New Ideas for a New Future – Michael Spehalski

Chemically enhancing agricultural yields has been a process used in America since the 1930s and spurred an agricultural boom that has led to an unprecedented production of efficiently grown produce. However, this doesn’t come without adverse effects. Soil leaching, insect immunity to pesticides, and the genocide of native plant life are just a few of the dominos toppling over into a great scheme of environmental harm due to modern agricultural methods. Chemicals are a significant part of these methods, and while the use of these chemicals certainly helps nourish an ever-growing population, it wouldn’t be ludicrous to suggest that they have an equally consequential, and potentially disastrous effect on the world.  

A new agricultural revolution is turning the corner; one revolving around advanced data-driven technology and sustainability. The current overuse of chemicals that contain elements such as phosphorus and nitrates to promote crop growth is due to the lack of oversight and data on crop yields, and it is starting to prove detrimental. A central issue with the use of these types of chemicals in agriculture is that the excess runs off into surrounding water supplies, which causes problems such as algae blooms, soil and water acidification, and general ecosystem disturbance. So how do we fix this? Of course, there is an array of solutions, ranging from complex to astonishingly simplistic answers. A newly emerging form of agriculture that is starting to form is called vertical farming. This process can also use processes such as aeroponics and hydroponics to use significantly less water and energy, but most importantly, fewer chemicals. At this point in time, these forms of agriculture are pretty well researched and are starting to be implemented across the world. However, I have a new vision that could not only complement these techniques but tackle even more environmental dilemmas.  

In the Fall of 2020, my first semester in college, I was awarded the research project manager position within Engineers Without Borders, University of Delaware Chapter. As a project manager, I lead an impressive team of driven individuals researching a newer form of technology called microbial fuel cells (MFCs). While the name seems quite daunting, the idea of it is fairly simple: create electricity from dirt. What? Yes, create voltage from the dirt beneath our feet. Without diving too deeply into the technicalities of it, a microbial fuel cell uses the microbes within the dirt in order to harvest electrons. In a simpler sense, it is a battery. Biomatter such as dirt is sandwiched between an anode and cathode coated in carbon. The carbon acts as an area for the microbes within the dirt to attach to and create larger colonies. As these colonies develop, they let off electrons, thus creating an electron potential between the anode and cathode—just like what the chemical reactions within household batteries do. My team tested and designed prototypes of microbial fuel cells within our university’s lab spaces in order to implement such a prototype in a third-world country abroad. I was also a contributing member to other similar projects such as designing water wells and pumps in the Philippines, which helped me understand the importance of such a technology in this type of area. Within my group, I was the driving force in prototyping and developing testing plans for our MFCs, and in so, I discovered a promising world of applications.  

Before discussing how these intriguing devices can help solve the overuse of chemicals in agriculture, discussing the additional benefits of MFC’s is worth mentioning. The biology and chemistry involved in this process not only creates an electrical current but can also filter wastewater at the same time. In future applications, a wastewater treatment plant can use significantly fewer chemicals and electricity to clean our population’s wastewater. Wastewater treatment facilities use vast amounts of electricity every day as well as consume large amounts of chemicals in order to clean the water. In the future, we can use an MFC process to not only clean the water with less of these chemicals but also power the plant itself at the same time – killing two large birds with one fractionally sized stone. This type of MFC would be designed differently, however, compared to the one used in agriculture. The design of an MFC used in agriculture could consist of having plants grow within the system itself. While the plants or crops grow within the system, an ecosystem of nutrients is created, causing prime conditions for colonies of microbes to grow. These colonies will not only facilitate more electricity within the system but also foster great growing conditions for the crops themselves. With more positive bacteria, oxygen, and other vital nutrients in the soil, the crops don’t need extra chemicals such as phosphorus or nitrates to help them grow—especially in regions where the soil doesn’t have a surplus of nutrients. With this also comes an electrical system that can provide power for data monitoring systems for irrigation and soil health without having to draw from a large power plant. In other words, a farm could be its own power plant and stay off a power grid. Being self-sustaining and off of a power grid that requires constant maintenance further helps the cause of using fewer chemicals as a whole because there wouldn’t be a need for coolants, degreasers, etc., within the mechanical systems of a power grid since there wouldn’t be a power grid.  

