Michel Boudart: The Science of Catalysis

Michel Boudart

Michel Boudart

Michel Boudart was born in 1924 in Brus­sels. He grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lou­vain with a B.S. degree (Can­di­da­ture Inge­nieur, 1944) and an M.S. degree (Inge­nieur Civ­il Chimiste, 1947). In 1950 he received his Ph.D. degree in Chem­istry from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty under the men­tor­ship of Sir Hugh Tay­lor, who, along with Sir Eric Ride­al and Paul Emmett, laid the foun­da­tions for mod­ern catal­y­sis as a mol­e­c­u­lar sci­ence.

After grad­u­a­tion, Michel remained at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty until 1961, first at the For­re­stal Research Cen­ter as a research asso­ciate (1950–1953) and assis­tant to John B. Fenn, the direc­tor of Project SQUID (1953–1954), then in the Depart­ment of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing as Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor (1954–1958) and Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor (1958–1961) and where he quick­ly estab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the bright­est young “stars” in the dis­ci­pline. After a three-year stay at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley as Pro­fes­sor of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing, he became Pro­fes­sor of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing and Chem­istry at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty in the Depart­ment of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing, which he helped lead to a posi­tion of inter­na­tion­al promi­nence and chaired from 1975 until 1978. He was the Keck Pro­fes­sor of Engi­neer­ing from 1980 to 1994, and Keck Pro­fes­sor of Engi­neer­ing, Emer­i­tus from then until his pass­ing on May 2, 2012.

His hon­ors include: Bel­gian Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion­al Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship, 1948; Proc­ter Fel­low­ship, 1949; Cur­tis McGraw Research Award of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety for Engi­neer­ing Edu­ca­tion, 1962; the R.H. Wil­helm Award in Chem­i­cal Reac­tion Engi­neer­ing of the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Chem­i­cal Engi­neers, 1974; the 1977 Kendall Award and the 1985 Mur­phree Award, both of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal Soci­ety; the 1991 Chem­i­cal Pio­neer Award of the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Chemists; and the Inter­na­tion­al Pre­cious Met­als Insti­tute 1994 Tana­ka Dis­tin­guished Achieve­ment Award. The Sym­po­sium “Advances in Cat­alyt­ic Chem­istry III” (May 1985, Salt Lake City, Utah) was orga­nized in his hon­or, as was the Catal­y­sis Sym­po­sium of the 68th ACS Col­loid and Sur­face Sci­ence Sym­po­sium (June 1994, Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty). The Catal­y­sis Soci­ety select­ed him as the 1986 Cia­pet­ta Lec­tur­er. Michel was elect­ed to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences in 1975, to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Engi­neer­ing in 1979, to the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Sci­ences in 1991, to the Legion D’Honneur in France and to three Acad­e­mies in his native Bel­gium where he and his wife Mari­na were also hon­ored as Knights of the Crown. He also received sev­er­al hon­orary degrees, served on sev­er­al edi­to­r­i­al boards, and, in recog­ni­tion of Michel Boudart’s broad glob­al influ­ence, the North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety and the Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tion of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties joined hands and in 2006 estab­lished the Michel Boudart Award for the Advance­ment of Catal­y­sis in recog­ni­tion of the tru­ly inter­na­tion­al impact of his achieve­ments and guid­ance in this field.

Boudart’s text­book, Kinet­ics of Chem­i­cal Process­es (1968), has been trans­lat­ed into Japan­ese, Span­ish, and French, and was pub­lished again (1991) in the But­ter­worth-Heine­man Series of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing Reprints. He is also the author of Kinet­ics of Het­ero­ge­neous Cat­alyt­ic Reac­tions (with G. Djé­ga-Mari­adas­sou), Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1984, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished as Ciné­tique des réac­tions en catal­yse hétéro­gene (Mas­son, Paris, 1982). Togeth­er, these two books rep­re­sent a lega­cy that con­tin­ues to define the field. He was also co-edi­tor (with J.R. Ander­son) of Catal­y­sis: Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, Vol­umes 1–9 (Springer-Ver­lag). He pub­lished more than 250 jour­nal arti­cles and held four US patents.

