: Mark Snyder

The original goal of this project was to develop a new laboratory experiment intended to teach green chemistry and sustainable polymers to students in introductory chemistry courses. An ideal lab experiment could be easily adapted for more or less advanced levels from high school to a sophomore undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory. For versions of the lab developed for use at the high school and general chemistry level, the laboratory experiment should use materials and equipment that are inexpensive, widely available, and innocuous. Variations of the experiment developed for use in a sophomore undergraduate course would ideally involve the synthesis and characterization of a polymer using molecular characterization techniques already familiar to students taking a sophomore organic laboratory course. Finally, the laboratory experiment should not generate toxic waste and would ideally incorporate renewable materials.

An experiment was proposed that would introduce students to the topic of polymer synthesis and characterization through a lab experiment designed to study polymeric sutures. The proposed experiment was attractive for several reasons: First it could be easily adapted for a more or less advanced laboratory course. Students without a basic understanding of organic chemistry could simply make sutures from commercially available polymers or study suture degradation without making their own homemade sutures. Students at a more advanced level could make and characterize their own copolymers. Second, it was anticipated that the experiment would be appealing to students, particularly students interested in medicine or veterinary science. It was expected that this experiment would additionally highlight a real world application of degradable polymers familiar to most students.

Experimental design

There were several challenges that needed to be addressed in developing the proposed experiment. The first challenge was to identify appropriate methods of mechanical testing of sutures. It was desired that the method should be reproducible and employ instruments that are inexpensive and easy to acquire. Ideally multiple methods of testing the “goodness” of a suture would be developed. It was anticipated that the methods would test properties such as tensile strength and residual strain after an applied force. A second major challenge was to find appropriate commercially available sutures for degradation tests. The desire was to find an inexpensive degradable suture that would lose strength under simulated biological conditions in a few weeks yet retain structural integrity in the time between two lab periods (at many universities general chemistry laboratory course meet once every week). This task was complicated by the fact that sutures are available in several USP sizes with diameters dependent on the suture material class. A third challenge was optimizing the conditions for degradation studies. This was expected to be the most difficult task in the development of this experiment as it was expected that polymer biodegradation might not be sufficiently fast to be observed in two lab periods if normal simulated physiological conditions were used. Another major goal was to find an ideal composition of copolymer that the students could synthesize that had sufficient mechanical strength to be tested using the methods developed for testing commercial sutures. It was envisioned that the ideal material would also have the ability to degrade within a reasonable time frame under the conditions optimized for commercial suture degradation. A final challenge was to develop a reproducible method for creating threads or fibers from the synthesized polymer. Since it was expected that in most cases the student polymers would generally be weaker than commercially available sutures, it was desired that the method developed allow for preparation of fibers of uniform diameter. Such a method would permit students to compare their sutures to sutures produced by their classmates. In the following sections of this report progress achieved towards meeting each of these challenges is described. Successes and failures are outlined, as are potential directions of future work on this project. In the concluding section final recommendations regarding the future development of this experiment are made.

Summary of results

Over this semester, appropriate commercial suture materials and sizes have been identified, as have several reliable methods of assessing suture strength. A procedure for testing hydrolytic degradation of suture materials in buffered solutions has been developed, however since the commercial sutures do not lose significant strength in two weeks it will, in the future, be necessary to either conduct longer term degradation studies or modify the experimental conditions to accelerate degradation. Commercially available polymers were used to develop a method of producing polymer fibers to mimic commercially available sutures. Since these unmodified homopolymers have several deficits that preclude them from being used as ideal models of suture materials, several other alternatives polymers were also investigated.

Additional study of the kinetics of degradation and strength loss of commercially available sutures is recommended along with more work being done to determine conditions for accelerated degradation of sutures. Also, further investigation is needed to identify a polymer material that can be synthesized by students in the lab that has improved mechanical properties compared to the initial commercially available polymers tested.

