In Memoriam: Wolfgang Sachtler (1924–2017)

Wolfgang SachtlerThe catal­y­sis com­mu­nity mourns the loss of one of its for­ma­tive and most influ­en­tial fig­ures, Pro­fes­sor Dr. Wolf­gang Max Hugo Sachtler, who passed away on Jan­u­ary 8, 2017. Born on Novem­ber 8, 1924 in Delitzsch, Ger­many, Pro­fes­sor Sachtler received his PhD from the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity Braun­schweig (Brunswick), Ger­many in 1952, in the area of sur­face sci­ence. Upon grad­u­a­tion, he joined the Royal Dutch Shell Lab­o­ra­tory in Ams­ter­dam where he stayed until retire­ment as Direc­tor of Fun­da­men­tal Research in 1983. From 1963–84, he held a joint appoint­ment as Pro­fes­sor at the National Uni­ver­sity in Lei­den. He was par­tic­u­larly known for his insight­ful appli­ca­tion of sur­face sci­ence con­cepts to catal­y­sis. While at Shell and Lei­den, he advanced the con­cept of rela­tion­ship between metal-oxygen bond energy and the selec­tiv­ity for par­tial oxi­da­tion prod­ucts in hydro­car­bon oxi­da­tions, ini­ti­ated insight­ful dis­cus­sions on whether mol­e­c­u­lar or atomic oxy­gen is nec­es­sary for selec­tive epox­i­da­tion of eth­yl­ene, applied ther­mo­dy­nam­ics and exper­i­men­tal mea­sure­ments to metal alloys to account for the effects of the sur­face com­po­si­tions of alloys to their bind­ing of adsor­bates, and pro­moted the descrip­tion of bimetal­lic catal­y­sis in terms of ensem­ble and lig­and effects.

He joined North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity in Evanston in 1983 as the V.N. Ipati­eff Pro­fes­sor of Cat­alytic Chem­istry and the first Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Catal­y­sis and Sur­face Sci­ence, where he con­tin­ued his pro­lific and influ­en­tial pro­fes­sional career. He was a lead­ing fig­ure in the design, syn­the­sis, and detailed inves­ti­ga­tion of gen­e­sis of metal­lic par­ti­cles in zeo­lites, their chem­i­cal prop­er­ties, and cat­alytic reac­tion mech­a­nisms. He pro­vided the first evi­dence of proton-induced cationic metal clus­ters in zeo­lite. Later, he broad­ened his research port­fo­lio to include NOx abate­ment by selec­tive cat­alytic reduc­tion strate­gies and hydro­car­bon con­ver­sions cat­alyzed by strong acids. He was among the first to rec­og­nize that trace amounts of alkenes were nec­es­sary for the low tem­per­a­ture iso­mer­iza­tion of butane over sul­fated zir­co­nia. In all, he con­tributed 440 schol­arly pub­li­ca­tions to the literature.

His work was rec­og­nized with the E. V. Mur­phree Award and the Petro­leum Chem­istry Award of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal Soci­ety, the Eugène Houdry Award of the North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety, the Rideal Lec­ture­ship Award of Fara­day Div. Royal. Chem. Soc., R.L. Bur­well Lec­ture­ship Award of North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety, François Gault Lec­ture­ship Award of Euro­pean Fed. of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties, Ger­man Soci­ety Coal and Fuel Sci­ence award (DGMK-Kolleg). He was a mem­ber of the Royal Nether­lands Acad­emy of Sciences.

In addi­tion to his many sci­en­tific con­tri­bu­tions, many of his friends and col­leagues would remem­ber his wel­com­ing and friendly per­son­al­ity and his con­sis­tent will­ing­ness to help. He offered a very timely help­ing hand to help pro­fes­sional col­leagues as they sought to escape East­ern Europe dur­ing the cold war era. He guided var­i­ous young sci­en­tists at Shell and at Lei­den who later became lead­ing fig­ures in the field. At North­west­ern, he men­tored a large num­ber of stu­dents and post-doctoral fel­lows, many of them have taken lead­er­ship posi­tions in com­pa­nies and who would pay him fre­quent vis­its, some as recent as late last year.