Michel estab­lished his poten­tial for lead­er­ship right from the begin­ning. Dur­ing his grad­u­ate stud­ies, he rec­og­nized the cat­alyt­ic con­se­quences of the elec­tron­ic prop­er­ties of solids and, a mere few months after they were report­ed, brought Linus Pauling’s con­cepts of the d‑character of met­als into the study of catal­y­sis. Lat­er, he com­bined these con­cepts with knowl­edge emerg­ing from the­o­ry and sur­face sci­ence to pro­pose a clas­si­fi­ca­tion of reac­tions based on their sen­si­tiv­i­ty to sur­face struc­ture, mea­sured in prac­tice from the effects of the size and com­po­si­tion of met­al clus­ters on the rates of chem­i­cal reac­tions. Such pio­neer­ing break­throughs required that he lead his research group through the devel­op­ment of pro­to­cols for count­ing the num­bers of exposed met­al atoms using mol­e­c­u­lar titrants, and for assess­ing the struc­ture of such atoms using spec­tro­scop­ic meth­ods very soon after they became avail­able. He pio­neered the use of Möss­bauer, infrared, and X‑ray absorp­tion spec­tro­scopies in het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis, and estab­lished the use of emerg­ing for­malisms of irre­versible ther­mo­dy­nam­ics in the mech­a­nis­tic assess­ment of cat­alyt­ic sequences. Michel Boudart was also inter­est­ed in indus­tri­al devel­op­ments and how catal­y­sis can help solve major soci­etal prob­lems. In 1974, Boudart co-found­ed the com­pa­ny Cat­alyt­i­ca.

Michel’s intense focus on the prop­er­ties of sur­faces at the atom­ic scale and on the mech­a­nism of mol­e­c­u­lar trans­for­ma­tions, through the prism of bond-mak­ing and bond-break­ing ele­men­tary events, was always ahead of the times. He served as the bea­con that led the evo­lu­tion of catal­y­sis from its roots in phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal indus­tri­al prac­tice into a sci­ence ground­ed in the chem­istry and physics of the syn­the­sis and the struc­tur­al and func­tion­al char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of cat­alyt­ic solids. The birth and growth of this dis­ci­pline into a mature sci­ence owes its intel­lec­tu­al nutri­ents to the remark­able insights, keen eye for rel­e­vance and ele­gance, and excel­lent taste in research top­ics that char­ac­ter­ized Michel and his career over five decades.

Michel’s con­stant quest for under­stand­ing made him a nat­ur­al stew­ard of the field. His curios­i­ty, his own suc­cess, and his close read­ing of the lit­er­a­ture allowed him to bring sharp focus to the research fron­tier and to cham­pi­on all who were push­ing it for­ward. When asked about his great­est achieve­ment, how­ev­er, Michel was firm and con­sis­tent in his response – his stu­dents and their own achieve­ments. For exam­ple, late in his career he posed the fol­low­ing ques­tion: “Why is an aca­d­e­m­ic career so desir­able.” His answer: “Because of the stu­dents!” The sci­en­tif­ic and crit­i­cal approach­es he imprint­ed into those whom he men­tored, and the role mod­el that he pro­vid­ed for them as a per­son and as a schol­ar, rep­re­sent his most endur­ing lega­cies — his rip­ple in time — and his rec­og­nized claim to an aca­d­e­m­ic tree that con­tin­ues to advance the field of catal­y­sis and which extends over many gen­er­a­tions and through­out the world. His advice to stu­dents and post­docs set­ting out on their careers was “do not lament what you don’t know, make the most of what you do know” still rings true today, pro­vid­ed that mak­ing the most of what you do know includes, as Michel’s career exem­pli­fies, con­tin­u­ous exten­sion of what you know and vig­or­ous appli­ca­tion and pro­tec­tion of the high­est lev­el of sci­en­tif­ic rig­or.
Con­tributed by W. Nicholas Del­gass, James A. Dumesic, Enrique Igle­sia, Fabio Ribeiro and Hen­rik Top­søe on March 22, 2013.

W. Keith Hall: One of the giants in catalysis

Kei­th Hall

Kei­th Hall passed away in his farm/home at Mill Run, Penn­syl­va­nia on 3 Jan­u­ary 2001 at the age of 82. The cat­alyt­ic com­mu­ni­ty has lost a major fam­i­ly-mem­ber and leader.

