In Memoriam: Eric Derouane (1944–2008)

Eric Gérard Joseph Der­ouane died on 17th March 2008 from a heart attack in his home in Luz, Lagos, Por­tu­gal. With him, the Catal­y­sis Com­mu­ni­ty has lost one of its strongest and bril­liant sci­en­tists.

Born on 4th July 1944 at Péruwelz (Hain­aut), Bel­gium, Eric Der­ouane obtained a Licence degree at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Liège, B (1965), a Mas­ter of Arts (MA) degree in Chem­istry in Prof. J. Turkevich’s lab­o­ra­to­ry at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, USA (1966) and a Doc­tor­at ès Sci­ences (PhD) at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Liège, B (1968), includ­ing a one year (1966–1967) in France at the “Ser­vice de Physique du Solide et de Réso­nance Mag­né­tique, CEN Saclay” in Prof. A. Abragam’s lab­o­ra­to­ry. He stayed a year (1969–1970) in USA at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty as vis­it­ing Schol­ar in Prof. M. Boudart’s lab­o­ra­to­ry. He became Research Assis­tant of the “Fonds Nation­al de la Recherche Sci­en­tifique” (FNRS) and Lec­tur­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Liège, B (1969–1973). In 1973, he was appoint­ed Pro­fes­sor at the “Fac­ultés Uni­ver­si­taires Notre-Dame de la Paix” (FUNDP) in Namur, B, where he cre­at­ed the Lab­o­ra­to­ry of Catal­y­sis, of which he remained Direc­tor until 1995. He was on sab­bat­i­cal leaves in 1979 as Research Fel­low with J. Sin­felt at Exxon Res. & Devel­op. Corp., Lin­den, USA, and in 1982–84 as Research Sci­en­tist, Head of Explorato­ry Catal­y­sis Syn­the­sis Group at Mobil Res. & Devel­op. Corp., Cen­tral Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Prince­ton, USA. In 1995, he became Full Pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Liv­er­pool and was appoint­ed Direc­tor of the Lev­er­hulme Cen­tre for Inno­v­a­tive Catal­y­sis (LCIC). In 2003, he obtained the Gul­benkian Pro­fes­sor­ship at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Algarve in Faro, P, where he was Direc­tor of the Chem­i­cal Research Cen­tre. He became lat­er Invit­ed Pro­fes­sor at the “Insti­tu­to Supe­ri­or Tec­ni­co” (IST) of the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty of Lis­bon, where he had exten­sive coop­er­a­tion with the group led by Prof. F. Ramôa Ribeiro.

His main fields of inves­ti­ga­tion dealt with catal­y­sis over zeo­lites in gen­er­al, sup­port­ed met­als, nov­el mate­ri­als and mixed oxides in par­tic­u­lar, and alka­ne upgrad­ing and fine chem­i­cals more specif­i­cal­ly. One of Eric’s most strik­ing qual­i­ties was his acute inter­est for every new sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­ery and for indus­tri­al appli­ca­tions of his find­ings.

Eric Der­ouane had an unusu­al work­ing effi­cien­cy. He had a high intel­lec­tu­al mobil­i­ty and was always attract­ed by new mate­ri­als and new con­cepts. Among them, one can men­tion ZSM‑5/MFI new zeo­lite in the ear­ly 70s, lead­ing to a 30 year col­lab­o­ra­tion with J.C. Védrine, cuprate-type super­con­duc­tors, con­fine­ment effect and mol­e­c­u­lar traf­fic con­trol in zeolitic mate­ri­als. He also stud­ied reac­tion mech­a­nisms using iso­topic labelling and in-situ MAS-NMR in the 80s, com­bi­na­to­r­i­al catal­y­sis and high through­put tech­nol­o­gy in the late 90s.

Dur­ing his 20 years of ded­i­cat­ed ser­vice to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Namur, Eric Der­ouane devel­oped new con­cepts, which had an impor­tant impact on the catal­y­sis and zeo­lite com­mu­ni­ties. In 1986, he was elect­ed Head of the Chem­istry Depart­ment. He then embarked upon an impres­sive re-struc­tur­ing pro­gramme to improve its effi­cien­cy. The mod­el, which he ini­ti­at­ed, is still in ser­vice today. His lab­o­ra­to­ry was rec­og­nized as an out­stand­ing school of sci­en­tif­ic research and edu­ca­tion in catal­y­sis.

Very ear­ly, Eric Der­ouane real­ized the impor­tance of inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty, which lead him to play a key role in the cre­ation of the Insti­tute for Stud­ies in Inter­face Sci­ences (ISIS) at Namur in 1987, which gath­ered lab­o­ra­to­ries of physics and chem­istry for 20 years. Eric Der­ouane also paid heed to tech­no­log­i­cal trans­fer to indus­tries. After his expe­ri­ence gained through his sab­bat­i­cal posi­tions at Exxon and at Mobil, he devel­oped many col­lab­o­ra­tions with indus­tri­al part­ners and served as con­sul­tant.

At Liv­er­pool, the aim of the LCIC was to pro­mote cre­ative fun­da­men­tal cat­alyt­ic sci­ence and often to take-up indus­tri­al chal­lenges. Eric Der­ouane defined inno­va­tion as “the cre­ation of a new or bet­ter prod­uct or process, imply­ing cre­ativ­i­ty, use­ful­ness, and appli­ca­tion”. Towards this end, the LCIC had indus­tri­al affil­i­ates as part­ners. Under his lead­er­ship the LCIC became the largest catal­y­sis cen­tre in the UK.and a cen­tre of sci­en­tif­ic exchanges and col­lab­o­ra­tions. Eric Der­ouane estab­lished links with many UK and inter­na­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ries. Eric Der­ouane cre­at­ed in 1997 an Euro­pean Asso­ci­at­ed Lab­o­ra­to­ry “Lab­o­ra­to­ry for high speci­fici­ty catal­y­sis” between LCIC/University of Liv­er­pool and Insti­tut de Recherch­es sur la Catal­yse, Lyon, F/CNRS.

