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Designer solvents promise revolutionary pollution solution

SAN DIEGO - New designer liquids that can replace hazardous and polluting organic solvents are poised to revolutionize industrial chemistry and dramatically reduce pollution at its source, according to researchers.

The designer solvents, known as ionic liquids, are the subject of a major five-day symposium, April 1-5, at the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. More than 80 papers will be presented during the symposium.

"Ionic liquids mean that organic chemistry has entered the 21st century. Things will never be the same again," says leading green chemist Ken Seddon, Ph.D., a professor at Queen's University of Belfast in Northern Ireland and one of the symposium's organizers.

Ionic liquids, which are chemically similar to table salt, are liquid at room temperature. Table salt doesn't turn into a liquid until it's heated to nearly 1500 F (800 C).

Unlike organic solvents, many ionic liquids do not evaporate or escape into the atmosphere easily. Another advantage of the liquids is that they can be recycled and reused as solvents many times. Solvents are widely used in many industries, and by individuals, for cleaning, degreasing, stripping and thinning. Examples of well-known organic solvents include acetone, kerosene and naphtha. Ionic liquids can be tailor-made to dissolve a vast range of substances.

The potential market for ionic liquids is huge. Currently, about $6 billion worth of organic solvents are used worldwide by the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries. A French company already is using ionic liquids to manufacture plasticizers, chemicals that soften brittle plastics.

Researchers have also designed and synthesized ionic liquids that remove cadmium and mercury from water, which could be used to clean up industrial effluent. When ionic liquids come in contact with contaminated water, they snatch and sequester met
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Contact: Charmayne Marsh
202-872-4445
American Chemical Society
25-Mar-2001


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