Post-project follow-up

On Thursday, July 18, 2013, the University of Minnesota provided twenty-five high school girls, who are taking part in the Exploring Careers in Engineering and the Physical Sciences offered by the College of Science & Engineering, with the opportunity to participate in some polymer science experiments. The experiment used the project topic of medical sutures to teach the high school students about polymers and plastics. Following an introduction on the role of plastics in society and the need for sustainable technologies, the students prepared their own sutures through melting and drawing of caprolactone polymers of different molecular weights. The students then tested the strength of various purchased medical sutures (both non-degradable and absorbable) using pull scales and studied their rate of chemical degradation. The majority of the students participating could relate through experience to surgical stitches and they were enthusiastic and engaged in the experiments. The experiments were facilitated by Professor Jane Wissinger, graduate student Debbie Schneiderman, and summer undergraduate researcher Lindsay Davis.

2011-2012 grant Projects

Professor Jane Wissinger, U of MN – Twin Cities, in an organic lab as students test a newly developed experiment.These four grant projects supported the development of Green Chemistry and Design curricula at the University of Minnesota – Duluth, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, University of St. Catherine and Winona State University, strengthening the Minnesota and national network of post-secondary faculty teaching aspects of Green Chemistry and Design. MPCA staff thank the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pollution Prevention Program for its grant supporting this project.

Combining forecasts for the four projects, the numbers of students reached is expected to be:

  • Introductory/general chemistry courses: 510 to 540 students per year
  • Advanced/organic/analytical chemistry courses: 1,137 students per year
  • Engineering courses: 125 students per year
  • Chemistry/Chemical Engineering majors: 165 to 175 per year
  • Graduate teaching assistants: 37 to 47 per year

Case studies

University of Minnesota Duluth Develops Green Chemistry Coursework

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (Department) staff at University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) completed work over 2012 to incorporate green chemistry into their curriculum.


The proposal was to modify an existing course, Chem 1105–From the Industrial Revolution to Green Chemistry, to focus on the American Industrial Revolution, especially as it pertained to and impacted the Great Lakes basin; to create a new course tentatively titled Introduction to Green Chemistry; and to supplement an existing course, Chem 2212–Environmental Chemistry, with a green chemistry unit and laboratory experiments.

The initial intent was to make both Chem 1105 and the Introduction to Green Chemistry course 1000-level general audience liberal education courses to meet the need for sustainability courses in UMD’s new liberal education program. However, after significant discussion within the Department, it was decided that UMD majors (Chemistry BS and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology BS majors) needed the opportunity to fulfill the sustainability requirement of the liberal education program with an in-major course that also offered an introduction to key topics in toxicology and green chemistry. As a result, the new course was created as a 2000-level course (Chem 2901–Principles of Green Chemistry) with one semester of organic chemistry as a pre-requisite.

As a result of this project, by spring 2014, the Department will be offering courses introducing the concepts of green chemistry to non-science majors (Chem 1105), biology and environmental science majors (Chem 2212), and to chemistry and biochemistry majors within the Department (Chem 2901). Chem 2901 will also be available to chemical engineering students and any other students who have completed at least one semester of organic chemistry.


Timing of the project was perfect. It allowed for inclusion of sustainability courses in UMD’s new liberal education program. It met a need for coursework in green chemistry. It met a need for basic toxicology training for Chemistry and Biochemistry majors.

Faculty members were responsible for curriculum development. Materials were reviewed by the Department’s Undergraduate Studies Committee. Also, courses were reviewed by the Swenson College of Science and Engineering Curriculum Committee. These interactions introduced the topics of green chemistry to a wider audience of scientific peers throughout the Department and college and sparked interest in the courses in general and topics in green chemistry in particular. Finally, the faculty teaching these courses will not be restricted to the faculty members involved in course development, allowing other faculty from the Department to become more familiar with the concepts of green chemistry. This familiarity may encourage them to include some discussion of green chemistry in their other courses.

