n the long run, it seems that nature often has the best answers. One lesson ecology teaches us is that ecosystems continually recycle materials in a self-perpetuating loop, rather than releasing them as waste products to the environment. Working under research grants provided by the State Legislature through the National Environmental Technology For Waste Prevention Institute (NETI), scientists at UMass, together with a consortium of industrial partners, are applying this same principle to pollution prevention.

NETI began as the brainchild of the Massachusetts Chemical Technology Alliance (MCTA), a chemical industry trade group that in 1993 began stirring up interest in researching sustainable technologies to reduce industrial pollution. It was becoming increasingly apparent to the MCTA that traditional "end-of-pipe" approaches to pollution prevention in the chemical industry were becoming outdated and
prohibitively expensive. Believing that better results might be achieved if industrial processes were re-designed to maximize efficiency in chemical use, individuals at MCTA began turning their attention to an emerging theory of pollution prevention called industrial ecology. Industrial ecology compares chemical flows in industrial systems to material and energy flows in natural ecosystems. The idea was to exploit the similarity, and look for ways to recycle and reuse chemicals within an "industrial ecosystem", rather than simply trying to contain them at the end of a cycle. In short, this progressive approach would seek to reduce industrial pollution by limiting the production of chemical wastes in the first place.



"Instrumentation used in the design of a new class of "mesopore molecular sieve membranes" that will recover chemical wastes, including VOCs, from vaporized industrial discharges.

Intrigued by the potential that these "process design solutions" could hold for the chemical industry, Michael DeVito, the Executive Director of the MCTA and a former Massachu setts state representative, approached the University with a vision for a research partnership involving the government, academia, and industry. The partnership would select and fund projects geared towards industry's actual process design needs, thereby avoiding the pitfall of "blue sky", or overly theoretical research with limited real world potential. DeVito was already familiar with the work of James Douglas, anexpert in process design and a UMass professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. To DeVito, basing the partnership at UMass seemed logical ? it was the state's flagship research institution, and it had some of the best scientific minds in the world working on a process redesign to minimize and prevent pollution. DeVito's enthusiasm was infectious, and it wasn't difficult to get others to buy off on his ideas. He soon recruited Joseph Larson, Director of the UMass Amherst-based Environmental Institute, and Senator Robert Durand and Representative Douglas Petersen, both Massachusetts state legislators, to work with him. Through their combined efforts, NETI was bornof an act of the Massachusetts legislature in 1994. Its mandate was to work on improvements in process design, which in the larger context could mean anything from the use of raw materials all the way to reduction of exposure to emissions in the workplace.


Today, five years later, NETI is a run-away success story 32 research projects have been funded to date. For the current funding year, ten research projects are underway involving four academic departments and 16 industrial partners. NETI stands poised to become a national leader in the development of sustainable technology for pollution prevention.

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