ARL scientist recognized as contributor to Presidential award for Green Chemistry
January 29, 2014
ARL scientist Dr. John La Scala was a recognized contributor to the 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for "Sustainable Polymers and Composites: Optimal Design," awarded recently by the Environmental Protection Agency in the conjunction with the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C.
The prime recipient of the award is Professor Richard P. Wool at the University of Delaware who generally focused on using affordable renewable resources to make commodity polymers. Dr. La Scala's contribution focused on developing high-performing polymers, including epoxies and vinyl esters, from renewable resources for Department of Defense (DoD) needs that reduce or eliminate health hazards associated with these polymers. This project was one of five projects awarded this year, and was the only one that focused on university/basic research and development.
"Being good stewards of the environment will reduce incidents of harmful exposure to chemicals resulting in improved quality of life, and will eventually result in reduced costs for chemicals and materials as we become smarter about the materials we use and dispose. In addition, green chemistry enables a new front on innovation, which can result in significant chemical and material advances that would not otherwise come to fruition," said La Scala, who is the chief of the Coatings, Corrosion, and Engineered Polymers Branch.
In this capacity, he supervises research in the fields of adhesives, coatings, corrosion, and surface modification of materials. He also directs research in the field of bio-derived polymers and is the leading DoD scientist among a consortium of universities and other government agencies. In addition, he leads transitions of environmentally friendly polymers to the field and leads partnerships with industry to obtain these for DoD use. Additionally, La Scala is the Army lead for polymer matrix composite resin development.
"I am honored and very happy to be included in this prestigious award. I have been working in the area of green chemistry for 17 years, and it is exciting to see my work recognized in such a meaningful way," said La Scala.
He said, like most areas of research, his focus on high-performance environmentally-friendly polymers will only address a small element of global sustainability. "Nonetheless, it is important that we develop green engineering solutions for energy and for all materials, including polymers for Army applications."
"I am very environmentally conscious in my work and personal life. I very much believe in the concept of green chemistry and engineering, including reduce, reuse, and recycle. Cost and inconvenience are often cited as reasons that prevent inception of environmentally friendly materials and processes.
"However, this is often the result of a short-sighted view of cost and convenience. Surely the contamination of the water supply with toxic chemicals, like we have recently seen in West Virginia, results in costs and severe consequences for the people, community, and businesses affected that outweigh the costs of green engineering to reduce or eliminate use of toxic chemicals."
He received a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia in 1997, and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2002. He was a postdoctoral scientist at Drexel University before becoming an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in 2003. In 2005, he was hired as a federal employee at ARL, promoted to senior scientist in 2007, and appointed branch chief in 2009. Throughout his career, he has continued his work in bio-based thermosetting resins, where he now has 17 years of experience. Since joining ARL, he has expanded his work to thermosetting resins for adhesives and coatings and environmentally friendly polymers for composites, adhesives, coatings and engineering applications. His scientific advances are evidenced by over 50 open literature publications, while his ability to innovate is demonstrated by his numerous patents, his ability to transition new technology to the field and commercial industry, and his numerous awards including: the Secretary of Defense Environmental Excellence in Weapon System Acquisition – Small Program award, RDECOM Environmental Acquisition and Logistics Sustainment Program (EALSP) Sustainable Painting Operations for the Total Army (SPOTA) project (2011) and the 2010 ESTCP Weapons Platform Project of the Year, Demonstration of Composites with Low Hazardous Air Pollutant Contents for Military Applications, among others.
La Scala received the Secretary of Defense Environmental Excellence in Weapon System Acquisition – Small Program award, RDECOM Environmental Acquisition and Logistics Sustainment Program (EALSP) Sustainable Painting Operations for the Total Army (SPOTA) project (2011). In 2010, he received the ESTCP Weapons Platform Project of the Year, Demonstration of Composites with Low Hazardous Air Pollutant Contents for Military Applications, ESTCP (2010). In 2006, he received the Army Research and Development Award, Active Coatings, U.S. Army Research Laboratory. In 2005, he received the SERDP Weapons Platforms Project of the Year, Environmentally Friendly High Performance Composites for Army Applications. Also that year, he received the Army Research and Develop