Chem 1105 — From the Industrial Revolution to Green Chemistry

This existing course was given a face lift. It will be offered in spring 2013. It will: study the industrial processes that have led to our current standard of living; review the complex interconnections of societal needs, environmental impacts, economic costs, and their relation to other fields; engage students in active problem solving throughout the course. Particular emphasis will be placed on mining, steel production, and transportation and their impacts to the Great Lakes basin. The goal is to educate non-science majors about the impacts of industrial and technological developments, both historic and modern, and teach them to question the benefits versus costs.

Chem 2901 — Principles of Green Chemistry

This new course provides a sustainability course for Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology majors. It emphasizes principles of basic toxicology and green chemistry. It is scheduled to be offered spring 2014. Green Chemistry - An Introductory Text by Mike Lancaster will serve as the foundation text for the course. Excerpts from Lu’s Basic Toxicology by F.C. Lu and S. Kacew will supplement Lancaster’s brief coverage of toxicology. The approval of the course into the liberal education program remains on-hold until the interim committee of the Liberal Education Implementation Group makes its review.

Chem 2212 — Environmental Chemistry

This existing course provides a natural science and sustainability liberal education course for non-chemist science majors. It incorporates a green chemistry unit and experiments into the course. It is anticipated to be offered every fall.


Staff gained significant Departmental support for green chemistry coursework. Swenson College of Science and Engineering and Department have made the commitment to support regular offerings of Chem 1105 and Chem 2901. Chem 1105 and Chem 2901 have been approved into the new liberal education program.

Task summary



Develop syllabi

Complete for all three courses

New course approval

Still needed only for Chem 2901

Establish Courses Within the Liberal Education program

Approved for Chem 1105 and Chem 2212 and Chem 2901

Develop lesson plans

Lesson plans are complete for all three courses. Lesson plans have been reviewed by the Department’s Undergraduate Studies committee.

Develop Green Chemistry experiments

Needed only for Chem 2212
Experimental procedures have been completed and reviewed. Testing and validation and finalization of experimental procedures are complete.

Develop Course Assessment Tools

Evaluation of liberal education assessment requirements have been completed for all three courses. Possible course assessment metrics have been discussed with the Department’s assessment representative. Course assessment metrics have been developed.

MPCA contact: Mark Snyder

Founded in 1851, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMTC) is a comprehensive public university with over 52,000 students. The university conducted a green chemistry curriculum development project in 2012 as part of a grant with the MPCA.


In 2011, the MPCA issued a series of grants to support the development of Green Chemistry and Design curricula at more post-secondary institutions in Minnesota and strengthen the Minnesota and national network of post-secondary faculty teaching aspects of Green Chemistry and Design. UMTC was awarded one of these grants to develop an undergraduate laboratory experiment for organic chemistry students.


The goal of the project was to design a renewable resource polymer experiment suitable for adoption in the sophomore-level organic chemistry course. It would replace an existing experiment that illustrates the recycling of a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottle into a thermoset plastic. By demonstrating the use of renewable feedstocks, use of catalysts and production of biodegradable materials, this experiment will exemplify advances in the development of polymers which meet many of the criteria defined by the principles of green chemistry.

Project steps

The project began with the research of potential renewable resource chemistries for investigation. A plant-based monomer, δ-decalactone, used in the flavor and fragrance industry was found to polymerize in bulk (requiring no solvent) and under catalytic conditions at room temperature.

Once a monomer was selected, a series of trials were conducted to identify a catalyst that would efficiently polymerize δ-decalactone and be resilient in a teaching laboratory. Through persistent experimentation, it was discovered that an acidic catalyst of hydrochloric acid in ether was effective in the synthesis of the desired poly[δ-decalactone] along with being commercially available, inexpensive and highly volatile, making it easy to remove at the end of the experiment. The resulting polymer prepared was a viscous oil that could be analyzed by 1H NMR spectroscopy and the percent conversion and molecular weight of the polymer readily determined.

