According to the EPA, “green chemistry” is defined as:
“…The design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, and use.”
DuPont owns countless patent and patent applications that would fall under the “green chemistry” definition, but unbeknownst to some, green chemistry has been an integral part of DuPont’s business strategy since the company began.
DuPont began in 1802 on the Brandywine River in Delaware. What started out as a gunpowder company with only 40 employees grew to be one of the nation’s largest companies. As an initial producer of explosives, the company was concerned with safe business practices and product stewardship starting on day one.
“It’s built into the company’s DNA,” Dr. Henry Bryndza, Director of Bio-Chemical Sciences and Engineering at DuPont noted. DuPont expanded rapidly within its first century of commercialization and continued its commitment to employee and consumer health and safety; the company established the first industrial toxicology lab in North America, dedicated to product stewardship.
In the early 1990’s, convinced that environmental stewardship went hand-in-hand with good business practices, DuPont created a set of environmental goals to be reached by 2010. By 2006, under the guidance of CEO Chad Holliday, the company had met or exceeded all of the goals, and set new goals for 2015.
Holliday realized that it was imperative to find a more sustainable way for the company and its customers to grow. He helped shape the role of research and development to one that focused on alternatives that were sustainable. DuPont abides by eleven criteria for every research project it takes on, ranging from climate change, energy use, and water consumption, to use of depleting resources.
“Green chemistry and its principles are involved in everything we do, whether it’s the next generation of drought resistant seeds, non-global warming refrigerants, or renewable polymers,” explained Bryndza.
So let’s take a closer look at a green product that’s currently in the works at DuPont: Solamet® metallization pastes. DuPont Solamet® photovoltaic metallization pastes are used in manufacturing solar cells and are designed to raise their efficiency.
The pastes are protected by a variety of patents, including composition patents that cover silver compositions that are used on the front side of solar cells and aluminium compositions used on the back side surface, for example US Patent No. 8,158,504, entitled Conductive Compositions and Processes for use in the Manufacture of Semiconductor Devices–Organic Medium Components.
“DuPont is a leading innovator of photovoltaic (PV) metallizations, sold under the Solamet(r) brand, which have been instrumental in nearly doubling the efficiency of solar cells over the past dozen years,” said Peter Brenner, global photovoltaics marketing manager, DuPont Microcircuit Materials.
“DuPont has been granted nearly 200 patents related to photovoltaic applications globally since the start of 2008, and we have over thirteen hundred patent applications pending in this area globally. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year focused on advancing the efficiency, lifetime and cost competitiveness of solar energy to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels, and as we continue to develop new technology, we need to ensure it is protected.”
DuPont Microcircuit Materials recently filed two lawsuits against PV paste supplier Heraeus and one against its customer SolarWorld, for infringing on DuPont patents for Solamet® photovoltaic metallization pastes.
“We do not ignore theft and infringement and we will aggressively pursue other points in the supply chain where IP theft and infringement exists, including the production and sale of downstream products which incorporate ‘infringing’ materials by cell and module makers, as well as PV system developers, installers and owners,” stated Brenner.
Patent infringement in the clean tech industry is a hot issue, especially since research and development occur so rapidly. However, DuPont is sure to produce many interesting products in the upcoming decades, all while staying true to sustainable business practices.
* Rosemary Ostfeld is a contributor to Green Patent Blog. Rosemary recently completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She will be studying Environmental Policy at the University of Cambridge this fall.