Kei­th was born in McComb, Ohio and grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty in 1940. Short­ly there­after, a sum­mer course in high explo­sives at Geor­gia Tech undoubt­ed­ly led Frank Long to hire him to work on Man­hat­tan Project at the Bruce­ton Exper­i­men­tal Sta­tion as direct­ed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Work­ing under the direc­tion of George Kis­ti­akows­ki and Louis Ham­mett, Kei­th met and mar­ried his wife Gladys, a sec­re­tary earn­ing mon­ey for col­lege (“they paid bet­ter than any­one else!”) in 1945 while at Bruce­ton. As the war end­ed, Kei­th con­tin­ued at the Bureau with H. H. Storch and Robert B. Ander­son where he was intro­duced to catal­y­sis, specif­i­cal­ly to Fis­ch­er-Trop­sch syn­the­sis. Con­cur­rent­ly, he received his MS in 1948 from Carnegie Insti­tute. The end of the war had gen­er­at­ed an inter­est in syn­thet­ic fuels, and Sol Weller, Irv­ing Wen­der and Mil­ton Orchin joined the group. This con­cert­ed effort was final­ly ter­mi­nat­ed by con­gress in 1956. In 1951 Kei­th moved across town to work on his PhD at Mel­lon Insti­tute under Paul Emmett. Kei­th received his PhD in 1956 from Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh. His son Burl (now a physi­cist at LBL) was born in 1955. Con­tem­po­raries work­ing at the Mel­lon Insti­tute with Emmett includ­ed Dick Kokes, Joe Kum­mer, Don McIv­er, Bob Ander­son (?), Bob Zabor, and Bob Halde­man. When Emmett left Pitts­burgh in 1954, Hall was named as his suc­ces­sor.

Kei­th con­tin­ued to work at the Mel­lon Insti­tute as a Senior Fel­low until 1970 when he took a Senior Sci­en­tist posi­tion with Gulf Research out­side Pitts­burgh. Kei­th retired from Gulf in 1973. George Keulks con­vinced Kei­th to accept the posi­tion of Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Chem­istry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Mil­wau­kee. Many stu­dents and post­doc­tor­al stu­dents worked with Kei­th at Mil­wau­kee. While there he coor­di­nat­ed the US-USSR exchange in chem­i­cal catal­y­sis. Kei­th is well remem­bered for his manda­to­ry Sat­ur­day research meet­ings to keep the troops in order. These meet­ings devel­oped an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion them­selves and were known to last well into the after­noon by vis­i­tors world wide. Kei­th retired from this posi­tion in 1985 to return to his farm in Mill Run. But his retire­ment was short lived, as once again he was con­vinced to become a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor, this time at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh, his PhD alma mater. Kei­th final­ly retired, for the third and final time, from this posi­tion in 1998.

Kei­th start­ed his catal­y­sis research on Fis­ch­er-Trop­sch syn­the­sis with Bob Ander­son and con­tin­ued with Emmett [J.Am.Chem.Soc. 82, 1027 (1960)]. But he also ini­ti­at­ed stud­ies of hydro­gena­tion over met­als and alloys to test Dow­den’s elec­tron­ic the­o­ries of catal­y­sis [J.Phys. Chem 62, 816 (1958) and 63, 1102 (1959)]. His employ­ment of iso­topic tech­niques was high­ly vis­i­ble through­out his career [J.Am.Chem.Soc. 79, 2091 (1957)]. He pub­lished sev­en papers with Emmett. After Emmett left to again take a posi­tion at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, Kei­th con­tin­ued his inter­est in hydro­gen on solids, pri­mar­i­ly met­als sup­port­ed on oxides. He employed a vari­ety of tech­niques includ­ing ESR and NMR often cou­pled with iso­topic stud­ies [J.Catal. 2, 506 (1963) and 2, 518 (1963)]. Kei­th soon became inter­est­ed in acid­i­ty of sil­i­ca alu­mi­na [J.Catal. 1, 53 (1962) and 3, 512 (1964)]and even­tu­al­ly on zeo­lites, an inter­est that would con­tin­ue through­out his research. He stud­ied hydro­car­bon iso­mer­iza­tion over a vari­ety sur­faces (J. Catal. 13, 161 (1969), Trans. Fara­day Soc. 566–66, 477 (1970)]. Kei­th also became involved in stud­ies of oxi­da­tion on met­als and even­tu­al­ly on met­al oxides, most notably Mo/Al2O3 [J.Catal. 34, 41 (1974)]. Again iso­topic stud­ies and a vari­ety of spec­tro­scop­ic tech­niques were employed [J. Catal. 53, 135 (1978)], includ­ing infrared. In the 1980’s Kei­th ini­ti­at­ed a series of stud­ies relat­ed to auto exhaust catal­y­sis. These start­ed with Fe/zeolites [J.Catal. 166, 368 (1997)] and even­tu­al­ly Cu/zeolites [Catal. Let. 15, 311 (1992), J.Phys.Chem. 97, 1204 (1993)] where he devel­oped con­sid­er­able insight into SCR [J.Catal. 149, 229 (1994)] and NOx reac­tions [Appl. Catal. B‑Env. 2, 303 (1993)]. In par­al­lel, Kei­th’s inter­est in the rea­sons for cat­alyt­ic acid­i­ty and in the role of hydro­gen on met­als and oxides con­tin­ued well into the 1990’s.