To synthesize a polymer with more tangible properties, additional research was conducted to explore using the poly[δ-decalactone] in creating a copolymer. These studies established that adding L-lactide using a Sn(Oct)2 catalyst would result in a copolymer that exhibited sticky to rubbery properties depending on the efficiency of the polymerization and quantity of L-lactide incorporated

Curricula developed

Once the experimental design was completed, course materials were developed and the experiment was tested during the 2012 summer session course (120 students) and 2012 fall semester (420 students) in the organic laboratory course, 2311. The first step of the synthesis was to prepare the poly[δ-decalactone], with students working in pairs. Two days later, the students removed the hydrochloric acid/ether catalyst and added the L-lactide to synthesize the copolymer. With the exception of a few groups, the procedure was successful and the targeted polymer was obtained as a clear, thin, flexible film. The students analyzed the final product by 1H NMR. Feedback from the students and TAs this fall indicated that although many of them found the polymer chemistry and worksheet challenging as a new topic not generally taught in organic chemistry lectures, overall students were enthusiastic to learn about renewable and sustainable polymers for the future. A manuscript of these results is in preparation for publication in the Journal of Chemical Education.  

MPCA contact: Mark Snyder

St. Catherine University (St. Paul, MN) is a liberal arts and professional education university that conducted a green chemistry curriculum development project in 2012 as part of a grant with the MPCA.


In 2011, the MPCA issued a series of grants to support the development of Green Chemistry and Design curricula at more post-secondary institutions in Minnesota and strengthen the Minnesota and national network of post-secondary faculty teaching aspects of Green Chemistry and Design. St. Catherine University was awarded one of these grants to develop a lab to introduce green chemistry concepts at the general chemistry level and develop a project at the organic chemistry level that requires students to compare greenness of two reactions.


Since every chemical has some level of toxicity associated with it, declaring a chemical reaction to be green can only be done in comparison with another. This requires all aspects of a reaction to be assessed, including cost, yield, energy requirements and environmental impacts of the starting materials and products. The general chemistry lab experiment introduces the 12 principles of green chemistry and revamps an existing lab experiment to demonstrate them.

Organic chemistry labs often focus solely on techniques and provide little guidance for students to gain understanding of the impact of their work on scientific advancement and effects on human health and the environment. The organic lab experiment was designed to provide students the opportunity to compare and assess the impacts of all components of two different chemical reactions that yield the same product, allowing students to think more deeply about what they are actually doing in their lab work.

Lab experiments developed

The general chemistry lab experiment involves freezing point depression. A procedure was chosen and tested that replaces halogenated hydrocarbons with fatty acids to test colligative properties. A student procedure and worksheet was created for this lab along with a pre/post test to assess student knowledge of green chemistry principles.

Guidelines were prepared for the organic green chemistry synthesis project to help students choose reactions to study for their green chemistry project. Students completed a three-step synthesis of their choosing. For one of the steps they used an alternative reagent. For another step they used an alternative solvent. For those reactions done under multiple conditions students were required to analyze green metrics by creating a chart like the one below. A rubric was created to evaluate student performance on these independent projects. Like the general chemistry lab, a pre/post test was also created in order to evaluate the effect this project had on students understanding of green principles.

Comparison Parameter

Oxidation with H2O2
(change to make pertinent to your reaction)

Oxidation with pyridinium chlorochromate PCC (change to make pertinent to your reaction.)


Corrosive, cancer suspect, explosive.

Lachrymator, volatile




Percent yield



Experimental Atom Economy



E Factor



Reaction time

15 min

2 days

Reaction temp

95° C

Room temperature

Ease of separation



Product Purity


Some Impurities

Any byproducts

Yes - 2 propanol

Yes – Identity Unknown

Waste produced

50 mL hexane, 2 g H2O2, 4 mL H2O, 200 mg Na2SO4

150 mL ethanol, 2 g PCC, 40 mL H2O


The green freezing point depression lab was executed for the first time in the 2012 winter semester. The pre and post tests were issued and showed an increase in awareness of green chemistry principals after the lab was executed. These results indicate that students will be better prepared to apply green principals to green organic chemistry projects that will be completed in their sophomore year.