Imagining a world of self-performing farms running on dirt seems like something out of a science fiction movie, and that’s because we are quite far away from that reality. However, that is why we start small. Although there is much more research to do for my team to complete, I hope to one day see my research used in one of Engineers Without Borders’ partnering communities where they don’t have the luxury to use chemicals to help produce their own food or clean their water. Testing out an MFC system in this type of community would not only benefit the members of the community but also provide a microcosm of what an MFC agricultural system can do for the world in terms of lessening chemical usage. The environment can be affected by something that seems as minuscule as a pin-drop for the simple fact that the environment has its hand in everything that happens on this planet. Implementing one system such as a self-sustaining MFC not only creates a slew of benefits, but also lessens adverse effects from every industry: agriculture, transportation, energy, construction, infrastructure, and even the economy. Every one of these industries uses chemicals in some sense, so changing one aspect of this interconnected arch of systems, such as putting MFCs into agriculture or wastewater treatment, could be part of an answer to the evermore important question of how we can lessen our chemical use.

History of Women Cosmetic Scientists

History of Women Cosmetic Scientists and Chemical Industry

For both men and women, cosmetics are part of our everyday lives. While cosmetics are synonymous with makeup, there are several products that fall under this category that people of all genders use—lotions, colognes and perfumes, makeup, and hair dye are only a few examples of the cosmetic products you’re undoubtedly familiar with. But have you ever stopped to think about what goes into making these products? Cosmetic scientists are responsible for the creation of our favorite cosmetic products through careful chemical formulation and design processes. The chemical industry and cosmetic industry are two intertwined and ever-evolving industries that female scientists have continuously helped shape throughout history.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what cosmetic science is, and women’s influence on the chemical industry and cosmetic science.

Cosmetic Science & Formulation Design Explained

The term “cosmetics” encompasses a wide range of products, and refers to any item that is applied to the body in some way to alter it, whether in appearance, texture, scent, etc.

Still not entirely sure which of your products are classified as “cosmetics?”

Go into your bathroom, open your medicine cabinet (or look on the shelves), and locate any toiletry product. Chances are, it’s a cosmetic.

Here are some examples of common cosmetic products you probably have:

  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Mascara, eyeshadow, and other makeup
  • Body creams
  • Face lotions
  • Hair gel
  • Nail polish
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair spray

While you may not think twice about what went into making some of your most essential hygienic and beauty products, you may be surprised to find that their origins can be traced back to a lab. Before distributors get their hands on your preferred brand of toothpaste, deodorant, or other cosmetics, the product had to be created with the help of science.

Chemists and chemical engineers are responsible for experimenting and creating specific formulas that are required to manufacture each cosmetic product. While formulas will vary from product to product, each formula will contain unique amounts and types of raw chemicals, known as ingredients, to create the product.

In cosmetic science, these ingredients can be categorized into three general groups:

  1. Functional Ingredients

In cosmetics, a functional ingredient is an ingredient that actually provides the desired benefit to the user of the product.

In perfumes, fragrances are the functional ingredients since they are chemical ingredients responsible for the scent of the perfume when it’s sprayed. In face cleansers and other soaps, chemicals known as surfactants are considered the functional ingredients, since they are emulsifiers and foaming agents that make cleansing possible.

Here are some of the subcategories that raw chemicals used in cosmetics can fall under:

        • Colorants -> give pigment to eyeshadow, lipstick, etc.
        • Conditioning agents -> hair straightening and softening products like conditioner and hair oil.
        • Moisturizing agents -> Found in face and body lotions to help moisturize the skin.
        • Cleansers -> consist of surfactants and emulsifiers, these ingredients are responsible for creating the foaming effect of cosmetic products and properly cleansing the skin.
  1. Claims Ingredients

Claims ingredients are the ingredients in cosmetics that are added in small amounts for marketing purposes. They generally have little to no effect on the functionality or appearance of the cosmetic, yet are marketed as a key ingredient in the cosmetic product to encourage consumers to buy the product.

