Meet the Earthwise Team is a series of inspirational and often untold stories about the people behind important solutions, technologies and products that make our lives better and safer every day.
The series presents some of the key scientists and business professionals who have contributed to the development, progress and implementation of the green chemistry products, processes and principles of Albemarle and the Earthwise Initiative.
Albemarle Corporation, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a leading global developer, manufacturer, and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive/transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services.
Earthwise™ is a division of Albemarle Corporation. Earthwise represents a family of products that follows strict environmental-friendly standards, along with practicing green chemistry principles.
Meet Joe Layman
An appropriate place to start is with William J. (Joe) Layman, Jr., who is the Principal Inventor of GreenArmor™, the first fire safety solution in the Earthwise family of products.
Please summarize your background.
I am Joe Layman, Senior R&D Advisor, and have worked at Albemarle since 1990. I graduated with an Associate of Arts from Valencia Community College, a Bachelor Science cum laude from the University of Central Florida, and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Over the years, I’ve received several awards and scholarships from the universities where I studied, as well as awards and recognition from Albemarle for various products and processes I’ve developed. In addition, I hold six US patents and countless corresponding foreign patents and patent applications. With respect to GreenArmor™ alone, I am a principal author of 12 world patent applications.
When did your interest in scientific research start?
As a high school student, I wanted to be a lawyer. My chemistry teacher, Ken Holt, suggested I major in chemistry in college and then go into patent law as a specialty that would differentiate me from other lawyers. In working to put myself through the University of Central Florida, I got a job at the University in the Radiation Safety Office and started my undergraduate research. The chemistry came easily to me and the professors were supportive. As a senior, I was torn between law school and graduate school. Having grown up in flat Florida, when I saw the Blue Ridge and Allegany Mountains of Virginia, I knew that was where I wanted to be. Jim Wolfe was the Chemistry department head and convinced me to work for him. All in all, it was just sort of meant to be and I had good role models and advisors all the way.
How would you characterize your research interests and accomplishments?
My research work has been and continues to be in developing new chemistries and new technologies aimed at improving “atom efficiencies” or reducing the waste and by-products of chemical reactions. Let’s consider the reaction that adds matter together: A + B = C, and C is the desired product. Compare that to A + B = C and D, where only C is a product and D is something you don’t want. When all the reactants become a useful product; then you have seriously reduced waste and by-products. You also manage the energy required for the reaction and the carbon footprint. The concept of atom efficiency is key to green chemistry.
In the effort to improve process chemistry, reduce by-products, waste, energy input and other process parameters, I also aim to design and synthesize molecular scaffolds and technology platforms for the formation of new products. The objective is for products and processes deemed to be environmentally benign or favorable, and to understand how to manufacture them on a larger scale.
As an example of atom efficiency, I perfected the synthesis of a compound used to manufacture analgesics, like Naproxen and Ibuprofen. The process significantly reduced inefficiencies and lowered costs by $750,000 per year for the manufacturer.
At Albemarle, I am best known for inventing the technology that is the platform for GreenArmor products.
Albemarle is the world leader in fire safety solutions. GreenArmor is the next generation of eco-friendly flame retardants. This new product will be marketed under the “Earthwise™ Fire Safety and Polymers” brand name and is a significant breakthrough in the world of brominated fire retardants.
Scheduled to launch for commercial use in early 2011, we believe GreenArmor will be the preferred eco-friendly solution compared to many flame retardants currently on the market, while maintaining the premium performance product attributes.
GreenArmor is non-bioaccumulative and recyclable; it is organically based, rather than mineral-based. It is a polymer, which means the chemical is too large to be absorbed by the body or animal life.
Now that you’ve mentioned GreenArmor, it will be the subject of our next blog post.
Great, I’m happy to tell you all about it.