The 2003 Eugene J. Houdry Award in Applied Catalysis to Professor Avelino Corma Canos of the Technical University of Valencia, Spain. The award is sponsored by Süd-Chemie, Inc. The purpose of the Award is to recognize and encourage individual contributions in the field of catalysis with emphasis on the development of new and improved catalysts and processes representing outstanding advances in their useful application.
Professor Corma is widely recognized as a prolific and versatile contributor to the science and technology of heterogeneous catalysis. In particular, he has participated in the discovery of new catalysts for the isomerization of light, straight-run naphtha now in commercial use, others for bottoms upgrading in FCC units, a catalyst for a commercial process for the selective epoxidation of propylene, the development of weakly basic solid catalysts for selective isomerization of alpha olefins, and the commercialization of catalysts for the isomerization of beta pinene. His nominators commented: a set of catalyst compositions disclosed in a patent for the isomerization of light, straight-run naphtha (US #5,057,471) is in current use in ten commercial units. These catalysts are based on H‑mordenite materials with very low aluminum content and they show unprecedented sulfur resistance. His group is also credited with the discovery and use of Al-containing sepiolite materials as additives for bottoms upgrading in FCC units. Following successful scale-up activities, these catalysts are in current use in at least one FCC refinery unit.
A collaboration between the Corma group and Sumitomo Corporation has led to a commercial process for the selective epoxidation of propylene to propylene oxide using cumene hydroperoxide. The use of a zeolitic material with large pores and a Si-O-Ti framework leads to unprecedented selectivity and stability. A commercial reactor using this technology is currently in start-up in Japan.
A joint project with Tagasako Corporation and Acedesa led to the commercialization of heterogeneous catalysts for the isomerization of beta pinene to alpha pinene, as part of an overall process for the synthesis of a family of sandalwood-type fragrances.
Professor Corma’s group has also pioneered the use of automated micro-activity test units, whose design was patented and licensed, and about 30 of these units have been placed in service.