By Ramsey Baden | July 29, 2018
Discovery is part of the fabric of chemistry at Emory, and Dr. Simon Blakey’s lab pushes for discovery every day. Some of his team’s most innovative practices are rooted in sustainability. In Blakey’s words, his lab practices “sustainability on a molecular level.” Blakey’s lab seeks to create methods that reduce the synthetic step counts of lengthy organic syntheses, thereby reducing chemical waste from the lab to allow easier access to complex target molecules.
To accomplish this, the Blakey Lab has implemented a number of sustainable measures. Instead of using bulk copper or silver to perform oxidation, the lab uses atmospheric oxygen instead, where water is the major byproduct. Using a grant from the Green Labs Incentives Fund, the Blakey Lab has purchased equipment to avoid the use of water aspirators, which flush an excess of water down the drain, to perform routine vacuum manipulations. Their lab was awarded another Incentives Fund grant this past year to replace its common oil baths with aluminum heating blocks. “We will never replace those. They will be indestructible until I retire,” Blakey says. “A lot of the improvements that make an impact on sustainability also make an impact on safety. They go hand-in-hand. Oil baths can catch fire. An aluminum heating block can’t.”
Sustainability is an important part of this team’s work, and it enhances their ability to do what they love. Jacob Burman, a rising fourth-year graduate student, says, “There are a lot of people I see doing a job just to have money. I’m doing chemistry because I love chemistry.” Blakey agrees. “Every day we’re in there trying to push the forefront of knowledge.” The Blakey Lab has raised their Green Lab certification from Bronze to Gold in just a year, showcasing the positive impact that their involvement with the Office of Sustainability has had on their laboratory practices. To read more about the Green Labs program, click here.