Steve Ittel receives 2002 Catalysis Club of Philadelphia Award

Dr. Steven D. Ittel of DuPont was awarded the 2002 Catalysis Club of Philadelphia Award during the organization’s annual Spring Symposium, held May 23, 2002 at the University of Delaware. Dr. Ittel is highly regarded for his exploratory research and technology development in the field of organometallic-complex catalysis.

Gabor Somorjai named University Professor and receives National Metal of Science

Gabor Somorjai, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (USA) has been named University Professor. He becomes only the 23rd individual in the entire University of California system to be honored with this prestigious title. Previous holders of this distinction include Glenn T. Seaborg and Melvin Calvin.

Gabor was also among a group of 15 recipients of the US National Metal of Science. This is the highest award for science and is presented by President Bush. As Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, said in 1998 “These are superstars in their respective fields. They’ve contributed a lifetime of stunning discoveries. We can only recognize them once with a science medal, but we applaud them daily for their continual contributions to humankind, to the reservoir of scientific knowledge and for the impact they have on the students they mentor and educate along the way.”

2002 Catalysis Award of the Canadian Institute for Chemistry to Professor Michael Baird

CANADIAN CATALYSIS AWARD: The 2002 Catalysis Award of the Canadian Institute for Chemistry has been given to Professor Michael Baird of Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario. Sponsored by the Canadian Catalysis Foundation, this prize is given in even-numbered years to a researcher who has contributed to the advancement of catalysis in Canada. Michael Baird is an organometallic chemist who combines research in fundamental organo transition metal chemistry with applications to organic syntheses and catalysis. Most recently, Professor Baird has been exploring the utilization of metallocene-like organometallic compounds as homogeneous catalysts/initiators for olefin polymerization, which show interesting solvent-specifc stereochemical behavior, and a wide range of polymerization pathways for various monomer systems.

John Monnier awarded F. G. Ciapetta Lectureship in Catalysis

Dr. John Monnier [] of Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, TN has been awarded the 2002 F.G. Ciapetta Lectureship in Catalysis. This is one of 4 major awards for technical excellence the North American Catalysis Society provides every 2 years, and this award is cosponsored by the Davison Chemical Division of W.R. Grace & Company and The North American Catalysis Society. Dr. Monnier is being recognized for his pioneering work in catalysis research and process development on the epoxidation of butadiene and other non-allylic olefins with supported silver catalysts. This research has led to the identification of over 100 new applications for epoxybutene and its derivatives. In 1996, Eastman Chemical brought on line a 3 million lbs/yr plant to supply 5 new epoxybutene derivatives to the pharmaceutical and agricultural markets.

The Society administers this Lectureship. It is awarded biennially in even numbered years, and the Award consists of a plaque and an honorarium of $5,000. An additional $4,500 is available from the Society to cover traveling expenses. The honorarium is provided completely by Davison. Dr. Monnier is invited to (1) visit and lecture to each of the affiliated Clubs/Societies with which mutually satisfactory arrangements can be made and (2) prepare a review paper(s) for publication covering these Lectures.

Israel Wachs receives 2001 Clean Air Excellence Award

Professor Israel Wachs of Lehigh University’s Chemical Engineering Department has received a 2001 Clean Air Excellence Award. The EPA 2001 Clean Air Excellence Awards program honors outstanding, innovative efforts that help to make progress in achieving cleaner air. The research, sponsored by Georgia-Pacific Corp., has provided the pulp industry with a potentially profitable and innovative third alternative method of processing their waste gases. Using a new process and catalyst developed at Lehigh, the methyl alcohol and mercaptans can be converted to formaldehyde, a building-block chemical used for the adhesives, which find application in the plywood industry. [See or N. Moretti’s article in Pollution Engineering, Jan. 2002, pp 24-28]. The waste gases are simply processed through a plant, which is similar in design to a conventional formaldehyde plant that utilizes commercial-grade methyl alcohol as a feed material. The novel environmentally benign process was conceptually developed and experimentally proven on a laboratory scale (see US Patent Nos. 5,907,066 and 6,198,005 B1 to I.E. Wachs/Lehigh University). The pilot plant studies were performed at Georgia-Pacific’s Brunswick, GA pulp mill on the real industrial waste streams.

The Clean Air Excellence Awards [] Program, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Air and Radiation, was established in 2000 at the recommendation of the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC). The CAAAC is a policy-level advisory group to the EPA. The Awards Program annually recognizes and honors outstanding, innovative efforts that help to make progress in achieving cleaner air.

