Cashews to combat mosquitoes? Top 5 proposals for the Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge

Finalists for this Elsevier Foundation challenge to present their proposals in Berlin, vying for a €50,000 first prize

The finalists of the 2017 Elsevier Foundation Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge are Dênis Alvaro Orjuela, PhD, National University of Colombia; Pires de Lima, PhD, Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil; Chioma Blaise Chikere, PhD, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria; Amandeep Singh, PhD, Oberoi, Chitkara University, India; and Flavie Prézélus, Federal University of Toulouse, France.

Nearly 700 proposals were submitted to this year’s Elsevier Foundation Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge, jointly run by the Elsevier Foundation and Elsevier’s chemistry journals team. The contest invites applicants worldwide to submit ideas for chemistry solutions addressing sustainability challenges in the developing world – energy, water, waste reduction, recyclability, chemistry, agriculture, medicine and more. The second edition of the challenge builds off the success of the first year, which drew nearly 500 submissions and awarded innovative projects in biodegradable textile dyeing technology and sustainable agriculture.

After an extensive review process, the scientific jury selected five finalists, who will have the opportunity to pitch their proposals at the 2nd Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference in Berlin May 14 to 17. First and second place winners will be announced during the conference, with the first prize winner receiving €50,000 and the second prize winner €25,000, to further develop their research.

Rob van DaalenProjects were judged for reproducibility and scalability as well as their innovative potential. Commenting on the growing relevance of innovation in chemistry research, Rob van Daalen, Senior Publisher at Elsevier and co-organizer of the Challenge, said:

With the steadily increasing strain on the planet’s resources, it is chemists’ responsibility to design processes that reduce or eliminate the production of unwanted and hazardous chemicals that can potentially damage the environment. It is very good to see that we have received such good proposals may have a positive effect on the environment, energy problems and health issues.

Ylann SchemmAnother critical factor was each project’s practical applicability in developing countries.

“Ensuring that the applicants use local resources and expertise is paramount,” explained Elsevier Foundation Director Ylann Schemm. “Experience has shown that this is really the only way to ensure sustainability and knowledge exchange in the long run.

“I think we have an amazing line-up,” she added, “and it’s going to be a tough choice for our judges in May.”

Prof. Dr. Klaus Kümmerer, Director of the Institute for Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry, Leuphana University Lüneburg (Photo © Leuphana University Lüneburg).

Prof. Klaus Kümmerer, co-chair of the Green and Sustainable Chemistry Conference, Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s journals Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry and Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy, and chair of the scientific jury, underscored the need for a new direction in the way we think about global challenges and act on them: "The resonance on the announcement was overwhelming; it made it a real challenge to come up with the top five proposals. It demonstrates both the need for and the availability of new ideas to tackle well-known challenges in the developing countries. It also underlines the huge potential chemistry has to contribute to United Nation Sustainable Development Goals – if it's done in a sustainable manner."

The Finalists

Biobased polyurethanes: raw-materials from used cooking oils

Dr. Alvaro Orjuela, National University of Colombia (UNAL), Colombia

Alvaro Orjuela, PhDBadly disposed cooking oil causes major problems in developing countries, contributing to sewage clogging, water contamination and flooding. To combat this, this project proposes a sustainable technology to purify and transform used cooking oils into raw materials for the oleochemical industry to produce plastics, resins, and detergents, offering a cheap, sustainable alternative to commonly used edible feedstock such as vegetable oils and fats.

Dr. Alvaro Orjuela has a PhD in chemical engineering from Michigan State University, and is professor in process design and engineering at UNAL. Dr. Orjuela has conducted research on process design and intensification, reactive separations, bio-based fuels and chemicals, computer aided process simulation, applied heterogeneous catalysis and multiphase equilibria. He recently co-founded PS&E, a start-up company dedicated to process equipment design.