For example, buzzwords and phrases that you see in large lettering on the front of cosmetic product packaging such as “all-natural extracts,” “vitamins and proteins,” “made with essential oils,” and more fall under this category. In the chemical industry, these ingredients are referred to as fairy dust—and not because they’re actually made with magic.

  1. Aesthetic Ingredients

Aesthetic ingredients are the ingredients that affect the look, feel, and overall appearance of a cosmetic product. Think about it, are you more likely to buy a lotion that is a nice, clean white or crème colored, or one that’s a swamp-colored green?

While aesthetic ingredients aren’t as important as functional ingredients, they still remain more important than claimed ingredients and fall somewhere in the middle of these two ingredients in regard to importance. Here are some of the most popular aesthetic ingredients found in various types of cosmetics:

        • Thickeners
        • Anti-irritants
        • Solvents
        • pH adjusters

Women’s Influence in the Chemical Industry: History of Women Cosmetic Scientists

Before there were state-of-the-art laboratories for cosmetic scientists to work in, some of the first cosmetics ever created were made in homes, spare rooms, and even the great outdoors. The science of cosmetics can be traced back to the ancient world, extending to Egypt and beyond.

Back then, creams, lotions, and makeup products were passed down from generation to generation and mainly consisted of naturally occurring ingredients such as animal fats, materials from nearby mines and quarries, and other natural resources.

While the formulation and manufacturing of cosmetic products look different today than they did thousands of years ago, we could not have created the cosmetics of today without centuries of trial and error, and certain key historical figures—mainly women.

While both men and women use cosmetics on a daily basis, women use about 12 different cosmetics consisting of about 168 different chemicals each day, compared to men who use significantly fewer cosmetics and roughly 85 chemicals each day. Unfortunately, many of these products consist of harmful ingredients that with prolonged use, have been connected to:

      • Various types of cancer
      • Skin irritation
      • Infertility

So, it only makes sense that cosmetic science is one of the few facets of the chemical industry consisting of more women than in other chemical-related fields. As of 2022, nearly half of the cometic scientists are female. While the statistics didn’t always use to be this way, women’s influence in the chemical industry over the years is undeniable, especially when it comes to cosmetic formulation and design.

Historical Women Cosmetic Scientists

In order to better understand women’s influence in the chemical industry, let’s take a closer at some historical female figures that have had a tremendous impact on the industry, and who have not only paved the way for more women to be hired for STEM-related jobs, but also are responsible for the creation of some of your favorite products.

Tapputi Belatekallim

        • Tapputi Belatekallim was one of the first chemists ever recorded in history. She lived in Mesopotamia in the year 1200 B.C. and worked as a royal perfume and salve maker for the king of Babylonia. Evidence suggests that she didn’t just mix scents, but experimented with hundreds of raw materials using advanced chemistry practices to create these cosmetics.

Trotula de Ruggiero

        • Living in Italy in the 12th century, there weren’t very many positions for women in STEM (if any at all), but Trotula de Ruggiero was well ahead of her time and studied gynecology, dermatology, and cosmetic science specifically for creating products for women.

Florence E. Wall

        • Florence E. Wall is one of the most famous women chemists ever. Born in 1893, she started studying cosmetic science from a young age. Not only did she go on to help found an entire institute dedicated to studying the science behind hair dyeing, but she also went on to teach cosmetic science classes at NYU, and found her own program dedicated to the science of cosmetology. Wall has left behind a legacy that continues to impact the field of cosmetic science and chemistry.

Estee Lauder

        • Estee Lauder is a name synonymous with cosmetics. Still, Estee herself didn’t only help found the mega company back in 1948 with her husband, but worked in the lab, experimenting with chemicals to create groundbreaking skincare and beauty products.

For years, the Estee Lauder brand has been dedicated to the innovation of cosmetic products and is even responsible for creating the first hypoallergenic skincare line ever. As the brand continues to push the limits in the chemical and cosmetic industry, it’s important to remember that none of this would’ve been possible without one woman and her experiments with chemicals nearly 75 years ago.