The award criteria are: (1) the technology is commercially viable and can be widely applied, (2) the technology is cost-effective relative to other air pollution technologies that already exist and (3) the technology is developed at the prototype stage or beyond. In 2000, XononTM Cool Combustion System – Catalytica Combustion Systems, Inc. received an award for developing the XononTM Cool Combustion system to reduce nitrogen oxides by 90 percent. XononTM prevents the formation of nitrogen oxides before they can form and has been applied in Santa Clara, California in an industrial gas turbine.

Multiple ACS Awards for Catalysis Research

Once again, several of the 2002 ACS awards were given to those working in catalysis.

ACS Award for Creative Research in Homogeneous or Heterogeneous Catalysis sponsored by Shell Oil Foundation, Jack H. Lunsford, Texas A&M University. …for innovative applications of spectroscopic techniques to the characterization of solid catalysts and to the elucidation of catalytic reaction mechanisms.

ACS Award in Industrial Chemistry, Bipin V. Vora, UOP, LLC, Des Plaines, IL. …for contributions to breakthrough technologies in key petrochemical industries and for your leadership in two major commercial developments: new selective process for the production of propylene and isobutylene by catalytic dehydrogenation and new catalytic processes critical for the production of linear alkyl benzene based detergents.

Arthur W. Adamson Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Surface Chemistry sponsored by Occidental Petroleum Corporation, D. Wayne Goodman,Texas A&M University. …for his innovative research that has helped bridge the gap between surface science and catalysis, and for his leadership role in a large number of councils that have significantly influenced the direction of surface chemistry.

Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management sponsored by The Dow Chemical Company, to Kurt W. Swogger, The Dow Chemical Company, Polyolefins and Elastomers Research and Development, Freeport, TX. …for his leadership in the development and commercialization of Dow INSITE*Technology which profoundly changed the course and growth of the global polyolefin industry.

Arthur C. Cope Award sponsored by the Arthur C. Cope Fund, Robert H. Grubbs, California Institute of Technology. …for his invention of new transition metal catalysts that have made a major impact on the fields of organic chemistry and materials science.

Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards sponsored by the Arthur C. Cope Fund, Xumu Zhang, The Pennsylvania State University; …for his invention of a toolbox of chiral ligands and his development of homogeneous catalysts that enable practical syntheses of many chiral molecules, especially ones having biological significance.

E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry sponsored by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company and ExxonMobil Chemical Company, George R. Lester, Allied Signal, Inc. (retired). …for his extraordinary contributions to catalytic science and technology and especially for his innovations in environmental control catalysts for automobiles, turbine engines and work places.

George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry sponsored by the George A. Olah Endowment, Gary B. McVicker, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. …for his many contributions to the fundamental understanding of the catalytic transformations of petroleum derived hydrocarbons.

Catalysis is focus of 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize
in Chemistry for 2001 for the development of catalytic asymmetric synthesis, with one half jointly to:

William S. Knowles (St Louis, Missouri, USA) and Ryoji Noyori (Nagoya University, Chikusa, Nagoya, Japan) “for their work on chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions” and the other half to K. Barry Sharpless (the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA) “for his work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions”.

Mirror Image Catalysis

Many molecules appear in two forms that mirror each other – just as our hands mirror each other. Such molecules are called chiral. In nature one of these forms is often dominant, so in our cells one of these mirror images of a molecule fits “like a glove”, in contrast to the other one which may even be harmful. Pharmaceutical products often consist of chiral molecules, and the difference between the two forms can be a matter of life and death – as was the case, for example, in the thalidomide disaster in the 1960s. That is why it is vital to be able to produce the two chiral forms separately.

This year’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have developed molecules that can catalyse important reactions so that only one of the two mirror image forms is produced. The catalyst molecule, which itself is chiral, speeds up the reaction without being consumed. Just one of these molecules can produce millions of molecules of the desired mirror image form.

William S. Knowles discovered that it was possible to use transition metals to make chiral catalysts for an important type of reaction called hydrogenation, thereby obtaining the desired mirror image form as the final product. His research quickly led to an industrial process for the production of the L-DOPA drug which is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Ryoji Noyori has led the further development of this process to today’s general chiral catalysts for hydrogenation.

