July 21, 2024

Hutchinson – How Green Chemistry and Laundry Mesh

By: Tohko Nohara ‘18

Staff Writer


James E. Hutchison lectured on “Weaving Green Chemistry into Nanotechnology” on Oct. 3 during the 14th Annual Green Chemistry lecture.


Macdonald Auditorium in the Ken Olsen Science Center was packed with students from all majors. Chemistry students received extra credit by inviting friends to the lecture.  


Hutchison shared his chemistry fascinations with the audience. He said, “You can actually create substances no one in the world has created.”


Hutchison and his University of Oregon team had been working on “Linked On Silver”–a new technology designed to put silver nanoparticles on textiles in order to prevent the growth of bacteria. Hutchinson often used laundry as an example in describing these scientific processes, as it is a topic most familiar to college students. The “Linked On Silver” technology, he then pointed out, can reduce the frequency at which one washes clothes.


But why should one be so concerned with reducing this?


A manufacturing of textile, for example, a pair of jeans, consists of 8,000 chemicals and 1,800 gallons of water. An average American household uses a trillion gallons of water to do laundry, which is 25% of household water use. The excess use of detergent leads to eutrophication and it contributes to significant CO2 emission through drying process.

“Linked On Silver” is a technology that slows down wearing out clothes by washing less, which, in effect,  extends the “life” of clothes. It is a synthesis between green chemistry and nanotechnology. Nanotechnology improves the quality of life through new innovation, while green chemistry pursues a deeper understanding and sustains a special regard towards the environment.


The word “synthesis” posed as a prominent concept in the lecture. Green chemistry synthesizes well with a wide variety of majors. In fact, Hutchison inquired the attendee’s majors during the middle of his talk. He then said, “All of these [majors] are important; science will have the best impact when different majors work together.” Green chemistry synthesizes with society as well, as Hutchison said, “Green chemistry is only an academic pursuit unless you take these findings to take it to the market.”


The lecture was directed towards both science and non-science majors. Eimi Percival ’19, a chemistry student, said “most of the fundamental things was not that new. He got into depth having nanoparticles. That was definitely much more graduate level; the specification he used was very interesting. It is not only new for underclassmen, but also for upperclassmen.”


She continued, “He was teaching us about chemistry at the same time as informing about his research.”


On the other hand, Matt Winward ’19 said, “For non-chemistry students, [the talk] might have been difficult although the principle of green chemistry are not something that are restricted to chemistry.”


Gordon’s Green Chemistry website states, “Gordon’s Chemistry Department values green chemistry, as it is practical as well as fitting to the Biblical principle of being a good steward for creation.” As Chemistry Department Chair, Professor Irv Levy is a founding member of the Green Chemistry Education Network and contributed to inviting Hutchison from University of Oregon.

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