For the green synthesis lab, a pretest was administered to evaluate student awareness of green principals before undertaking their project. Week one of the project was dedicated to project planning. Project guidelines were administered and explained. Students chose targets and looked up primary literature procedures using SciFinder Scholar. Lab instructors monitored student ideas though the lab session to make sure reactions were feasible and safe for a student’s level of experience. Instructors also assisted in helping students choose alternate procedures that were presumed to be more green based off reagent and solvent selections.
During week two each group had a 30 minute meeting with lab instructors to go over chosen procedures. Students were required to look up hazards of all the chemicals they planned to use along with any special glassware that would be needed. Instructors and research assistants determined which chemicals needed to be ordered and which chemicals were already in stock.
Traditional labs were conducted for two weeks to give time for chemicals to arrive and allow students to make appropriate adjustments to their procedures. Then the students were given six lab periods to complete their projects. One period was given for each traditional step. One period was given for each changed reagent or solvent and one period was given to retry one of their reactions that may not have gone as planned. Students then completed green chemistry metrics analysis on their altered reactions. Compared parameters included hazards, environmental toxicity, cost, execution difficulty, e factor, yield, and amounts of waste produced. From these metrics students determined the greenest route. A post lab was administered to analyze how the independent green chemistry projects changed a student’s knowledge about green chemistry principals.

Over 20 green chemistry projects were presented at St. Catherine University’s annual science symposium. There were several hundred attendees at this event. A student worker funded by the grant also compiled the projects into a single poster for presentation at the Minnesota Academy of Science Winchell Symposium and at the 2012 National American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

MPCA contact: Mark Snyder

Founded in 1858, Winona State University is a comprehensive public university with close to 8,900 students. The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Winona State offers 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs on its three campuses. The university conducted a green chemistry curriculum development project in 2012 as part of a grant with the MPCA.


In 2011, the MPCA issued a series of grants to support the development of Green Chemistry and Design curricula at more post-secondary institutions in Minnesota and strengthen the Minnesota and national network of post-secondary faculty teaching aspects of Green Chemistry and Design. Winona State University was awarded one of these grants to develop a lab to introduce green chemistry concepts at the general chemistry level and develop a project at the analytical chemistry level that requires students to monitor the extent of biodegradation of biodegradable consumer products.


The purpose of this project was to introduce the concepts of green chemistry, green engineering and lifecycle analysis into the General Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry and Composite Materials Engineering curriculum through laboratory exercises and lecture materials on biodegradable polymers. Advanced students will also research new biodegradable polymer composite materials.

Curricula developed

Two new lab experiments were developed for the General Chemistry course. Both look at the degradation of biodegradable plastic, polylactic acid (PLA) in compost conditions. The first looks at the effects of temperature by monitoring the extent of degradation through gravimetric weight lost at three separate temperature conditions. The second experiment looks at the extent of mineralization in the form of carbon dioxide after PLA has degraded in compost over time. In this case, students measure the amount of carbon dioxide generated through an acid-base reaction. Along with the lab experiments, a new lecture assignment was produced for this course. It uses the example of a single-use container to introduce systems thinking.

Two lab experiments used in the Analytical Chemistry course were modified to consider the greenness of the analytical method being introduced. One experiment has students investigating natural water for an analyte of their choosing using a method they select from choices available on the National Environmental Methods Index (NEMI) web site. The second experiment is a “design your own lab” project where students previously had to find a method, modify the method to fit their particular kind of samples, formulate a hypothesis, develop a quality control plan, and then discuss the significance of their results using, among other things, the tools of statistics. Now they must do all that plus consider the greenness of their method.  