Kei­th’s pub­li­ca­tions have had a pro­found impact on the cat­alyt­ic com­mu­ni­ty. Over a score of these have been cit­ed more than a hun­dred times by oth­ers. These include each of those men­tioned in the pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion as we traced Kei­th’s areas of research. Alto­geth­er he had more than 4,000 cita­tions to his work.

Kei­th served and led the Cat­alyt­ic and Chem­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty in sev­er­al ways. He was the edi­tor on the Jour­nal of Catal­y­sis from 1967 to 1989, a peri­od when J.Catalysis became the pri­ma­ry Jour­nal in het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis. Frank Stone was the Euro­pean edi­tor and they were close friends. Kei­th was the pres­i­dent of the Catal­y­sis Soci­ety of North Amer­i­ca from 1981–85 and found­ed the Catal­y­sis Soci­ety Trust, which has giv­en the soci­ety on a strong fis­cal base. Kei­th gave five lec­tures at Gor­don Con­fer­ences, was chair­man of the Gor­don Con­fer­ence on Catal­y­sis, and served as a Trustee of the Gor­don Con­fer­ences from 1981–87. Who can for­get his peren­ni­al pres­ence in the front row of the Gor­don Con­fer­ences where he would chal­lenge and extrap­o­late the con­cepts pre­sent­ed as well as remind the speak­ers of the pri­or-art they may have neglect­ed to men­tion? He had the same room at the con­fer­ence for many years which was clos­est to the late night dis­cus­sions in which he par­tic­i­pat­ed active­ly. In the after­noon he would sail and dis­cuss the con­cepts of the cat­alyt­ic sci­ence pre­sent­ed. Kei­th was also active in the ACS and served on the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee on the Col­loid and Sur­face Chem­istry Divi­sion.

Kei­th received numer­ous awards, includ­ing the Kendall Award, the ACS Petro­le­um Chem­istry Award, and the Exxon Award for Excel­lence in Catal­y­sis.

One of the most notable aspects of Kei­th Hal­l’s research career is the large num­ber of peo­ple with whom he worked and to whom he gra­cious­ly attrib­uted their joint accom­plish­ments. He learned from as he taught each of his stu­dents, post­doc­tor­al stu­dents, and research col­leagues. More than a dozen stu­dents received their grad­u­ate degrees under Kei­th’s super­vi­sion. These include: Suhil Abdo, L. Christ­ner, Michel Dee­ba, José Gold­wass­er, Chuck Kib­by, Dave Kreske, Y. Li, J. Lar­son, Edwar­do Lom­bar­do, R. Schnei­der and L. Wang. Kei­th had over two dozen post­doc­tor­al col­leagues includ­ing: John Bett, Vic­tor Borokov, Noel Cant, W. Curt Con­ner, Michel Crespin, Gary Delz­er, Joseph Engel­hardt, Xiaob­ing Feng, G. Fier­ro, Chia-Min Fu, H. Ger­berich, Joe High­tow­er, Mar­wan Houal­la, V. Kor­chak, T. Komat­su, Shel­don Lande , K.-Y Lee, H. Left­in, Jacques Leglise, Mario Lo Jocono, Ross Madon, William Mill­man, Miko­to Mis­ono, Jaun Petunchi, Ko-ichi Segawa, Hen­ri Van Damme, Frank Witzel, Jan Uyt­ter­ho­even and Jozsef Valy­on. Fif­teen of these grad­u­ate and post­doc­tor­al stu­dents hold fac­ul­ty posi­tions and con­tin­ue to teach.

