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.