The politics of chemistry

Published: Thursday 15 April 2004
Unprecedented growth in environmental awareness worldwide in the 1990s forced many chemical industry giants to coin a new word -- Green Chemistry. Half serious and half eyewash, corporate efforts to make chemistry more eco-friendly has been both success and failure. But for the person on the street, chemistry still has a rather forebidding image.

The Chemical Industry Education Centre at the uk-based University of York now wants to change that. This website it has created intends to list out all major industrial chemicals in detail. Some important chemical compounds covered in the first phase are ammonia, benzene, ethanol, nylon, nitric acid and sulphuric acid. The site, going beyond textbooks, describes their manufacturing processes, the environmental problems they create and remedies being sought to minimise ecological damage by them. Written in simple and jargon-free English, each subsection in the site dealing with these chemicals is further simplified with diagrams and photos.

Did you know "the wine you drink has phenol?" And did you know "more than half of 130 million tonnes of ammonia today produced is in developing countries"? The website provides many such interesting bits of information, which also reveal the politics of chemistry.

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