Carnegie Mellon University

Cleaner, Greener Solutions

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Chemists Break Down Environmental Dangers

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Record numbers of beaches were closed this summer due to pollution. And pollutants released into waterways across the country have become so omnipresent they threaten human and animal health. Fortunately, chemists at Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry are working on solutions.

"This research has an impact that extends beyond industrialized nations," said professor Terry Collins, director of the institute. "Safe, affordable and effective water disinfection is one of the most important technological needs facing developing countries."

Working with enzyme-like catalysts called TAML activators, scientists are finding ways to rid the waters of dangerous pollutants. Short for tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand, TAML activators work with hydrogen peroxide to break down a variety of toxic compounds.

In the lab and real-world situations, TAMLs have destroyed dangerous pesticides, dyes and a multitude of other contaminants, and killed bacterial spores similar to those of anthrax.

Committed to creating cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions to pollution problems, Collins believes TAMLs may also save companies money as they work to meet environmental laws in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

One advantage of TAML technology is that it requires minimal retooling of the chemical processes currently being used by large corporations," said Collins. 

The invention of TAML catalysts is just one of the many achievements of green chemistry, which strives to develop products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.

Related Links: Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry  |  Mellon College of Science