Carnegie Mellon University Department of Chemistry

About the Department


University Lecture Series
Terry Collins, Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, March 22, 2001, 4:30 P.M.
"The Ethical Imperative of Green Chemistry"
Adamson Wing, Baker Hall


Because we live in a civilization that is not sustainable, sustainability is the biggest single idea in the coming century for universities and other centers of reflection and discovery that can advance its cause. Chemistry is a vital field of creative, intellectual and practical endeavor for achieving a sustainable civilization. Pollution reduction is one of the three great areas of green chemistry.

To attain selectivity in chemical reactions, chemists employ almost the entire periodic table. In contrast, Nature employs relatively few elements and succeeds with its selectivity objectives with sophisticated reagent design. In this strategic difference lies a root cause of much of the damage attributable to chemistry. In next century, one of the most important challenges confronting green chemists is that of moving the elemental balance of chemical technology much closer to that of life processes. In the lecture, it will be shown how a significant step is being taken by our research group in meeting this challenge.

About the Speaker:

Terry Collins is Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. He was born and educated in Auckland, New Zealand, leaving the University of Auckland with his Ph.D. (Warren Roper) in 1978. He is a specialist in inorganic and green chemistry. He began teaching a green chemistry course for upper level undergraduate and graduate students in 1992. He has written widely on the need for the chemical community to adapt itself such that it will be better configured to deal with the technological problems of sustainability.

The research of his group is focused primarily on designing of environmentally friendly oxidation systems. The Collins group designs catalysts that activate the natural oxidant, hydrogen peroxide, to perform old processes carried out by chlorine or chlorine-based oxidants that pollute because of the chlorine as well as catalysts to enable new peroxide-based processes. Catalysts recently developed by the group offer great promise for improving the environmental performance of the pulp and paper industry as well has having broad applications in water cleanup, the textile industry, and in the laundry and cleaning industries.

This work was recognized in 1999 by the award of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (USA) and in 1998 by the award of the Society of Pure and Applied Coordination Chemistry (Japan). Professor Collins is a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar and a Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Professor Collins' group also works on developing molecular magnetic materials.

A new Collins' group web site:
The website casts the group's research program in the general context of ideas about how chemists might deal with the sustainability dilemma. Some of these ideas have been published recently by Professor Collins in Science and presented at a wide variety of international symposia. His prize-winning research is significant to pollution reduction in enormous industrial sectors.