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Greenhouse Gas Replacements

The Search Is On for New Compounds for Consumer and Industrial Use

February 17, 2009

Zhuangjie Li

Zhuangjie Li, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, briefed his Feb. 5 audience at the National Teach-In on Global Warming on "The Industrial Search for Greenhouse Gas Replacements." The threat of global warming has caused many in science and industry to begin searching for new compounds that can replace or reduce our dependence upon greenhouse gases for consumer and industrial use.

One way to reduce global warming is to find environmentally benign versions of the noncarbon dioxide chemicals to use in place of the green house gases with very high global warming potentials that humans have introduced into the environment — most often as solvents and cleaning agents for industrial use and refrigerants and aerosol propellants for consumers. Replacement compounds must have a shot atmospheric lifetime in order to reduce their global warming potential.

Because a greenhouse gas replacement must have the proper physical properties, be nonflammable and low in toxicity and cost, the search for replacements that are safe to use and benign to the environment is challenging. Currently, Li noted, industry focus is concentrating on three compounds as possible replacement for non -carbon dioxide greenhouse gases for consumer and industrial use: hydrofluoroethers (HFEs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), with interest concentrating on HFEs and HFCs.

(Download Li's PowerPoint presentation here)

For questions about Li’s presentation, contact the professor at


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