Details of CH5102 (Autumn 2020)

Level: 5 Type: Theory Credits: 4.0

Course CodeCourse NameInstructor(s)
CH5102 Sustainability and Chemistry Amitava Das,
S Sivaram,
Sayam Sen Gupta

Sustainable development has been defined as the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The member states of the United Nations (UN) in 2015 agreed on a collective global mission to transform the planet to achieve a sustainable future. Sustainable technological development would eventually lead to the inclusive growth for the society and thus have a long-lasting global impact. Chemistry undoubtedly will have a central role to play in the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). Although chemical technologies have been a significant factor in the advances in human wealth, health, and well-being over the past two centuries, several chemical processes and products have inadvertently contributed to a range of emerging global problems. These emerging problems must be analyzedand appropriate measures need to be adopted for a sustainable future. Such solutions would entail a systems approach since chemistry in the 21st century is interconnected to the biosphere, the environment, human and animal health, economics, politics, psychology, and the law.

This course aims to introduce students to the current challenges in Sustainabilityand subsequently try to mitigate potential solutions where chemistry can play a central role. In the initial part of the lectures, we propose to discuss the shortfalls, which led to the decline of certain ancient civilizations. This course is planned in a way to make students mentally alert and make them analyze and understand the root causes of the unsustainability of chemical processes and products in select areas like clean synthesis, renewable feedstocks, energy, water, agriculture, greenhouse gas emissions and management, persistent molecular toxins, and endocrine disruptors among others. The course will also discuss potential solutions to these emerging problems using a systems approach. Such an approach will entail teaching students the desired and potential impacts of processes and products at all stages from the sourcing of inputs at the beginning to the final stages of recycling and waste management. The course is significantly, but not primarily technical in nature- it is focused on helping the student to think originally and powerfully in the area of Sustainability, on helping them to cope with the undeniable cultural challenges that are engulfing the current generation and helping them become inspirational leaders for a new sustainable world.

Topic 1: Sustainability and Why Civilizations Fail? (3 lectures)
Definition of Sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that was adopted by all the United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Discuss the reasons for the decline of great civilizations, especially the Harrapan civilization.Discuss the initial success to terminal decay and ultimate collapse due to intrinsic, inescapable biophysical limits combined with an inexorable trend toward moral decline and practical failure of all the great civilizations.

Topic 2: Sustainability Ethics(3 lectures)
Abstract: Discuss the link between ecosystem(a dynamic complex of plant, animal, and microorganism communities and the non-living environment interacting as a functional unit)with theecosystem services(the benefits people obtain from ecosystems) in the context of our biosphere.Discuss the history of industrialization in the last 150 years which have provided us cheap energy, clean water, abundant food, and international travel and its abnormal effects on the biosphere -degrading land, water, air, and the vital ecosystems hosting animals and fish. "How did we get here?" and "How can we square such apparent plenty with warnings of collapse?" Finally, discuss Sustainability Ethics principally using the following ideas:"Tragedy of Commons" (Garrett Hardin inScience1968, 162, 1243), "Remote Responsibilities" and "Precautionary Principles".

Topic 3: Current Challenges for Sustainable Development: Role of Chemistry (2 lectures)
Discuss the current challenges for sustainable development and the central role of Chemistry in addressing these challenges. This would involve discussion on energy, water, resources and habitat, pollution, among others. Discuss the need for a systems approach to solve such global problemssince chemistry in the 21st century is interconnected to the biosphere, the environment, human and animal health, economics, politics, psychology, and the law.

Topic 4: Sustainable Energy (5 lectures)
Discuss how our present lifestyle that is enabled by readily available inexpensive fossil energy, concentrated by nature over tens or hundreds of millions of years into convenient, high energy density deposits of fossil fuels,is unsustainable. Discuss the current energy challenges and the possible energy solutions (solar, wind, nuclear, thermal, geothermal etc)from both global and the Indian standpoint. The course will cover in detail the efforts of the chemists and chemical processes for utilization of renewable sources - more specifically the solar energy. Discuss the success achieved to date versus the grand challenges that limits its widespread usage with special reference to Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC), Fuel Cellsand Biofuels.