He is sur­vived by his wife of over 60 years Anne-Lore and by three chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.
Harold Kung
North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity
The North­west­ern web site also con­tains a state­ment cel­e­brat­ing the accom­plish­ments of Pro­fes­sor Sachtler (

Obituary for Professor Khi-Rui Tsai

Pro­fes­sor Khi-Rui Tsai, a promi­nent pro­fes­sor of Xia­men Uni­ver­sity and a mem­ber of Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sci­ences, passed away peace­fully on Octo­ber 3rd 2016 in Xia­men at his age of 104.

Pro­fes­sor Tsai is a famous phys­i­cal chemist and catal­y­sis sci­en­tist. He is a pio­neer of coor­di­na­tion catal­y­sis and mol­e­c­u­lar catal­y­sis in China. In 1960s, he devel­oped the­o­ret­i­cal con­cepts of catal­y­sis by coor­di­na­tion acti­va­tion, and applied the prin­ci­ples of coor­di­na­tion catal­y­sis to cor­re­late sev­eral types of homo­ge­neous catal­y­sis, het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis and metallo-enzyme catal­y­sis sys­tems. In 1970s, he and Prof. Jia-Xi Lu pro­posed inde­pen­dently, from dif­fer­ent approaches, essen­tially sim­i­lar cluster-structural mod­els of Mo-nitrogenase active cen­ters and multi-nuclear coor­di­na­tion acti­va­tion of var­i­ous types of known sub­strates of nitro­ge­nase. Pro­fes­sor Tsai led a team at Xia­men Uni­ver­sity with an aim to bridge the gap between enzyme catal­y­sis and het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis since 1970s. He and his co-workers sys­tem­at­i­cally car­ried out com­par­a­tive stud­ies on the mod­els of active cen­ters and reac­tion mech­a­nisms for nitro­ge­nase enzymes and for het­ero­ge­neous ammonia-synthesis cat­a­lysts. The team also stud­ied the effects of ionic pro­mot­ers in N2 hydro­gena­tion to ammo­nia and CO hydro­gena­tion to methanol and ethanol. Pro­fes­sor Tsai pro­posed a unique mech­a­nism for the direct con­ver­sion of syn­gas to ethanol. Up to 1997, Pro­fes­sor Tsai pub­lished more than 200 research arti­cles. He got three times the State Nat­ural Sci­ence Award owing to his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to catal­y­sis sci­ence. In 1999, he was awarded the He-Liang-He-Li Foun­da­tion Award for Progress in Sci­ence and Technology.

In addi­tion to the sci­en­tific activ­ity, Pro­fes­sor Tsai also served as a mem­ber of the 3rd national com­mit­tee of the Chi­nese People’s Polit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence, the deputy to the 3rd, 4th and 5th National People’s Con­gress and a mem­ber of the Aca­d­e­mic Degree Com­mis­sion of the State Coun­cil. He was the vice pres­i­dent of Xia­men Uni­ver­sity and the direc­tor of the Sci­en­tific Aca­d­e­mic Com­mit­tee of Xia­men Uni­ver­sity. Pro­fes­sor Tsai also served as a coun­cil mem­ber of Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties (IACS). Pro­fes­sor Tsai is also a big edu­ca­tor. He was a remark­able ambas­sador for Xia­men Uni­ver­sity and a shin­ing exam­ple of what all edu­ca­tors should aspire to be. He imbued his stu­dents with firm ideals and beliefs, pro­vided them with a strong moral com­pass, guided them using his incred­i­ble wealth of knowl­edge, and treated them all with benevolence.

Pro­fes­sor Tsai’s pass­ing is a mas­sive loss not only to Xia­men Uni­ver­sity but also to the catal­y­sis com­mu­nity in China. Pro­fes­sor Tsai will be greatly missed by his fam­ily, friends, col­leagues, stu­dents and those who work in catal­y­sis field.

In Memoriam: Juan F. Garcia de la Banda (1921–2015)

Juan_F_Garcia_de_la_BandaJuan Fran­cisco Gar­cía de la Banda was born in Madrid (Spain) in 1921. He stud­ied Chem­istry and Math­e­mat­ics in the Uni­ver­si­ties of Val­ladolid, Oviedo and Madrid, com­plet­ing his Bach­e­lor Degree in 1943. In 1948 he pre­sented his PhD dis­ser­ta­tion (“Rela­tion between calorific con­duc­tiv­ity and vapor pres­sure of high boil­ing point sub­stances”) super­vised by Pro­fes­sors Foz-Gazulla and Colom­ina and car­ried out at the Insti­tuto de Química Física “Roca­solano” (IQFR) of the Span­ish Coun­cil for Sci­en­tific Research (CSIC).

