Yes they can. Developing new products, reducing waste and carbon footprints, saving money, and improving profits are all by-products of smart green chemistry.
And that’s the daily challenge for Mahmood Sabahi.
Meet the Albemarle and Earthwise Team is a series of inspirational and often untold stories about the people behind important solutions, technologies and products that make our lives better and safer every day.
The series presents some of the key scientists and business professionals who have contributed to the development, progress and implementation of the green chemistry products, processes and principles of Albemarle and the Earthwise brand.
Albemarle Corporation, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a leading global developer, manufacturer, and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive/transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services.
The Earthwise™ brand represents a family of products that follows strict environmental-friendly standards, along with practicing green chemistry principles and include new green fire safety alternatives to existing fire safety solutions.
Meet Mahmood Sabahi
Please summarize your background.
My name is Mahmood Sabahi; I am R&D Advisor for new products and new processes development at Albemarle Corporation. I am from Tehran, Iran and received my undergraduate and Master degrees at Shiraz University (formerly Pahlavi University). I was awarded my Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at Syracuse University. After teaching at Kerman University in Iran and later at the University of Arizona, I joined Albemarle in 1990. I have worked on new product development throughout my career here, although at one point, I managed R&D for agricultural and pharmaceutical products. Currently, I focus on new products and processes, from the early stage to commercialization.
My research on green processes and technology advancements has earned awards, as well as grants to fund new ideas. I hold 27 US patents and published 15 papers in scientific journals.
Did your interest in scientific research start as a college student?
As the first member of my family to graduate from high school, I was determined to go to university. My parents were very supportive of my education, even though only 5% of high school graduates in Iran went to college. At that time, the University had a collaborative agreement with the University of Pennsylvania. Through the classes taught by some of the best Iranian and Penn faculty, I saw the big picture of science and research. I search for new knowledge, and I have always been inspired by the great thinkers and inventors.
How would you characterize your research interests and accomplishments?
My research covers pure chemistry, applied chemistry, process development, and development and commercialization of new products. I have always tried to understand how the molecules behave and then make them do what I want them to do! I address the needs of society and the market with a focus on the environment, while generating new science, proprietary knowledge and technology, and new products. The majority of these accomplishments are captured in my scientific papers and patents.
As an example, I invented a new class of amine-phenolic antioxidants for automotive oils that received a green recognition letter from the EPA. I also developed greener processes for the manufacture of two commercial antioxidants, one of which is already implemented.
One of these antioxidants is a component in the additive packages for the engine oil of automobiles. The growing market and the need for increased volumes required that we move the manufacturing process to another plant with larger capacity. This represented an opportunity to re-evaluate the production process, especially how to make it greener and more economical. Through intense R&D effort, we eliminated one hazardous chemical, reduced the cycle time and saved energy, eliminated a hazardous waste stream, and improved the atom efficiency of the process by an order of magnitude. Clearly, incorporating green chemistry had an enormous and highly positive impact on many aspects of that production process.
As part of our sustainability efforts, I am working with researchers and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology on the life cycle assessment (LCA) of certain products. The LCA focuses on the systematic analysis of the potential environmental impact of products, taking into account the gamut from the manufacture of components from natural resources to the processes that bring them to the marketplace and finally, their decomposition and return to the nature.
Externally, I am involved in the Green Chemistry Institutes of American Chemical Society (GCI-ACS) and Albemarle sponsored the 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering conference this year. With my colleagues, I participate in round table discussions with other chemical manufacturers; we also monitor the development of sustainability metrics and green standards by GCI-ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and communicate with leaders in academia. Learning from and benchmarking with the leaders of sustainability and green chemistry/engineering in the pharmaceutical industry is another major focus. This year, we are planning to compete for the Presidential Green Chemistry and Green Engineering Award that is sponsored by the EPA.
The industry and the regulatory agencies are focused on quantification of the Green Principles and Sustainability. The pharmaceutical industry is the leader in developing and implementing green and sustainability metrics in their new product development activities. These metrics help to assess the “greenness” and safety of a product and a process. They quantify raw material efficiency (known as atom economy), energy, waste, water, emissions, toxicity, and ozone depletion potential of a production process for a chemical. Some of these measurements are standard practice in our manufacturing. Our goal is to implement these measurements in the early stages of the development of new processes and new products.
We’ll talk more about green metrics in the next blog post.
I’m looking forward to it.