K. Barry Sharpless, on the other hand, is awarded half of the Prize for developing chiral catalysts for another important type of reaction – oxidation.

The Laureates have opened up a completely new field of research in which it is possible to synthesise molecules and material with new properties. Today the results of their basic research are being used in a number of industrial syntheses of pharmaceutical products such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and heart medicines.

William S. Knowles, 84 years, born 1917 (US citizen). PhD 1942 at Columbia University. Previously at Monsanto Company, St Louis, USA. Retired since 1986.

Ryoji Noyori, 63 years, born 1938 Kobe, Japan (Japanese citizen). PhD 1967 at Kyoto University. Since 1972 Professor of Chemistry at Nagoya University and since 2000 Director of the Research Center for Materials Science, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan (

K. Barry Sharpless, 60 years, born 1941 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (US citizen). PhD 1968 at Stanford University. Since 1990 W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, USA (

Manos Mavrikakis selected for the 2009 Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis

I am pleased to announce that Professor Manos Mavrikakis has been selected for the 2009 Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis. The award consists of a plaque and a prize. The purpose of the Award is to recognize and encourage individual contributions (under the age of 46) in the field of catalysis with emphasis on discovery and understanding of catalytic phenomena, proposal of catalytic reaction mechanisms and identification of and description of catalytic sites and species.

Since 1999 Manos has been with the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Manos is one of the world leaders in the area of computational chemistry in catalysis. He has also served as Visiting Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark. The primary research focus of Manos’ group is the fundamental understanding of surface reactivity, using state-of-the-art first-principles methods, and extensively collaborating with experimental experts. Manos has coauthored more than 80 original publications. He is a member of the editorial board of Surface Science and of the Annual Review of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. Dr. Mavrikakis has pioneered the use of Density Functional Theory (DFT) methods in the screening of pure and alloy metal catalysts to discover which metals or alloys have potential to yield catalysts of improved activity and/or selectivity. Manos has been unique in having used theoretical methods to find new, interesting classes of systems and site-nanostructures. Key to his success here was the use of fundamental principles concerning the relationships between the energetics of certain key intermediates and the activation barriers for the rate-controlling steps to make this screening procedure faster.

In particular, Manos demonstrated that possibility by identifying bimetallic alloys which bind atomic H as weakly as the noble metals (Cu, Au), but are able to break the H-H bond in H2 more easily than noble metals. Such Near-Surface-Alloy (NSA) materials are ideal for low temperature, highly selective, H-transfer reactions (e.g., in pharmaceutical production), and energy related catalytic applications. Also, Manos’s group systematically studied Oxygen Reduction Reaction (ORR) on a number of late transition metals, including bimetallic and ternary alloys of Pt. The result of that work was the construction of stable, ternary NSAs, which contain much less Pt, and are up to a factor of four more active than pure Pt ORR electrocatalysts. Manos also has discovered many interesting aspects of catalytic reaction mechanisms that have inspired the field. In particular, very recently Manos’ group has proposed a novel low-temperature reaction mechanism for the preferential oxidation of CO in the presence of H2, which explains the room-temperature reactivity of Ru-Pt core-shell nanoparticles. The specific nanoparticles were identified by Manos’ group from first-principles as very active and selective PROX catalysts, and those predictions were confirmed upon synthesis and catalytic testing of the Ru-core Pt-shell nanoparticles. Manos also followed up his detailed gas-phase methanol decomposition DFT work with experiments and microkinetic modeling, to show that one can accurately predict experimental reaction rates directly from first principles. In the area of water gas shift catalysis, his efforts have led to a completely new water-gas shift reaction mechanism involving carboxyl species on Cu, Pt, and Au surfaces, which is quite general and may be applicable to other low temperature water-gas shift catalysts. Importantly, this mechanism is shown to be operational under realistic industrial water-gas shift conditions.

Manos will give a plenary lecture and be recognized at the 2009 North American Catalysis Society meeting in San Francisco.

The Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis is sponsored by the Davison Chemical Division of W.R. Grace and Company. It is administered by The North American Catalysis Society and is awarded biennially in odd numbered years. More information on this award, the awards process, and previous awardees can be found inside the Awards folder on the NACS home page:
John Armor
Award Citation: For his elucidation of the fundamental aspects of the surface chemistry for well-established catalytic processes, and his leadership in the use of Density functional Theory to set directions for future research in the search for new catalysts and new catalytic processes.