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Center for Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes

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Center for Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes  (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Center for Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes (CERSP) at the University of North Carolin, Chapel Hill is a Science and Technology Center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). CERSP conducts research to establish the scientific fundamentals necessary to enable liquid and supercritical carbon dioxide and solvent-free processes to replace aqueous and organic solvents in a large number of key processes in America's manufacturing sector.

More than 30 billion pounds of organic and halogenated solvents are used worldwide each year as process aids, cleaning agents and dispersants. Considerably more water is used and contaminated in related processes. In the 21st Century, manufacturing and service industries must increasingly attempt to avoid production, use and subsequent release into our environment of contaminated water, volatile organic solvents, chlorofluorocarbons and other noxious pollutants. Technological breakthroughs of the last decade now indicate that liquid and supercritical carbon dioxide could become a very commonly-used solvent in overcoming these environmental problems. Many related breakthroughs have been led by CERSP researchers.

Education & Outreach

CERSP works to improve the educational process at all levels to provide a new generation of students with technical and leadership tools to support and implement “green chemistry”. This effort includes using curriculum development, classroom visits, and teacher workshops to enhance science and engineering knowledge among K-12 students and teachers and awareness of the importance of collaboration and how these fields contribute to a cleaner environment and innovation-driven economic development. CERSP also promotes higher education in science with the specific goal of reaching under-represented students  and uses a service-learning course to mentor “at risk” students while providing experience to undergraduates.

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Related Institutions

Georgia Institute of Technology
North Carolina A&T University
North Carolina State University
Sandia National Laboratories
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Texas, Austin


  • computer simulation of molecular structure
Computer simulation of a carbon dioxide-based dry cleaning solvent's molecular structure.
Joseph DeSimone, CERSP