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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, ananlysis and assessment of the fate of toxic chemical, 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

    1. 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. 
    2. 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). Discuss current challenges, e.g. PFAS and the transition away from the petrochemicals (fossil-based carbon), that involve more difficult conflicting goals. 
    3. Environmental law and regulations for chemists. Introduction to environmental law and regulations with a focus on EU legislation and REACH. 
    4. Life cycle analysis. Introduction to life cycle analysis with case studies of industrially relevant processes and products.
    5. 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. 
    6. 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 home assignments.

    Learning outcomes and our expectations from you

    Upon completion of the course you should be able to:

    • Explain the principles and limitations of common sustainability concepts and the UN sustainability goals.
    • Describe important environmental laws and regulations of chemicals in the EU and Sweden, including REACH.
    • Describe important examples of the impact of chemical processes and materials on the environment.
    • Explain the merits and shortcomings of proposed solutions to important environmental and global warming challenges.
    • Perform light life cycle assessments (LCA) of chemical processes and products.

    You will be expected to:

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


    Written exam.

    Written and oral 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 1-3 and 12:
    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 4:
    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
    • Hand-outs from lectures

    Lecture 5:
    Hand-outs from lecture
    McManus, P. (2009) Environmental Regulation in International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Pages 546-552

    Lectures 6-8: 
    1.    Hand-outs from lectures
    2.    Swedish Chemicals Agency. 2020. Hazard and risk assessment of chemicals – an introduction.
    3.    Understanding REACH

    Lectures 9-11:
    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.

    Lecture 13:
    Hand-out from lecture

    'Green Chemistry and Technologies', chapter 8.

    Lecture 14:
    Hand-outs from lecture

    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)

  • Contact

    Course responsible
    Chemistry Section & Student Affairs Office