Professor Alexis Bell has been selected for the 2007 Michel Boudart Award for the Advancement of Catalysis. The award consists of a plaque and a prize. The Award recognizes and encourages individual contributions to the elucidation of the mechanism and active sites involved in catalytic phenomena and to the development of new methods or concepts that advance the understanding and/or practice of heterogeneous catalysis. The Award selection process emphasizes accomplishments and contributions published within the five preceding years. Candidates are nominated without any restriction of national origin, thus reflecting the international scope of the career and contributions of Michel Boudart.
Alex Bell has been Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1967. He is a world-class leader in experimental as well as theoretical aspects of catalysis and has made a number of lasting contributions to the elucidation of reaction mechanism, the development of structure property relationships, novel methods for chemical synthesis, and the development and application of theoretical methods for catalytic systems. He has elegantly demonstrated how detailed characterization coupled with well-defined kinetic studies and theory can be used to help identify active sites and elucidate the controlling reaction mechanisms for a number of important catalytic reactions over complex metal, metal oxide and zeolite catalysts. His detailed efforts have provided unique insights into the controlling chemistry for N2O decomposition over Fe-ZSM 5, methanol synthesis from CO and CO2 over Cu/ZrO2, the dehydrogenation and selective oxidation of alkanes over vanadium oxides as well as other important catalytic systems. He has demonstrated how the combination of theory and experiment can be exploited to establish the nature of the active sites and thus tailor the design of new materials. Alex recognized the value of in situ methods early in his career and has had great impact on the development of spectroscopic methods in catalysis.
Although experimental methods have been fundamental to Alex’ success, he was one of the first to realize that the identification of plausible reaction intermediates cannot always be made by experimental techniques. Alex and his group have developed a novel biasing transition state search algorithm that can systematically identify multiple pathways, thus eliminating the need for expert intuition. The success of this approach was demonstrated for a wide range of different reaction systems and in particular for reaction paths where other known search strategies have failed. In the isolation of actual transition states, a novel “string” mathematical method was developed that presents a major improvement to the currently-used nudged-elastic band and conjugate gradient methods. The methods have been incorporated into the QChem commercial software code and when used to model catalytic systems will have a lasting impact on homogeneous, heterogeneous and biocatalysis.
In addition to his outstanding research accomplishments, Alex is a leader in educating students and advancing the field of catalysis and reaction engineering. He is the Editor in Chief of Catalysis Reviews and is on the editorial board of many important journals in catalysis. He has been involved in the organization of many events for the North American Catalysis Society and the International Congress on Catalysis, where he is the current President. In these leadership positions, and as a spokesman for catalysis in the National Academy of Engineering, Alex has had great impact in guiding and focusing the field of catalysis and in helping to set and maintain the standards needed to keep it thriving.
Alex will give a plenary lecture at the 2007 North American Catalysis Society (NACS) meeting in Houston as well as at the meeting of the European Federation of Catalysis Societies (EFCATS) in Turku, Finland. The Boudart Award for the Advancement of Catalysis is sponsored by the Haldor Topsøe Company and is administered jointly by the NACS and the EFCATS. The Award is presented biennially in odd numbered years. More information on this award and the award process can be found in the Awards folder on the NACS home page www.nacatsoc.org.