In 1999, he co-found­ed with Prof. S. Roberts the spin-off Liv­er­pool-based com­pa­ny “Sty­la­cats”, of which he became a direc­tor. He pro­vid­ed wise sug­ges­tions and ideas, which led the com­pa­ny to pio­neer new tech­nolo­gies, in par­tic­u­lar cat­a­lysts for asym­met­ric hydro­gena­tion, microwave-induced reac­tions and enzyme mimet­ics.
At the Uni­ver­si­ty of Faro, Eric Der­ouane devel­oped a research project, joint­ly with the Insti­tu­to Tec­ni­co de Lis­boa, on Friedel-Crafts reac­tions. He also col­lab­o­rat­ed close­ly on var­i­ous research projects with Prof. F. Ramôa Ribeiro’s zeo­lite group of the Insti­tu­to Supe­ri­or Tec­ni­co of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lis­bon.

Eric Der­ouane co-authored over 400 sci­en­tif­ic papers, 11 books and 61 patents.
Eric Der­ouane also con­tributed to the devel­op­ment and strength­en­ing of the euro­pean catal­y­sis com­mu­ni­ty. He cre­at­ed in 1975 the Euro­pean Asso­ci­a­tion in Catal­y­sis (EUROCAT), a con­sor­tium of Euro­pean lab­o­ra­to­ries under the aus­pices of the Coun­cil of Europe and pro­mot­ed stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of cat­a­lysts: Euro-Pt1 to ‑Pt4, Euro-Ni1 & ‑Ni2, Euro­cat zeo­lite, Euro­cat oxides, etc. This Euro­cat group paved the way to the cre­ation of the Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tion of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties (EFCATS) and of the François Gault lec­ture­ship. He was elect­ed Pres­i­dent of EFCATS in 1995 for two years.

He became Edi­tor-in-chief of J. Mol. Catal. in 1982 and was mem­ber of the Edi­to­r­i­al Boards of sev­er­al sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals and mem­ber of the sci­en­tif­ic com­mit­tees of many con­gress­es and col­lo­quia. He co-orga­nized sev­er­al con­gress­es him­self, in par­tic­u­lar with F. Lemos and F. Ramôa Ribeiro in Por­tu­gal sev­er­al NATO Advanced Stud­ies Insti­tutes on top­ics includ­ing “the con­ver­sion of light alka­nes”, “com­bi­na­to­r­i­al catal­y­sis and high through­put cat­a­lyst design and test­ing”, “prin­ci­ples and meth­ods for accel­er­at­ed cat­a­lyst design and test­ing” and “sus­tain­able strate­gies for the upgrad­ing of nat­ur­al gas”.

Eric Derouane’s con­tri­bu­tions to catal­y­sis have been recog­nised by many awards and aca­d­e­m­ic hon­ors, includ­ing the Wauters Prize (1964), the Mund Prize (1967) of the “Société Royale de Chimie”, the Stas-Spring Prize (1971) and the Adolphe Wetrems Prize (1975) of the “Académie Royale de Bel­gique”, the Roset­ta Briegel-Bar­ton Lec­tur­ership at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Okla­homa (1973), the Prize of the “Cer­cle of Alum­ni de la Fon­da­tion Uni­ver­si­taire de Bel­gique” (1980), the Cia­pet­ta Lec­ture­ship of the North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety (1981), the Catal­y­sis Lec­ture­ship of the Société Chim­ique de France (1993) and the pres­ti­gious Franc­qui Prize, B (1994), the high­est hon­or for all Sci­ences in Bel­gium.

He was made “Offici­er de l’Ordre Léopold” in Bel­gium (1990), cor­re­spond­ing Mem­ber of the “Académie Royale des Sci­ences, des Let­tres et des Beaux Arts de Bel­gique” (1991), mem­ber of the “New York Acad­e­my of Sci­ences” and Asso­ciate Mem­ber of the “Euro­pean Acad­e­my of Arts, Sci­ences and Human­i­ties”. He was con­ferred Doc­tor Hon­oris Causa, Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty of Lis­bon (1996).

Eric Der­ouane attract­ed many stu­dents and for­eign schol­ars to his lab­o­ra­to­ries in Namur, Liv­er­pool and Faro. His ener­gy, his clear mind and his broad knowl­edge impressed his stu­dents, researchers and col­leagues. He was an out­stand­ing and demand­ing pro­fes­sor, always ready to share his knowl­edge with his stu­dents. His cours­es were always clear, high­ly struc­tured and eas­i­ly under­stand­able. Many of his for­mer stu­dents and post-docs occu­py today promi­nent posi­tions in uni­ver­si­ties and indus­tries. All of them will remem­ber his bril­liant and rig­or­ous sci­en­tif­ic approach, and no doubt they all will great­ly miss him.
Jacques C. Védrine and Michel Che, Paris
Fer­nan­do Ramôa Ribeiro, Lis­boa
Jian­liang Xiao, Liv­er­pool
Bao-Lian Su, Namur
23 April 2008