While this is in no way a comprehensive list of all the historically influential female figures in the chemical industry, it does go to show how women were breaking boundaries and influencing the creation of cosmetics even during times it wasn’t considered socially acceptable for them to do so.

Modern-Day Women Cosmetic Scientists

Women like Florence E. Wall and Estee Lauder are only a couple of the historical figures that have changed global cosmetic science and proven how powerful women’s influence in the chemistry industry can be. Thanks to them, the amount of women in this industry is every-increasing.

One of the best examples of women’s influence in the chemical industry is the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. For more than 75 years, the SCC has dedicated itself to advancing the development of new cosmetic ideas and technology, as well as promoting diversity and inclusion in this booming industry.

The SCC is an organization headed by women, with 11 of the 18 board member positions filled by females, including the title of president of the society, which Michelle Hines, Ph.D., currently holds. With chapters all across the globe and new members joining every year, SCC is proof that women are essential in the chemical industry and are responsible for the evolution of the industry from a scientific, and leadership perspective.

Check out these women cosmetic scientists who are shaping the industry at this very moment:

Shuting Hu

      • Founder of the skincare brand, Acaderma, and recipient of an award from the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists for her creation of hyperpigmentation skincare products.

Erica Douglas

      • Cosmetic chemist and beauty industry entrepreneur and educator, Douglas creates innovative skincare and hair products for textured hair and melanated skin tones.

Lindsay Ray

      • Lindsay Ray has dedicated her career to researching proteins found in silk, using her extensive knowledge in chemistry and biology to find ways to add this protein into skincare products for consumers to receive a plethora of benefits. Ray continues to create cosmetic products with innovative and sustainable materials.

These women are only three of thousands of women cosmetic scientists responsible for creating innovative and beloved cosmetic products distributed globally.

Job Responsibilities of Modern Day Cosmetic Scientists

Like any other scientific field, education and experience are essential for becoming a cosmetic scientist. Many, if not all, receive bachelor’s degrees in STEM and go on to obtain even higher levels of education including masters, PhDs, etc.

Modern-day cosmetic scientists are also required to have extensive knowledge and skills in various STEM-related subjects, such as:

      • Mathematics and arithmetic
      • Chemistry
      • Biology
      • Physics

In addition to having various scientific skills, cosmetic scientists are required to be creative in order to come up with original cosmetic formulas and designs for new products. Working in a lab also requires that these types of scientists have great people skills and work well in team settings.

Like with any job, no day is exactly the same, even if the job itself is repetitive. Working in a lab a cosmetic scientist is the same way. While the average day of a cosmetic chemist entails testing ingredients to create new products, the ingredients, products, and several other factors often differ from day-to-day, and continuously make the job more exciting.

Most cosmetic scientists’ job responsibilities consist of spending their days experimenting with different ingredients in the laboratory to create new formulas for cosmetic, or substituting ingredients in existing products with new ingredients. This could be because the manufacturer will no longer carry the ingredient, or because they’re looking for safer, or more effective ingredient options.

Here are some of the general tasks and skills these scientists also do on a daily basis:

  • Handle various forms of laboratory equipment
  • Run several tests to make sure that the cosmetic product achieves the desired benefits
  • Communicate with their team
  • Communicate with their superiors and present new formulas and ideas

The daily work of a cosmetic chemist is no joke. But once formulas have been “approved,” end up being mass produced, and becoming a full-fledged product on shelves in your local big box stores—the job can turn out to be very rewarding.

Importance of Diversity & Inclusion in the Chemical Industry

From scientists to suppliers, women in the chemical industry are making waves and showing every industry why women are not only essential to have on the team, but also leading them. There is an abundance of reasons why you should diversify your company and recruit women:

  • Creates a more inclusive and welcoming environment
  • Equal opportunities lift employee morale
  • A fresh outlook on topics and issues
  • Strong leadership qualities
  • Attract younger workers with a forward-thinking and inclusive culture
  • Help boost productivity levels
  • Strong communication, negotiation, and analytical skills
  • Stronger group effort and overall team spirit

Looking to add more women to your company’s teams?

