Eric Derouane: A visonary with high intellectual mobility

Eric Der­ouane died on 17th March 2008 from a heart attack in his home in Luz, Lagos, Por­tu­gal. With him, the Catal­y­sis Com­mu­nity has lost one of its strongest and bril­liant scientists.

Born on 4th July 1944 at Péruwelz (Hain­aut), Bel­gium, Eric Der­ouane obtained a Licence degree at the Uni­ver­sity of Liège, B (1965), a Mas­ter of Arts (MA) degree in Chem­istry in Prof. J. Turkevich’s lab­o­ra­tory at Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity, USA (1966) and a Doc­torat ès Sci­ences (PhD) at the Uni­ver­sity of Liège, B (1968), includ­ing a one year (1966–1967) in France at the “Ser­vice de Physique du Solide et de Réso­nance Mag­né­tique, CEN Saclay” in Prof. A. Abragam’s lab­o­ra­tory. He stayed a year (1969–1970) in USA at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity as vis­it­ing Scholar in Prof. M. Boudart’s lab­o­ra­tory. He became Research Assis­tant of the “Fonds National de la Recherche Sci­en­tifique” (FNRS) and Lec­turer at the Uni­ver­sity of Liège, B (1969–1973). In 1973, he was appointed Pro­fes­sor at the “Fac­ultés Uni­ver­si­taires Notre-Dame de la Paix” (FUNDP) in Namur, B, where he cre­ated the Lab­o­ra­tory of Catal­y­sis, of which he remained Direc­tor until 1995. He was on sab­bat­i­cal leaves in 1979 as Research Fel­low with J. Sin­felt at Exxon Res. & Develop. Corp., Lin­den, USA, and in 1982–84 as Research Sci­en­tist, Head of Exploratory Catal­y­sis Syn­the­sis Group at Mobil Res. & Develop. Corp., Cen­tral Research Lab­o­ra­tory, Prince­ton, USA. In 1995, he became Full Pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Liv­er­pool and was appointed Direc­tor of the Lev­er­hulme Cen­tre for Inno­v­a­tive Catal­y­sis (LCIC). In 2003, he obtained the Gul­benkian Pro­fes­sor­ship at the Uni­ver­sity of Algarve in Faro, P, where he was Direc­tor of the Chem­i­cal Research Cen­tre. He became later Invited Pro­fes­sor at the “Insti­tuto Supe­rior Tec­nico” (IST) of the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Lis­bon, where he had exten­sive coop­er­a­tion with the group led by Prof. F. Ramôa Ribeiro.

His main fields of inves­ti­ga­tion dealt with catal­y­sis over zeo­lites in gen­eral, sup­ported met­als, novel mate­ri­als and mixed oxides in par­tic­u­lar, and alkane upgrad­ing and fine chem­i­cals more specif­i­cally. One of Eric’s most strik­ing qual­i­ties was his acute inter­est for every new sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery and for indus­trial appli­ca­tions of his findings.

Eric Der­ouane had an unusual work­ing effi­ciency. He had a high intel­lec­tual mobil­ity and was always attracted by new mate­ri­als and new con­cepts. Among them, one can men­tion ZSM-5/MFI new zeo­lite in the early 70s, lead­ing to a 30 year col­lab­o­ra­tion with J.C. Védrine, cuprate-type super­con­duc­tors, con­fine­ment effect and mol­e­c­u­lar traf­fic con­trol in zeolitic mate­ri­als. He also stud­ied reac­tion mech­a­nisms using iso­topic labelling and in-situ MAS-NMR in the 80s, com­bi­na­to­r­ial catal­y­sis and high through­put tech­nol­ogy in the late 90s.

Dur­ing his 20 years of ded­i­cated ser­vice to the Uni­ver­sity of Namur, Eric Der­ouane devel­oped new con­cepts, which had an impor­tant impact on the catal­y­sis and zeo­lite com­mu­ni­ties. In 1986, he was elected Head of the Chem­istry Depart­ment. He then embarked upon an impres­sive re-structuring pro­gramme to improve its effi­ciency. The model, which he ini­ti­ated, is still in ser­vice today. His lab­o­ra­tory was rec­og­nized as an out­stand­ing school of sci­en­tific research and edu­ca­tion in catalysis.

