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Introduction to Sustainable Chemistry

The course provides an overview of sustainable chemistry and will equip the students with an understanding of how to assess chemical syntheses and processing routes as well as to design sustainable materials and chemicals.

Sustainable science teaching

“Introduction to Sustainable chemistry” will introduce you to the definitions of sustainability and the UN sustainability goals and the fundamental principles of sustainable chemistry.

You will become familiar with important aspects of environmental law and regulations of chemicals, analysis and assessment of the fate of toxic chemicals, and life-cycle analyses of chemical products and processes.

The course covers important examples of how sustainable chemistry can identify and mitigate environmental and global warming challenges and contribute to sustainable transformation and you will become familiar with safe design of synthesis pathways, processing routes, and products that minimizes the use and generation of hazardous substances.

  • Course structure

    These are some of the topics that will be covered:

    • What is sustainability and sustainable chemistry? Definitions of sustainability concepts and the UN sustainability goals and introduction of sustainable chemistry concepts used in research, scientific publications and industrial practice. 
    • The legacy and possibilities of chemistry. Historical overview of chemistry with examples from the chemical industry. Highlights of how chemistry has improved our lives but at the same time have caused significant environmental problems. Examples of how environmental problems have been mitigated or eliminated by the combination of legislation, technical development and changes in consumers' product choices: freons, DDT, mercury, fire retardants, sulphur in oil (acid rain). We will have discussions about current challenges, e.g. PFAS and the transition away from the petrochemicals (fossil-based carbon), that involve more difficult conflicting goals. 
    • Environmental law and regulations for chemists. Introduction to environmental law and regulations with a focus on EU legislation and REACH. 
    • Life cycle analysis. Introduction to life cycle analysis with case studies of industrially relevant processes and products.
    • Mitigation of anthropogenic climate change. Overview of anthropogenic causes of climate change and global warming and main sources of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Introduction and discussion of main approaches to mitigate anthropogenic global warming with examples of how chemistry can enable new technologies to mitigate green house gas emissions and replace fossil fuels for energy production; e.g. carbon capture and storage (CCS), solar hydrogen, and biofuels. 
    • Renewable materials and recycling. Introduction of the forest industrial processes and products including the biorefinery concept and examples of potential lignocellulose-based products. Overview of Li-ion batteries for cars with identification of critical materials and energy demand and current routes for recycling. 

    Teaching format

    Course will be taught through lectures and seminar assignments.

    Learning outcomes and our expectations of you

    Upon completion of the course you should be able to:

    • Explain the principles and concepts for sustainable chemistry
    • Describe how production of use of chemicals are regulated on the EU-level.
    • Describe important examples of the impact of chemical processes and materials on the environment.
    • Perform light life cycle assessments (LCA) of chemical processes and products.

    You will be expected to:

    • Attend and actively participate in the lectures and seminars.
    • Participate in discussions with other students and the teachers.
    • Read the assigned literature and complete the seminar assignments on time.


    Written exam.

    Written and oral seminar presentations.


    Lennart Bergström


  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course literature

    Note that the course literature can be changed up to two months before the start of the course.

    Lectures 1-5:
    1.    Paul Anastas and Julie Zimmerman, “The Periodic Table of the Elements of Green and Sustainable Chemistry” (provided for free to all students)
    2.    Hand-outs from lectures
    3.    ICCP Climat Change 2021 report, The Physical Science basis, summary for policymakers
    4.    'A systemic approach to the energy transition in Europe', SAPEA, ISBN 978-3-9820301-9-7

    Lecture 6-9:
    Hands out from lectures

    The circular economy Case studies about the transition from the linear economy  (2019) Elsevier, Academic Press,

    • Chapter 1. Geetting hold of the circular economy concept
    • Chapter 2: Circular economy- here and now
    • Chapter 4: Circular economy in actions: Case studies
    • Chapter 6: Circular economy and sustainable development
    • Chapter 7: Full 'circular' ahead

    'Green Chemistry and Technologies', chapter 8.

    Sections 1.3-1.8 (Chapter 1), 2.1 and 2.2 (Chapter 2), and 5.4 (Chapter 5) from Introduction to Renewable Biomaterials: First Principles and Concepts Ali S. Ayoub (Editor), Lucian A. Lucia (Editor) ISBN: 978-1-119-96229-8 November 2017, 288 Pages, available from SU library as an e-book (PDF)


    Lectures 10-12:
    Hand-outs from lectures

    Reading instructions (Curran 2015, page numbers based on e-book)

    • Chapter 1 Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment p. 1-17
    • Chapter 2 Goal and Scope Definitio-12n in Life Cycle Assessment, p. 19-33
    • Chapter 3 Life Cycle Inventory, 3.1-3.8 p. 61-87
    • Chapter 4 Life Cycle Impact Assessment 4.1-4.2 p. 137-143, 4.3.2 Global Warming Potential p. 145-146 (as an example impact category, it is recommended to also briefly look over the other impact categories), 4.5 LCIA Models and Tools p. 157-158
    • Chapter 5 Normalization, Grouping and Weighting in Life Cycle Assessment p. 207-218
    • Chapter 6 Life Cycle Assessment: Interpretation and Reporting 6.1-6.6 p. 225-240

    In addition to the main book (Curran 2015) the following paper is included as course literature:

    • Fantke, Peter, et al. "Exposure and toxicity characterization of chemical emissions and chemicals in products: global recommendations and implementation in USEtox." The international journal of life cycle assessment 26.5 (2021): 899-915.

    Lectures 13: 
    1.    Hand-outs from lectures
    Swedish Chemicals Agency. 2020. Hazard and risk assessment of chemicals – an introduction.
    3.    Understanding REACH

    Lecture 14:
    Hand-outs from lecture

  • Course reports

  • Contact

    Course coordinator and examiner
    Chemistry Section & Student Affairs Office