A Chemical Approach to Sustainability

Summary: Substances we use every day can be formed synthetically, reducing waste.

Petroleum is one of the most taxing substances we as humans require, but it’s a major part of many synthetic goods we continue to rely on. There is a fear that if we continue production at these levels we risk running out of resources required to synthesize these goods.

However, thanks to oligo synthesis, scientists are researching artificial ways to create the substances we need to survive. This means less waste and alternative uses for materials we thought had only a few applications.

How it Works

Every organism needs certain sugars to survive in its day to day life. It gets these sugars through arious means, consumption being a big one for humans, and those sugars are processed in such a way as to perform certain tasks. There are many organisms that process sugar with a carbon bi-product. If we were able to somehow reconfigure these reactions, we could use ethanol to make nylon.

Taken to the extreme, the very air you breathe, with everything carried inside of it, can be re-synthesized to create whatever we need. One can conceive particulates reformed into dry wall siding or carpeting. Literally plucked, as it were, from thin air.

The Role of Synthesis

Any advancement is going to rely on specific reactions, which means DNA synthesis is required to manipulate genetic structures. Custom sequences are key to this breakthrough. Synthesis would be particularly useful in agriculture, where climate change and land scarcity threaten our ability to produce the crops we need to feed people.