Very early, Eric Der­ouane real­ized the impor­tance of inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­ity, which lead him to play a key role in the cre­ation of the Insti­tute for Stud­ies in Inter­face Sci­ences (ISIS) at Namur in 1987, which gath­ered lab­o­ra­to­ries of physics and chem­istry for 20 years. Eric Der­ouane also paid heed to tech­no­log­i­cal trans­fer to indus­tries. After his expe­ri­ence gained through his sab­bat­i­cal posi­tions at Exxon and at Mobil, he devel­oped many col­lab­o­ra­tions with indus­trial part­ners and served as consultant.

At Liv­er­pool, the aim of the LCIC was to pro­mote cre­ative fun­da­men­tal cat­alytic sci­ence and often to take-up indus­trial chal­lenges. Eric Der­ouane defined inno­va­tion as “the cre­ation of a new or bet­ter prod­uct or process, imply­ing cre­ativ­ity, use­ful­ness, and appli­ca­tion”. Towards this end, the LCIC had indus­trial affil­i­ates as part­ners. Under his lead­er­ship the LCIC became the largest catal­y­sis cen­tre in the UK.and a cen­tre of sci­en­tific exchanges and col­lab­o­ra­tions. Eric Der­ouane estab­lished links with many UK and inter­na­tional lab­o­ra­to­ries. Eric Der­ouane cre­ated in 1997 an Euro­pean Asso­ci­ated Lab­o­ra­tory “Lab­o­ra­tory for high speci­ficity catal­y­sis” between LCIC/University of Liv­er­pool and Insti­tut de Recherches sur la Catal­yse, Lyon, F/CNRS.

In 1999, he co-founded with Prof. S. Roberts the spin-off Liverpool-based com­pany “Sty­la­cats”, of which he became direc­tor. He pro­vided wise sug­ges­tions and ideas, which lead the com­pany to pio­neer new tech­nolo­gies, in par­tic­u­lar cat­a­lysts for asym­met­ric hydro­gena­tion, microwave-induced reac­tions and enzyme mimetics.

At the Uni­ver­sity of Faro, Eric Der­ouane devel­oped a research project, jointly with the Insti­tuto Tec­nico de Lis­boa, on Friedel-Crafts reac­tions. He also col­lab­o­rated closely on var­i­ous research projects with Prof. F. Ramôa Ribeiro’s zeo­lite group of the Insti­tuto Supe­rior Tec­nico of the Uni­ver­sity of Lisbon.

Eric Der­ouane co-authored over 400 sci­en­tific papers, 11 books and 61 patents.
Eric Der­ouane also con­tributed to the devel­op­ment and strength­en­ing of the euro­pean catal­y­sis com­mu­nity. He cre­ated in 1975 the Euro­pean Asso­ci­a­tion in Catal­y­sis (EUROCAT), a con­sor­tium of Euro­pean lab­o­ra­to­ries under the aus­pices of the Coun­cil of Europe and pro­moted stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of cat­a­lysts: Euro-Pt1 to –Pt4, Euro-Ni1 & –Ni2, Euro­cat zeo­lite, Euro­cat oxides, etc. This Euro­cat group paved the way to the cre­ation of the Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tion of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties (EFCATS) and of the François Gault lec­ture­ship. He was elected Pres­i­dent of EFCATS in 1995 for two years.

He became Editor-in-chief of J. Mol. Catal. in 1982 and was mem­ber of the Edi­to­r­ial Boards of sev­eral sci­en­tific jour­nals and mem­ber of the sci­en­tific com­mit­tees of many con­gresses and col­lo­quia. He co-organized sev­eral con­gresses him­self, in par­tic­u­lar with F. Lemos and F. Ramôa Ribeiro in Por­tu­gal sev­eral NATO Advanced Stud­ies Insti­tutes on top­ics includ­ing “the con­ver­sion of light alka­nes”, “com­bi­na­to­r­ial catal­y­sis and high through­put cat­a­lyst design and test­ing”, “prin­ci­ples and meth­ods for accel­er­ated cat­a­lyst design and test­ing” and “sus­tain­able strate­gies for the upgrad­ing of nat­ural gas”.

