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What research is driving green chemistry?

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To meet mounting regulations for process sustainability and environmental stewardship, industries around the world are rethinking how they use chemistry. In particular, the desire to replace single-use, toxic, volatile and non-degradable solvents in production with ‘green solvents’ has fueled research into expanding the use of known benign compounds, and characterizing novel biodegradable or recyclable candidates.

Step 1: Analyze the landscape

A search in Scopus with the keywords green chemistry and solvent retrieves >7,600 publications with a steep rise in yearly publications after 2008. Supercritical carbon dioxide and deep eutectic solvent (DES) repeatedly appear in this literature. The publication rate analysis in Scopus for the former reflects its long-time use for extractions in the food industry (e.g., caffeine, hops). DESs are a comparatively new research subject.

Step 2: Explore a topic

DESs are part of a broader SciVal Topic on ionic liquids. This collection of documents with a common intellectual interest emerges from clustering in citations between Scopus records. Scopus displays an analytical overview of the topic, listing the most prolific authors and cited references to start exploring the subject.

Step 3: Identify applications

Scopus keywords reveal broad overlap in applications of DESs and supercritical CO2. Extractions dominate the literature for both solvent types, seconded by the synthesis of organic compounds.

Beyond traditional uses in metal plating and finishing, researchers are applying DESs in drug formulations, analytical chemistry, cellulose and lignin processing, biodiesel purification, and more recently in enzyme-driven chemical transformations or biotransformations.

Step 4: Find experts

The list of Scopus records on DES can be quickly narrowed down with a keyword search for biotransformation. The resulting 300+ publications come from academic institutions around the globe, with the University of Malaya and the South China University of Technology topping the affiliations analysis.

The University of Malaya is the home institution of Prof. Mohd Ali Hashim, an expert on ionic liquids. His work is increasingly cited in subject areas from environmental science and agriculture to energy, molecular biology, and materials science.

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