In addition, a new lab experiment, “Fluoroimetric Measurement of Changes in Molecular Weight for a Biodegradable Polymer” was developed for the Analytical Chemistry course where students monitor the extent of degradation of a biodegradable polymer (PLA) that has decomposed for a set period of time in a compost mixture, similar to the General Chemistry course. However, rather than measuring the extent of degradation by simple weight loss or titration of mineralization products as is done in the General Chemistry class, changes in the molecular weight of the polymer are measured by fluorescence and refractive index, based on a similar experiment where the molecular weight changes of polyethylene glycol (PEG) were measured by fluorescence. Because PLA does not fluoresce naturally like PEG does, a derivitization reaction was necessary. As a polymer degrades, the molecular weight should decrease. Students were able to see this molecular weight decrease quicker and with more sensitivity that just bulk weight loss. The learning objectives met by this new activity include a) the use of a fluorimeter and refractometer, b) dilution and molecular weight calculations, c) derivitization techniques, and d) solid phase extraction. 

Principles of Green Engineering were introduced to three courses in the engineering curricula: Engineering Design and Graphics, Properties of Materials and Introduction to Composite Materials.

The Engineering Design and Graphics students were assigned a project titled “Electricity Generation from Renewable Sources” where the task for the groups of four or five students was to design, describe, and construct a functional prototype model to demonstrate production of electricity from renewable energy sources of wind, solar, or hydroelectric systems. 

For the course “Properties of Materials,” groups of three or four member students were required to give presentations on the “Green Technology Innovations” with emphasis on “Materials and Technology in Renewable Energy Generation and Prevention of Global Warming.” Their task included preparation of a structured talk with an outline, organized content, descriptive pictures, graphs, and tables to explain the scientific background and fundamentals on the mechanisms of energy production, conversion, or recovery for the green energy technology of their choice. They needed to discuss the materials selection and materials engineering issues in detail. They were expected to explain environmental concerns on the fabrication methods and materials used and recycling polymers and composites applied in the energy production units. 

The green engineering concepts were incorporated into the Introduction to Composite Materials course by addition of topics on bio-polymers and natural fiber reinforcements. 

Bio-Polymers: These materials that have economic and environmental advantages over petroleum-based materials can be derived from both plant and animal sources that are abundantly found in nature. A broad range of chemical methods are employed to utilize natural triglyceride oils as a basis for polymers, adhesives, and composite materials.

Natural fibers: are primarily obtained from plants bast (such as flax, jut, hemp), leaf (sisal, henequen, and abaca), seed (cotton, kapok, and coir), grass stems (sugarcane, bamboo, wheat, rye), and wood. The advantages of using plant fiber in composites are high modulus per weight ratio; renewable, low cost, biodegradable, and improvement of rural economies. Detailed information on various plant fibers, their properties, and applications are included in the course content.

Additionally, an in-depth student research project titled “Prolonging the Structural Integrity of Poly-Lactic Acid Based Composites” was conducted to evaluate the effects of a thin polyurethane protective coating on the degradation rate of PLA at high humidity and high temperature conditions, and to investigate the performance and degradation characteristics of PLA matrix/natural fabric composites. The results of thermal and mechanical testing revealed that the reinforced samples degraded faster that the plain specimen and the polyurethane coating decreased the degradation rate for PLA only on the first seven weeks of the weathering experiments.

The results of the project were presented at the MnSCU Conference of Undergraduate Scholarly and Creative Activity held at Mankato State University and the Society of Plastics Engineers-Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition held in Troy, Michigan and will be presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, LA.


Forum on green chemistry curriculum grant projects

Co-sponsored by the MPCA and the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum. the Green Chemistry in the Classroom event featured presentations and discussions of successes and challenges in developing curriculum and integrating green chemistry principles into the classroom.


Brian GuteBrian Gute has a M.S. degree in Toxicology and the focus of his thesis and subsequent research has been the application of structure-activity relationship (SAR) principles, quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) modeling of toxicologically-relevant properties for various chemicals. In addition to his research experience, Mr. Gute has been involved in the training of undergraduate and graduate students since 1998 and has been teaching general chemistry and liberal education chemistry courses at the University of Wisconsin – Superior and the University of Minnesota – Duluth since the spring of 2008.

U of M – Duluth Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry website.