Eric Derouane’s con­tri­bu­tions to catal­y­sis have been recog­nised by many awards and aca­d­e­mic hon­ors, includ­ing the Wauters Prize (1964), the Mund Prize (1967) of the “Société Royale de Chimie”, the Stas-Spring Prize (1971) and the Adolphe Wetrems Prize (1975) of the “Académie Royale de Bel­gique”, the Rosetta Briegel-Barton Lec­tur­ership at the Uni­ver­sity of Okla­homa (1973), the Prize of the “Cer­cle of Alumni de la Fon­da­tion Uni­ver­si­taire de Bel­gique” (1980), the Cia­petta Lec­ture­ship of the North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety (1981), the Catal­y­sis Lec­ture­ship of the Société Chim­ique de France (1993) and the pres­ti­gious Franc­qui Prize, B (1994), the high­est honor for all Sci­ences in Belgium.

He was made “Officier de l’Ordre Léopold” in Bel­gium (1990), cor­re­spond­ing Mem­ber of the “Académie Royale des Sci­ences, des Let­tres et des Beaux Arts de Bel­gique” (1991), mem­ber of the “New York Acad­emy of Sci­ences” and Asso­ciate Mem­ber of the “Euro­pean Acad­emy of Arts, Sci­ences and Human­i­ties”. He was con­ferred Doc­tor Hon­oris Causa, Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Lis­bon (1996) Eric Der­ouane attracted many stu­dents and for­eign schol­ars to his lab­o­ra­to­ries in Namur, Liv­er­pool and Faro. His energy, his clear mind and his broad knowl­edge impressed his stu­dents, researchers and col­leagues. He was an out­stand­ing and demand­ing pro­fes­sor, always ready to share his knowl­edge with his stu­dents. His courses were always clear, highly struc­tured and eas­ily under­stand­able. Many of his for­mer stu­dents and post-docs occupy today promi­nent posi­tions in uni­ver­si­ties and indus­tries. All of them will remem­ber his bril­liant and rig­or­ous sci­en­tific approach, and no doubt they all will greatly miss him.
Con­tributed by
Jacques C. Védrine and Michel Che, Paris
Fer­nando Ramôa Ribeiro, Lis­boa
Jian­liang Xiao, Liv­er­pool
Bao-Lian Su, Namur
23 April 2008

Alex Mills: The catalyst chemist

George Alexander Mills

George Alexan­der Mills

, Age 90 of Hockessin, DE died April 28, 2004 at Chris­tiana Hos­pi­tal in Newark. He was born March 20, 1914 in Saska­toon, Saskatchewan, CN and became a U.S. cit­i­zen in 1942. He was a res­i­dent of Swarth­more, PA for 28 years; Bethesda, MD for 12 years; and Newark and Hockessin, DE for 20 years.

Dr. Mills was a chemist for over 40 years, mak­ing major con­tri­bu­tions to indus­trial cat­alytic processes, par­tic­u­larly hydro­car­bon fuels and petro­chem­i­cals includ­ing DABCO for polyurethanes. He was exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Cat­alytic Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware until 1984; chief of the Coal Divi­sion Bureau of Mines; direc­tor of the Office of Inter­na­tional Coop­er­a­tion Fos­sil Energy at the Depart­ment of Energy in Wash­ing­ton, DC; and direc­tor of research at Houdry Process Cor­po­ra­tion (Air Prod­ucts) in Mar­cus Hook, PA.

He received the Henry H. Storch Award from the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal Soci­ety; the Pio­neer Award from the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Chemists; and the E.V. Mur­phree Award in chem­istry from Exxon Mobil Research. He was elected to the National Acad­emy of Engi­neer­ing. He was author and
co-author of 143 arti­cles in tech­ni­cal pub­li­ca­tions and held 60 U.S. patents. Dr. Mills was pres­i­dent of the Catal­y­sis Soci­ety of North Amer­ica from 1969–73. He served as chair­man of both, the Fuels Divi­sion, ACS and the Petro­leum Division,ACS at dif­fer­ent times. He was chair­man of the Philadel­phia Catal­y­sis Club dur­ing the orga­ni­za­tion of the First Inter­na­tional Con­gress on Catal­y­sis (Philadel­phia, 1954–56). Finally he and his work were greatly influ­enced by his close coop­er­a­tion with Eugene Houdry.

He received a BS and an MS from the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan and a PhD from Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, where he stud­ied with Nobel Prize win­ner Harold Urey.
Con­tributed by Thanks to The News Jour­nal (Delaware)