There are several opportunities for your company to hire more female employees and leaders for every position. From filling marketing positions to engineering positions, try these three recruiting tactics:

  1. Look internally

Any good company knows that hiring internally and promoting existing employees to upper-level positions have several benefits. Not only do promoted employees already know the ins and outs of the company, you already know the employee’s reliability, work ethic, and skillsets.

  1. Recruit college students or recent graduates

Whether you’re looking to fill internships or entry-level positions, one of the best places to look for new recruits is on college campuses. With the increase in the number of young women pursuing degrees and careers in STEM, colleges are a great place to find new hires of various backgrounds and demographics.

  1. Make your company’s mission and beliefs clear

If your company believes in the inclusion of all people regardless of background, then why not say so? Including your company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity on your website is a sure way to let potential female hires and other prospective applicants of minority groups know that your workplace houses an inclusive atmosphere.

However, this technique should not be used as a marketing ploy to recruit minority groups if you don’t plan on following through on your commitment to make your workplace a place for all.

Want to Learn More about Women’s Influence in the Chemical Industry?

As one of the largest and fast-evolving industries in the world, the importance of inclusion and diversity in the world of chemicals is essential to the continued growth of the industry. At Ecolink, we’re not only dedicated to providing companies with innovative and eco-friendly chemical products but also strive to educate the public on the influence of women in the chemical industry.

Reach out to us or read similar blogs here to learn more about women’s influence in the chemical industry!

eco-friendly swaps

Common Swaps for More Eco-Friendly Products

The transition from non-eco-friendly products to eco-friendly products can be a smooth process if you know some of the common swaps. These common swaps are ideal because they are safer, have fewer chemicals, and have additional benefits that put harsher chemical products to shame. Honestly, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t made the swap sooner. 


When it comes to harsher chemical products, there are options out there that have fewer chemicals but results that are just as great, if not better! 

As you know, we love our clean, green chemicals and the variety of uses they offer, including cleaning solutions! Here are some options and considerations for ingredients you can use to be a bit more eco-friendly, including options on a smaller scale as well. 

What to look for in Eco-Friendly Products? 

  • Fewer chemicals. 
  • Reusables or packaging that offers less waste. 
  • Chemicals and additional ingredients that make sense! 
  • Research the supplier or distributor. 
  • Do your research on the ingredients. 
  • Inquiry! Never feel afraid to ask if you are still unsure. 
  • Weigh the risk of using one chemical over another.

Common Swaps for More Eco-Friendly Products  

On a small scale, oils can be used to disinfect different surfaces and areas. Here are a few examples. 

Tea Tree Oil 

  • Cleansing oil that is perfect for removing odors 
  • Antibacterial qualities 

Eucalyptus Oil 

  • Diluted eucalyptus oil can act as a repellent for roaches 
  • Perfect for mold or mildew 

What Ecolink Offers

  • We offer EPA-approved chemicals that will substitute those harsher chemicals that you don’t want! Below are eco-friendly Solvent Solutions that we offer businesses like yours! 
    • Solvent Degreaser 
    • Paint & Expoxy Stripper 
    • Multipurpose  
    • Wipe Solvent
  • Paint Remover

We offer SAFE STRIP—Eco-Friendly Paint Remover which replaces the following ingredients that are found in most products used for paint removal: methylene chloride and benzene.  

  • Multipurpose 

We offer non-hazardous solvents that have multiple uses and replace typical solvents found in vapor degreasing and metal cleaning such as nPB. 

How Can We Help?

