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Like demolition derby cars continually upgrading to face greater and greater challenges, enzymes in the test tube can undergo modifications that make them better and better at solving problems in our everyday lives. But can we evolve them fast enough to clear some of our biggest obstacles?
Our world faces climate, economic, and sustainability challenges that we don’t yet have the tools to fix. "Driving Reactions," a nine-minute short film from Chemistry ShortsTM, explores how directed evolution and the chemical sciences are creating some of these new tools.
"Driving Reactions" explores the power of harnessing nature’s own innovations to solve problems. Featured scientists Professor Hal Alper of the University of Texas at Austin and Nobel Laureate Professor Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology use directed evolution to design enzymes that work as molecular machines, helping create a more sustainable world using the power of chemistry. These new enzymes open the door of scientific progress, creating solutions for recycling waste, creating sustainable fuels, and more efficiently producing materials we use in our everyday lives. "Driving Reactions" focuses on Dr. Alper’s innovative work to design an enzyme that can efficiently degrade PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common plastics found in water bottles and other everyday objects, into infinitely recyclable and reusable products.
"We have the ability to use the power of chemistry to find sustainable solutions for the future." - Hal Alper, "Driving Reactions"
"Driving Reactions" is aimed at high school to college students and can be used as a starting point for discussions around polymer chemistry, enzyme reactions, directed evolution, DNA, and plastic recycling.
Learn more about Professor Hal Alper’s work here: https://utw10252.utweb.utexas.edu/Learn more about Professor Frances’ Arnold’s Nobel Prize-winning work here:http://fhalab.caltech.edu/
Ensuring a safe water supply is one of the most compelling challenges humanity faces in the 21st century. The nine-minute film “Untapped Potential” highlights the game-changing solutions being developed in the chemical sciences.
"Untapped Potential" features environmental and chemical engineering experts who explore how modern chemistry, desalination, and advanced oxidation processes can be used to quell the growing problem of diminishing fresh water sources. Featured specialists include David L. Sedlak, PhD, Professor, University of California Berkeley, Meagan Mauter, PhD, Associate Professor, Stanford University, and William Tarpeh, PhD, Assistant Professor, Stanford University.
"We are experiencing lots of change in our water supply. Our traditional sources are not only less available to us, but we’re demanding more and more of them. As the climate changes, we’re seeing longer periods of drought; and as it gets warmer, more water evaporates. Scarcity is one of our huge problems in the 21st century. We’ve got to look for new water sources – sources like brackish water, municipal wastewater, industrial wastewater – and figure out ways to treat that water to a quality that enables its reuse. When it comes to turning water that’s undrinkable into something that we can put in people’s taps…it's chemistry. That’s the key to solving our problems." –– from “Untapped Potential," fourth in the film series Chemistry ShortsTM.
Learn more about Professor David L. Sedlak’s research at Sedlak Research Group.
Learn more about Professor Meagan Mauter’s research at WE3 Lab.
Learn more about Professor William Tarpeh’s research at Tarpeh Lab.
Global climate change is one of the most important challenges of our time, and chemists and chemical engineers are at the forefront of this effort. One especially promising technology is through Direct Air Capture.
Direct Air Capture makes use of amines, which capture carbon dioxide out of the air through specific chemical bonding. The carbon dioxide is then sequestered by storing it underground so that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is reduced every year. Though repurposing is helpful, it is not a solution. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide every year through sequestration is the only real remedy.
Chemists and chemical engineers are working to scale up this technology to remove 10s of gigatons of carbon dioxide. Key challenges that lay ahead are to find ways to both reduce the cost of this procedure and make it more efficient.
In this film, experts from academia and industry discuss the science of Direct Air Capture and the opportunities it provides.