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