Alternative starting materials for industrial processes.


In the manufacture of chemical feedstocks and subsequent processing into derivatives and materials, the U.S. chemical industry sets the current standard of excellence for technological competitiveness. This world-class leadership is attributed to the innovation and advancement of chemical engineering process technology. Whether this status is sustained over the next decade depends strongly on meeting increasingly demanding challenges stimulated by growing concerns about the safe production and use of chemicals without harmful impacts on the environment. To comply with stringent environmental regulations while remaining economically competitive, industry must exploit alternative benign starting materials and develop environmentally neutral industrial processes. Opportunities are described for development of environmentally compatible alternatives and substitutes for some of the most abundantly produced, potentially hazardous industrial chemicals now labeled as "high-priority toxic chemicals." For several other uniquely important commodity chemicals where no economically competitive, environmentally satisfactory, nontoxic alternative starting material exists, we advocate the development of new dynamic processes for the on-demand generation of toxic chemicals. In this general concept, which obviates mass storage and transportation of chemicals, toxic raw materials are produced in real time, where possible, from less-hazardous starting materials and then chemically transformed immediately into the final product. As a selected example for semiconductor technology, recent progress is reviewed for the on-demand production of arsine in turnkey electrochemical generators. Innovation of on-demand chemical generators and alternative processes provide rich areas for environmentally responsive chemical engineering processing research and development for next-generation technology.

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