The international Acid Base Catalysis (ABC) group is proud to announce the awarding of the first Tanabe Prize for Acid-Base Catalysis to Professor Enrique Iglesia of the University of California at Berkeley.
The Tanabe Prize for Acid Base Catalysis is administered by the International Acid-Base Catalysis (ABC) Group and sponsored this year by the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. It is named to honor the legacy and accomplishments of Professor Kozo Tanabe, who pioneered many of the modern concepts in acid-base chemistry. The prize will be presented at the ABC‑6 Conference in Genova in May 2009 (6th world congress on Catalysis by Acids and Bases, Genova, Italy, 10–14 May 2009; http://www.catalisidichep.unige.it/ABC‑6.htm). The award consists of a plaque, an honorarium, and travel expenses to attend the meeting and present a plenary lecture. The Tanabe prize recognizes substantial contributions to the field of acid and/or base catalysis. It may be presented to either a young person who has demonstrated unusual promise early in his/her career or to an individual of less than 56 years of age at the time of the ABC conference at any career stage, who has made significant contributions to the area within the six years preceding the award.
Enrique is being recognized for his pioneering contributions to the design and understanding of acid sites within specific structures and for his discovery of a new acid catalysis route with important industrial relevance, in particular for two of his more recent studies, the first on shape selective carbonylation and the second on heteropoly compounds.
His recent seminal discovery of shape selective carbonylation within microporous zeolites, in which unprecedented specificity for carbonylation reactions (very high rates of carbonylation along with selectivities to methyl acetate greater than 99% achieved for DME (dimethylether) carbonylation). This significant increase in catalytic performance was shown to be the result of the unique structural and electronic topographies of 8‑member ring channels. These highly active and selective zeolites are ideal replacements to the costly, highly toxic and corrosive iodide-promoted organometallic catalysts that are currently used in industry.
Also within the last five years Enrique has made a significant contribution to the area of heteropoly compounds as solid acids. Following the original contributions of Professor Misono, Enrique formulated exact composition-function relations with predictive value by addressing the reactivity of POM materials with varying composition and hence, acid strength, and measuring the corresponding kinetic and thermodynamic constants for elementary steps for alkanol dehydration reactions. In this work, the ubiquitous aggregation and incomplete environment dependent accessibility of POM clusters was minimized by dispersing the POM clusters on supports and probing accessibility before and during catalytic reactions using organic bases of varying polarity and size. His results, in collaboration with Professor M. Neurock’s for calculations using DFT, have led to a quantitative assessment of structural and compositional effects on the intrinsic reactivity of Brønsted acid sites on Keggin-type POM materials. He showed that the effects of acid strength on the stability of cationic intermediates and transition states are partially compensated by the stabilization of the ion-pair at the transition state as acids become weaker and the anionic conjugate base acquires a higher charge density.