Biosurfactants to Combat Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Dr. Dênis Pires de Lima, Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS), Brazil

Pires de Lima, PhDFlora native to Brazil such as cashew nuts, combined with castor oil, can be successfully used to produce environmentally friendly larvicidals to combat mosquito carrying diseases such as Dengue fever, Chikungunya and Zika virus. This proposal offers an inexpensive and sustainable alternative to conventional insecticides, which are harmful for humans, animals and beneficial insects.

Dr. Pires de Lima has a PhD from the Federal University of Minas Gerais and studied for 2 years at the University of Alberta, before going on to do a post-doc at the University of Liverpool. He is full professor at the Institute of Chemistry at UFMS. His research focuses on the synthesis of potential phenolic antitumor compounds, synthesis of phenolic lipids and chemical transformation of bioactive natural products.

Crude oil-polluted site ecorestoration, Niger Delta, Nigeria

Dr. Chioma Blaise Chikere, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Chioma Blaise Chikere, PhDThe Niger Delta has been devastated by crude oil spills for decades and bioremediation of this land is a major priority for Nigeria. This project proposes to add organic nutrients such as animal excreta to the soil, using the microorganisms’ own capacities to degrade hydrocarbons, to clean up contaminated soil.

Dr. Chioma Blaise Chikere’s area of specialization is environmental biotechnology and petroleum microbiology with focus on bioremediation. She is principal investigator in two research groups: one focusing on the use of molecular microbiology techniques to evaluate microbial population in bioremediation of oil-polluted environments; and the second exploring the therapeutic potentials of underutilized indigenous medicinal plants.

Electrochemical storage of hydrogen in activated charcoal

Dr. Amandeep Singh Oberoi, Chitkara University, India

Amandeep Singh Oberoi, PhDDr. Amandeep SinghOberoi’s project proposes a low-cost storage device to ensure the continuous supply of clean energy from renewable sources. An alternate to Lithium batteries, this proton-flow battery utilizes charcoal from invasive native flora to make a sustainable energy chamber, and couples it with a solar photovoltaic cell to form a viable hybrid system.

Dr. Oberoi has more than 10 years of experience working in industry, teaching and research. He received a grant under the Commonwealth Government Research Trainee Scheme and a scholarship from Victorian Brown Coal Innovation Australia for his PhD at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. His research focus includes solid-state hydrogen storage, proton electrolyte membrane fuel cells, materials for energy storage, heat exchangers and heat sinks.

Green membranes to provide safe drinking water

Flavie Prézélus, Federal University of Toulouse (UFT), France

Flavie PrézélusFlavie Prézélus’s project proposes the development of green membranes to be used to filter safe drinking water in Burkina Faso, one of the least developed countries. The green membranes would be manufactured locally using biosourced and biodegradable solvents, initiating self-sufficiency and ultimately, sustainability, in the production cycle.

Prézélus is currently a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at the UFT. Her research topic concerns the ecodesign of hollow fiber membranes used for drinking water. Prézéluspreviously graduated in chemical engineering from ENSIC in Nancy, France, and in water management from AgroParisTech in Montpellier, France. She is also an active PhD ambassador for Euroscience Open Forum 2018, which will be held in Toulouse.

The judges

  • Prof. Borhane Mahjoub, PhD, Department of Chemistry, High Institute of Agronomy, University of Sousse, Tunisia
  • Prof. Klaus Kümmerer, PhD, Institute of Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany
  • Prof. Regina Palkovits, PhD, Institute for Macromolecular and Chemical Technology, Aachen Univerity, Germany
  • Prof. Joel A. Tickner, Department of Community Health and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA
  • Helmut Krist, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), Bonn, Germany
  • Sam Adu-Kumi, PhD. Environmental Protection Agency, Accra, Ghana

Learn more


Written by

Domiziana Francescon

Written by

Domiziana Francescon

Domiziana Francescon serves as the Elsevier Foundation’s Program Officer and is a strong supporter of the company’s Corporate Responsibility program. Domiziana obtained a master’s degree in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, with a specialization in Publishing Studies. She grew up in Italy.


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