To prevent readers from immediately dashing to their library, let us briefly introduce the concept of green chemistry, prior to examining the role of ionic liquids. To illustrate its importance, and to explain what green chemistry is, and why it is needed, we start by showing you what green chemistry is not. Figure 5.1 is a photograph taken in Central China in 2000, in a beautiful mountainous area frighteningly close to the main panda breeding grounds. Those of you with sharp eyes will spot a factory in the lower right quadrant, swallowed in its own pollution. This is not green chemistry; this is what green chemistry is meant to prevent.
This image clearly represents a grossly undesirable situation; in most modern minds, pollution of this magnitude is considered objectionable. However, this has
Methods and Reagents for Green Chemistry: An Introduction, Edited by Pietro Tundo, Alvise Perosa, and Fulvio Zecchini
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
not always been the case. In 1854, Charles Dickens published Hard Times, a wonderful novel set in Coketown, a fictional town located in industrialised Northern England. The town is described as follows:
It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye.
Half a century later, things had become even worse. In a pioneering book, The Soul of London, widely considered one of the first "modern" novels, Ford Madox Ford wrote in 1905:
Let him [a Londoner] go to one of the larger towns well outside his Home Counties, and he will have it forced in on him that he has no municipal buildings costing well-nigh a million, that he has no ship-canals, that his atmosphere has not half the corrosive properties that it should have to betoken the last word of wealth, of progress, and of commercial energy.
To repeat: "his atmosphere has not half the corrosive properties that it should have to betoken the last word of wealth, of progress, and of commercial energy." Here is our inheritance from the industrial revolution; this is the founding principal upon which industrial chemistry developed worldwide. The basis of the industry that we built is the simple equation:
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