He stud­ied in Bris­tol between 1951 and 1952 with Pro­fes­sor William E. Gar­ner with Dr. Den­nis A. Dow­den at the Catal­y­sis Group at ICI. After­wards, he returned to Spain, within the frame­work of the IQFR and founded the “Lab­o­ra­tory on Catal­y­sis”, which became the birth­place of the Insti­tuto de Catáli­sis y Petroleo­química (ICP) in 1975. He was the first Direc­tor of the ICP and the indi­vid­ual most respon­si­ble for enhanc­ing the scope and qual­ity of research in catal­y­sis and bio­catal­y­sis in Spain.

He par­tic­i­pated in the First Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Catal­y­sis (ICC) held in Philadel­phia in 1956 and main­tained per­sonal and pro­fes­sional links with many U.S. catal­y­sis researchers, espe­cially through his per­sonal friend­ship with Dr. Heinz Heine­mann through­out their careers. He pro­posed and orga­nized the 1st Iberoamer­i­can Sym­po­sium on Catal­y­sis, held in Madrid in 1968, the first in a series that will cel­e­brate its 25th edi­tion this year in Montevideo.

Pro­fes­sor Gar­cia de la Banda served in sev­eral influ­en­tial posi­tions within the research and devel­op­ment and sci­en­tific struc­ture at the high­est lev­els in the gov­ern­ment of Spain. He is with­out doubt the most influ­en­tial and impact­ful pro­moter of catal­y­sis research in Spain in the 20th cen­tury and the key indi­vid­ual in the for­ma­tive years of the catal­y­sis com­mu­nity in Spain.
His pres­ence and his sage advice will be missed.
Dr. Enrique Sas­tre
Vice-Director, Insti­tuto de Catáli­sis y Petroleo­química, CSIC,
Madrid, Spain.

In Memoriam: John T. Yates, Jr. (1935–2015)

John_YatesPro­fes­sor John T. Yates, Jr. received his B.S. degree from Juni­ata Col­lege and his Ph.D. in phys­i­cal chem­istry from M.I.T. After three years as Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Anti­och Col­lege, he joined the National Bureau of Stan­dards, first as a NRC Post­doc­toral Research Fel­low and then as a mem­ber of its sci­en­tific staff. His research in the fields of sur­face chem­istry and physics, includ­ing both the struc­ture and spec­troscopy of sur­face species, the dynam­ics of sur­face processes, and the devel­op­ment of new meth­ods for research in sur­face chem­istry, kept him at the fore­front of this field of sci­ence through­out his long and dis­tin­guished career.

Pro­fes­sor Yates joined the Uni­ver­sity of Pitts­burgh in 1982 as the first R.K. Mel­lon Pro­fes­sor of Chem­istry and as Found­ing Direc­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of Pitts­burgh Sur­face Sci­ence Cen­ter. He estab­lished and led the Sur­face Sci­ence Cen­ter and men­tored 40 Ph.D stu­dents and more than 100 senior researchers at Pitts­burgh. He moved to the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia in 2006 as a Pro­fes­sor and Shan­non Research Fel­low; there, he estab­lished a new research pro­gram in Sur­face Sci­ence and became active in the new field of astrochemistry.

Pro­fes­sor Yates served as Asso­ciate Edi­tor of Chem­i­cal Reviews and of ACS Lang­muir and on the Advi­sory Boards of Chem­i­cal & Engi­neer­ing News and Chem­istry World. He was active as a mem­ber of the AVS Boards of Direc­tors and Trustees and as Chair of the AVS Sur­face Sci­ence Divi­sion, the APS Divi­sion of Chem­i­cal Physics, and the ACS Divi­sion of Col­loid and Sur­face Chem­istry. He chaired three Gor­don Research Conferences.

He was the recip­i­ent of the AVS Medard Welch Award, the ACS Arthur W. Adam­son Award for Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice in the Advance­ment of Sur­face Chem­istry, the ACS Peter Debye Award in Phys­i­cal Chem­istry, and an Alexan­der von Hum­boldt Senior Research Award. He was elected to the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences in 1996. Dur­ing his dis­tin­guished career, he co-authored more than 700 arti­cles in the lead­ing jour­nals of chem­istry and physics.

We mourn his pass­ing as we cel­e­brate his achievements.