Who we are?

The North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety was founded in 1956 to pro­mote and encour­age the growth and devel­op­ment of the sci­ence of catal­y­sis and those sci­en­tific dis­ci­plines ancil­lary thereto; to pro­vide edu­ca­tional ser­vices to mem­bers and other inter­ested indi­vid­u­als; to orga­nize and par­tic­i­pate in pro­fes­sional meet­ings of sci­en­tists; to report, dis­cuss and exchange infor­ma­tion and view­points in the field of catal­y­sis; to serve as a cen­tral exchange for the sev­eral catal­y­sis clubs con­cern­ing infor­ma­tion on their activ­i­ties; and to pro­vide liai­son with for­eign catal­y­sis soci­eties, with the Inter­na­tional Con­gress on Catal­y­sis, and with other sci­en­tific orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als, no pecu­niary gain or profit to mem­bers, inci­den­tal or oth­er­wise, being contemplated.

What is Catal­y­sis and what are Catalysts?

Catal­y­sis plays a key part in all our lives and is of vital impor­tance to our present-day stan­dard of liv­ing and qual­ity of life because of the many prod­ucts and energy related activ­i­ties derived from its appli­ca­tion. Catal­y­sis is not an indus­try but a key tech­nol­ogy used by many indus­tries. Catal­y­sis is a phe­nom­e­non by which a rel­a­tively small amount of a sub­stance, called a cat­a­lyst, accel­er­ates the rate of a chem­i­cal reac­tion with­out itself being con­sumed. Cat­a­lysts rep­re­sent a major mate­ri­als indus­try. The 1989 U.S. cat­a­lyst mar­ket was $1.9 bil­lion [$5 bil­lion, world­wide]. In 1999, the cat­a­lyst mar­ket is approach­ing $3 bil­lion in sales. The finan­cial impact of catal­y­sis can be seen not only in the sale of cat­a­lysts (the mate­r­ial) but also in the value of the tech­nol­ogy and the prod­ucts derived there­from. The total value of fuels and chem­i­cals derived through catal­y­sis in the U.S. in 1989 is esti­mated at $891 bil­lion! This rep­re­sents about 17% of the U.S. GNP. World­wide, the value added from catal­y­sis is about $3 trillion.

One exam­ple of a cat­a­lyst is the use of a mixed oxide of alu­minum and sil­i­con for the crack­ing of crude oil to gaso­line. Cat­a­lysts not only enhance the rates of reac­tion, but they also direct reac­tants to spe­cific prod­ucts and thus they find broad use in petro­leum, chem­i­cal, energy and envi­ron­men­tal indus­tries. They are not con­sumed by the reac­tions they aid; thus they func­tion indef­i­nitely unless degraded by heat, con­t­a­m­i­nants, or other fac­tors. Het­ero­ge­neous cat­a­lysts often come in the form of pow­ders, spheres, tablets, wires, and other solid forms as well as a coat­ing. Auto­mo­tive exhaust cat­a­lysts are a typ­i­cal exam­ple of a het­ero­ge­neous cat­a­lyst com­posed of plat­inum, pal­la­dium, and rhodium sup­ported on a thin oxide layer used for con­trol­ling car­bon monox­ide, hydro­car­bons, and NOx emis­sions. An exam­ple of a homo­ge­neous cat­a­lyst is the wide­spread use of a sol­u­ble rhodium com­plex for the syn­the­sis of over a bil­lion pounds per year of acetic acid.

The Pimentel Report, spon­sored in 1985 by the National Research Coun­cil, rec­og­nized the impor­tance of catal­y­sis and rec­om­mended that national pri­or­ity be given to it. The report con­cluded, “Devel­op­ing insights fueled by an array of pow­er­ful instru­men­ta­tion are now mov­ing catal­y­sis from an art to a sci­ence. It is now pos­si­ble to see mol­e­cules as they react on sur­faces … Fun­da­men­tal advances in these var­i­ous facets of catal­y­sis are forth­com­ing that will have great eco­nomic and tech­no­log­i­cal impact … We have many envi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion prob­lems for which we need solu­tions that will match the suc­cess of the cat­alytic con­verter used in auto­mo­biles … Research in catal­y­sis … is one of the research fields that deserve high pri­or­ity.” Catal­y­sis has and will con­tinue to be impor­tant in our search for alter­nate sources of energy and for improve­ments to our envi­ron­ment. A recent report issued by the National Research Coun­cil con­cludes “catal­y­sis is crit­i­cal to two [chem­i­cal and petro­leum & refin­ing] of the largest indus­tries in sales in the US; catal­y­sis is also a vital com­po­nent of a num­ber of the national crit­i­cal tech­nolo­gies iden­ti­fied recently by the National Crit­i­cal Tech­nolo­gies Panel.“
J. N. Armor
6 Feb­ru­ary 2001