Dr. James WollackJames Wollack completed his B.A. in chemistry at St. John’s University and his PhD in chemistry at the University of Minnesota. He currently is assistant professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN where his research interests include green chemistry and conducting bioorthogonal reactions on enzymatically modified proteins. He is a 2009 graduate of the ACS summer school on green chemistry. This experience inspired him to implement over a half dozen green chemistry labs while at Hamline University and St. Catherine University. This included a green oxidation using WO4, a CrO3 resin-based oxidation, a Suzuki reaction in water, a liquid CO2 extraction of limonene form orange peels, and solventless Wittig, Aldol, and Deis-Alder reactions. He also currently serves as secretary for the Minnesota section of the American Chemical Society.

St. Catherine University Chemistry Department website.

Jane WissingerJane Wissinger has been the Organic Laboratory Director for the Organic Lab course (2311) at the University of Minnesota since June of 1998. She is the author of the laboratory manual for the course and has continually improved the curriculum by including green chemistry content and experiments. Dr. Wissinger attended the National Science Foundation sponsored “Green Chemistry in Education” workshop in Oregon during the summer of 2008. She has been a leading proponent of incorporating green chemistry into the chemistry department at the University of Minnesota and has shared green chemistry information and materials with fellow faculty members and graduate students who are now teaching green chemistry in other academic institutions.

U of M Department of Chemistry website.

Dr. Jeanne FranzDr. Jeanne Franz is a professor of Chemistry at Winona State University. She has extensive experience in curriculum and program revision. She, along with colleagues in Biology and Geoscience, designed an Environmental Science degree. Its graduates are currently employed in industry, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations doing work in environmental science. She has also designed several new courses since her arrival at Winona State. These courses include a 100-level environmentally focused liberal arts course and a 400-level Environmental Chemistry course. More recently, Dr. Franz has been involved in a campus-wide initiative to bring sustainability into the Winona State curriculum resulting in an inter-disciplinary minor being offered for the first time in fall of 2011.

Winona State Department of Chemistry website.

Dr. Maryam GramiDr. Maryam Eslamloo-Grami is a professor of Composite Materials Engineering at Winona State University. She has numerous publications and one patent on creating new and energy efficient synthesis methods. In addition to the 19 years teaching and doing research at Winona State University, Dr. Grami has a history of research cooperation with the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH. Her research activities are focused on synthesis and processing of materials through energy efficient and environmentally friendly methods.

Winona State School of Engineering website.


Other information sources

Sign up for MPCA Green Chemistry Educator email list

The project team, including St. Olaf Professor Paul T. Jackson and University of Oregon Professor Julie Haack, invite you to join a Minnesota hub on the national Green Chemistry Education Network to learn about upcoming opportunities to partner with educators around the state. Visit the Green Chemistry Education Network website to join. Thanks to Julie Haack and the University of Oregon for making this possible.


The MPCA has been exploring the most effective means for state government to promote wider use of Green Chemistry and Design. The MPCA has pursued this exploration as part of its 22-year-old Pollution Prevention program, to arrive at both life-cycle environmental improvement and a more profitable and sustainable economy.

The MPCA is researching and evaluating a number of mechanisms for supporting broader use of Green Chemistry:

  • Grants to Minnesota companies in various sectors to pursue Green Chemistry, Engineering and Design improvements in products;
  • Improved multi-stakeholder networks to facilitate awareness and information exchange (including the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum, annual Minnesota Green Chemistry conferences, and the Environmental Initiative’s Chemicals Policy stakeholder process);
  • Integration of Green Chemistry information and best practices into existing State-funded assistance services;
  • Broadening markets for Green Chemistry and overall greener products through State purchasing, facilitation of greener private-sector supply chains, and use of existing or new tax incentives;
  • High-level State Green Chemistry initiatives and policy proposals;
  • Grants and networking to strengthen Green Chemistry education.

Learning from this exploration of potential state government programs supporting Green Chemistry will be reported to the Governor and Minnesota Legislature periodically to inform future policy decisions.

Additional resources for green chemistry education