Topic 5: Water resources (3 lectures)
Discuss the relation between the Indian population(18% of the world's population) and its usable water resources (4% of the total global usable water resources). Discuss the issues of ground water contamination and contamination of water bodies. Discuss issues with waste-water management which has resulted in closing of several industrial sectors such as textile and leather.Discuss how chemistry can play a huge role in developing appropriate technological solutions (reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, resin-based water purification, etc) for addressing these issues. Discuss the role of inorganic chemistry in providing technical solutions for water treatment and wastewater management in leather and textile sector.

Topic 6: Sustainable chemicals and processes (10 lectures)
Discuss Rachel Carsons Silent Spring (published in 1962) which first brought out the effect of synthetic chemicals (pesticides) in the environment. Discuss heavy metal poisoning (Pb, Hg) and how the lead industry undertook to convince Americans to use its deadly product to paint walls, toys, furniture, and other objects in America's homes, despite a wealth of information that children were at risk for serious brain damage and death from ingesting this poison.Discuss how the use of refrigerants (CFCs) lead to the formation of the ozone hole and development of HFCs as a solution to this problem. Discuss how synthetic chemicals (although hugely beneficial) pose a considerable risk for humans and the environment. Discuss how pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and plasticizers enter the environment and the food chain, causing unwanted effects in addition to the desired ones. Discuss how a cocktail of tens of thousands of chemicals interact with the environment, although. the role of individual chemicals and degradation products in the cocktail remain largely unclear. Discuss the science of persistent pollutants and endocrine disrupting chemicals. Discuss the Tiered Protocol for Endocrine Disruption (TiPED) as a key example of interdisciplinary research for advancing green science Discuss the principles of green chemistry and engineering, as postulated by Anastas and Warner. Examples of green chemistry in the context of green chemical synthesis (atom economy), renewable resources, catalysis and biodegradable materials/polymers will be discussed. Discuss examples of green processes which are currently operational in the industry.

Topic 7: Sustainable agriculture (2 lectures)
Discuss the design of green pesticides for agriculture. Discuss the role of NKP fertilizer that causes the increase in salinity of the soil. Discuss remedies or approaches to improve the salinity index for agri-soil in India.

Topic 8: Environmental Economics and Measuring Sustainability (4 lectures)
Give a brief overview of the economic theories that help us understand where environmental problems come from and what makes something a problem that actually needs to be fixed. Introduce the concepts of externalities, public goods, and open access resources to explain how in situations we often end up with too much pollution and excessive rates of natural resource exploitation. Introduce the tools economists have developed to quantify the value of environmental amenities like clean air and wildlife, which are not traded in a marketplace. Discuss methods, measurements, tools, indicators, and indices that are used to assess the comparative sustainability among potential and often competing options, designs, or decisions, and to measure progress toward achieving the goals of sustainability over time. Focus will be given to understand life cycle analysis of a product or a process. Introduce students to software tool that carry out such assessments.

Topic 9: Case studies (4 lectures)
Discuss the sustainability of biodegradable plastics, biofuels and solar photovoltaics as three case studies using a systems approach. Discuss how a combination of technology, life cycle analysis, economics and policy would be use for analysis.

Pre-major in Chemistry at the 2nd level

Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation, Edited by Tom Theis and Jonathan Tomkin
(link for the online version which is free)
Sections refereed in lectures is from this book
Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail, William Ophuls, Greater Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2012, North Charleston, SC, ISBN-10:1479243140, ISBN-13: 978-1479243143
Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, Univ. California Press, California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public, 2002, ISBN-10:0520275829 ISBN-13: 978-0520275829
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?A Scientific Detective Story, Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, John Peterson Myers, Plume, 1996, NY, ISBN-10:0452274141, ISBN-13: 978-0452274143

Course Credit Options

Sl. No.ProgrammeSemester NoCourse Choice
1 IP 1 Not Allowed
2 IP 3 Not Allowed
3 IP 5 Elective
4 MR 1 Not Allowed
5 MR 3 Not Allowed
6 MS 3 Not Allowed
7 MS 5 Not Allowed
8 MS 7 Not Allowed
9 MS 9 Elective
10 RS 1 Elective
11 RS 2 Elective