Value of Catalysis

In the Intro­duc­tion to a new book, the impor­tance of catal­y­sis is nicely summarized:

In 1993, the world­wide use of cat­a­lysts amounted to $8.7 bil­lion, with $3.1 bil­lion for chem­i­cals, $3 bil­lion for envi­ron­men­tal, $1.8 bil­lion for petro­leum refin­ing, and $0.8 bil­lion for indus­trial bio­catal­y­sis. In the USA, the total demand for cat­a­lysts was $2.4 bil­lion in 1995 and is fore­cast to rise to $2.9 bil­lion in 2000.

In addi­tion, the eco­nomic impor­tance of catal­y­sis is enormous:

  • Catal­y­sis is crit­i­cal to the pro­duc­tion of 30 of the top 50 com­mod­ity chem­i­cals pro­duced in the USA.
  • Nearly 90% of all US chem­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing processes involve catalysis.
  • $200 to $1000 worth of prod­ucts are man­u­fac­tured for every $1 worth of cat­a­lyst consumed.
  • The value of US goods pro­duced using cat­alytic processes is esti­mated at 17–30% of the US GNP.
  • There is a huge soci­etal ben­e­fit of catal­y­sis for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, since emis­sion con­trol cat­a­lysts are a sig­nif­i­cant sec­tor of the market.

Source of com­piled remarks: Cat­a­lyst Design, by M. Mor­bidelli, A. Gavri­ilidis, and A. Varma, Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Press, New York, 2001.

Canadian Catalysis Lectureship Award 2001 – Dr. Marten Ternan

The Cana­dian Catal­y­sis Foun­da­tion is pleased to announce that Dr. Marten Ter­nan is the win­ner of the 2001 Cana­dian Catal­y­sis Lec­ture­ship Award. He is cur­rently work­ing with a team at the Uni­ver­sity of Ottawa (Bour­gault, Con­way, and Pso­fo­gian­nakis) on mod­el­ing direct hydro­car­bon fuel cells using com­pu­ta­tional fluid dynam­ics. The award con­sists of an hon­o­rar­ium along with fund­ing so that the win­ner can pro­vide a series of lec­tures across Canada. The Cana­dian Catal­y­sis Lec­ture­ship Award is made to a researcher who is rec­og­nized as a leader in a par­tic­u­lar field of catal­y­sis, or some­one who has just com­pleted a new and interesting/controversial piece of work that is not widely rec­og­nized. It is restricted to Cana­di­ans who are cur­rently work­ing in Canada in the area of catal­y­sis, and is intended to pro­vide expo­sure to Cana­dian sci­en­tists and engineers.

Professor Smirniotis recieves award

Dr. Peter Smirni­o­tis (Chem. Eng. Dept., Univ. of Cincin­nati) received the BP Fac­ulty Excel­lence Award for 2000–2001. This newly cre­ated award was pre­sented by Mr. Jon Rad­abaugh, Cat­a­lyst Prod­uct Man­ager of BP.

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 (

Message of Sympathy from President of IACS

Dear Pres­i­dent,
On behalf of the entire catal­y­sis com­mu­nity, I would like to express our sin­cere com­pas­sion to our Amer­i­can col­leagues and to the peo­ple of the United States. We are sad­dened and shocked by the numer­ous deaths and the suf­fer­ing due to the tragic events which have struck your coun­try. More than ever before, it is nec­es­sary to con­ju­gate our efforts through edu­ca­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tion and friend­ship to con­struct a bet­ter world and pre­vent this type of tragedy.

With warm per­sonal regards, Sin­cerely Yours,
Tres cor­diale­ment,
Michel Che
Boris Ime­lik Pro­fes­sor of Sur­face Reac­tiv­ity and Catal­y­sis
Insti­tut Uni­ver­si­taire de France
Pres­i­dent of the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties (IACS)

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.