CHALLENGES IN THE TEACHING OF ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY FOR THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF A SUSTAINABLE CHEMISTRY
In recent years human activity has gone through a series of transformations, that enabled us to have a higher quality of life, many of them achieved through Chemistry. However, their negative impact on the planet cannot be overlooked. In the face of this situation, Green Chemistry arose as a new philosophy in the early 90s; its fundamental objective is the design of products, as well as the development and implementation of processes, that reduce or eliminate the use and generations of hazardous substances. This proposition implies the application of innovative solutions that improve process efficiency and that must be applied to the complete cycle that surrounds any chemical product, including design, control, manufacturing, and even its use and disposal.
All of the above implies a challenge, in which the Analytical Chemistry’s body of knowledge and applications have a big role to play. Therefore, this discipline’s instruction must be oriented towards providing its future professionals with certain skills and knowledge, which would allow them to develop chemical processes that fit accordingly to the principles of Sustainable Chemistry.
Traditionally, Analytical Chemistry’s teaching methods are oriented towards the field of chemical and instrumental analysis; the experimental part, on the other hand, is limited to a specific type of work which follows pre-established techniques, as well as the use of relatively sophisticated instrumentation. Nevertheless, this discipline’s domain is much larger, and can significantly contribute on the design and development of chemical processes, following an escalation on an industrial level. In order to achieve this, the study of chemical equilibriums that may occur simultaneously is essentially in the search of an optimization, which allows selective reactions with less reactants and a lower waste production.
The logical sequence in Analytical Chemistry’s teaching methods follows an acknowledgement of the fact that chemical reactivity implies electron transference and dissolved reactants, either in pure solutions, or in mixtures at any temperature.
On the other hand, the study of acid base equilibriums and complex compounds is fundamental for its contribution to selectivity. Other heterogeneous equilibriums (such as extraction and ionic exchange) are also of great utility in the field of chemical separation processes. It also has to be stated that analytical instrumentation does not only allow the obtention of a product’s qualitative and quantitative data, or the monitoring of a process on real time. It also contributes important information for the processes’ design according to a sustainable chemistry. There are innumerable examples that can be quoted in this relation: electrosynthesis applications, selective electrodeposition, separations and studies regarding mechanisms and reaction rates.
The objective of this proposal is for the future chemistry professionals to receive a formal education that embodies theoretical knowledge, as well as the possibility of design and realization of practical and autonomous experiences that respond to specific needs and available material; and, above all, this type of education must provide viable answers to the requirements of Sustainable Chemistry.