In need of bulk, sustainable, eco-friendly chemical products? Ecolink offers additional EPA-approved chemicals as well as other cleaning solutions! Check out our Solvent Solutions page to see what additional products replace those chemicals you don’t want. A member of our team is available to assist you with any additional inquiries! 

borehole water treatment

Borehole Water Treatment Chemicals

Boreholes act as a self-sufficient water source for industrial purposes but can be contaminated with various impurities, like bacteria or toxic chemicals. Usually, borehole water treatment must be treated with specific chemicals to prevent various problems, such as scale formation or contamination. Borehole water will sometimes require pH adjustment through neutralization or oxidation, in order to remove certain contaminants, such as iron or manganese.  

borehole water treatment

How are contaminants like iron removed? 

An oxidant is added to the water, which oxidizes the iron to convert it from a soluble substance into an insoluble salt, making it much easier to remove through filtration. Some common chemical oxidants used for this process include: 

  • Hydrogen peroxide 
  • Sodium hypochlorite 
  • Ferric chloride 
  • Ozone 

Neutralization, or pH adjustment, can be utilized by adding either an acid (to lower pH) or an alkali (to raise pH), in order to improve the efficiency of the treatment. Some common neutralizing agents include: 

  • Sodium hydroxide 
  • Sulfuric acid 
  • Diluted hydrochloric acid 

How is scale formation prevented? 

Scale formation can occur as a result of water hardening, which is caused by calcium and magnesium ions and is prevented by the addition of scale inhibitors. The main goal of scale inhibition is to soften the water, by addition of: 

  • Phosphate ester 
  • Phosphoric acid 
  • Poly (acrylic acid) 

How is borehole water disinfected? 

The most common disinfectant added during water treatment is chlorine or hypochlorite, which kills bacteria and pathogens that can be present in the water.  

Are these chemicals safe for the environment?  

Most of the chemicals used for borehole water treatment present a low concern for environmental harm, but steps still need to be taken to utilize more environmentally preferred treatment chemicals. 

Looking for Borehole Water Treatment Chemicals?

Looking for an environmentally preferred product to satisfy your industrial water treatment needs? You can begin shopping for products here, or you can contact our experts here to find the best product for you! 

finding greener chemicals

Finding Greener Chemicals: A Practical Guide

The color green is sometimes associated with unflattering qualities, such as envy or greed. However, thanks to the green movement, it is now often related to the environment- specifically, protecting the environment and making it safer for both humans and wildlife. Organizations that work with industrial chemicals can support this outlook by replacing toxic solvents with greener chemicals that are better for the environment.   

The Role of Green Chemistry 

Helping the environment by using greener chemicals is made possible by green chemistry, a relatively new branch of the centuries-old science. Green chemistry is defined as the use of chemicals and chemistry practices that diminish the usage and disposal of environmentally hazardous substances.  

Green chemicals have flooded the industrial chemical market with products that are safer than the solutions they are designed to replace. But some of these green solvents offer more safety- or are more efficacious- than others. Therefore, companies should carefully choose green chemicals that meet both their productivity and safety needs.  

Finding Greener Chemicals 

For organizations interested in finding greener chemicals, step one is shopping at a chemical manufacturer that specializes in green chemistry and offers a wide selection of products. Once the manufacturer has been chosen, chemical replacements can be selected. Some valuable factors to look for in green chemicals are:  

  • Biodegradability  
  • No ingredients scheduled for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation 
  • Minimal or no presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) 
  • Minimal or no presence of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) 
  • Low volatility 

These are just a few of the characteristics that environmentally safe chemicals may possess. While they are sometimes present in-stock solutions, custom solutions can also be formulated to provide these excellent safety features as well as high efficacy.  

Looking for Greener Chemicals? 

Whether you’re committed to finding greener chemicals because the EPA is regulating a solvent you use or because you simply want to increase workplace safety, we’re here to help! At Ecolink, we emphasize the use of green chemicals to decrease the environmental impact of industrial solvent operations. Our goal is to supply the safest products possible without sacrificing strength and efficiency.  

In addition to stock solutions, we offer toll blending for customers who are looking for unique green chemical products. We will work with you to create the perfect solvent for your needs.  

To learn more about finding greener chemicals, please call us at 800-563-1305 or send us a message through our contact form. We look forward to providing you with an array of effective green chemical options that are safer than the toxic solvents they replace!