In addi­tion, Kei­th has col­lab­o­rat­ed with over nine­ty oth­er cat­alyt­ic research sci­en­tists around the world. His col­lab­o­ra­tors includ­ed: Paul H. Emmett, Dick Kokes, Vladim Kazan­s­ki, Bob Ander­son, Hen­ry H. Storch, H. R. Ger­berich, F. H. Van Cauwe­laert, M. Mis­sono, Frank Mas­soth, Kh. Minichev, George Keulks, W. Nick Del­gass, Jim Dumesic, Ger­hart Ertl, Hel­mut Knözinger, Dave Her­cules, Far­rell Lytle, Jose Frip­i­at, Bernie Ger­stein and Julie d’Itri. Kei­th had over one hun­dred and twen­ty co-authors in his more than three hun­dred and fifty pub­li­ca­tions.

It is obvi­ous that Kei­th Hal­l’s influ­ence on cat­alyt­ic research has been pro­found not only in what he has accom­plished direct­ly but in his vast net­work of inter­ac­tions through­out the cat­alyt­ic world. More­over, Kei­th read­i­ly served as a leader in the cat­alyt­ic research com­mu­ni­ty through the Jour­nal of Catal­y­sis, the Gor­don Con­fer­ences and the Catal­y­sis Soci­ety. All sci­en­tists in catal­y­sis have lost a fam­i­ly mem­ber!

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff

Vladimir Niko­lae­vich Ipati­eff

Vladimir Niko­lae­vich Ipati­eff was born on 21 Novem­ber 1867 in Moscow, Rus­sia. His ear­ly career was that of a mil­i­tary man: in 1887 he grad­u­at­ed from the Mikhailovskoe artilleri­iskoe uchilishche, and in 1892 from the Mikhailovska­ia artilleri­iska­ia akademi­ia. But his inter­est in chem­istry divert­ed him from a strict­ly mil­i­tary path. Teach­ing the sub­ject at the Artillery Acad­e­my, he went on to get a doc­tor­ate from St. Peters­burg Uni­ver­si­ty in 1907, while advanc­ing in mil­i­tary rank to major gen­er­al in 1910. From 1906 to 1916, he taught chem­istry at the Uni­ver­si­ty as well, and was made a mem­ber of the Impe­r­i­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences in 1916. As a lieu­tenant gen­er­al dur­ing the First World War, he served as Direc­tor of the Com­mis­sion for Prepa­ra­tion of Explo­sives and Chair­man of the Chem­i­cal Com­mit­tee.

Fol­low­ing the rev­o­lu­tion, he remained in the Sovi­et Union, where he found­ed the High Pres­sure Insti­tute in 1927. But in 1931, while on a trip abroad, he decid­ed not to return and came to the Unit­ed States, where he taught at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty from 1931 to 1935. In 1939 he was elect­ed a mem­ber of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences. Ipati­eff died in Chica­go on 29 Feb­ru­ary 1952. North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty ded­i­cat­ed a lab­o­ra­to­ry in his hon­or.

[A slight­ly dif­fer­ent ver­sion about his move to the USA (from Pro­fes­sor Peter Stair of North­west­ern Uni­veristy): Ipati­eff had been a Gen­er­al under Tsar Nicholas II and Chair­man of the Chem­i­cal Admin­is­tra­tion and win­ner of the Lenin Prize under the Sovi­ets. Short­ly after Ipati­eff emi­grat­ed from the USSR to avoid the Stal­in purges, he was approached by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Uni­ver­sal Oil Prod­ucts (UOP) who invit­ed him to work in the USA in the dual capac­i­ty of Direc­tor of Chem­i­cal Research at UOP and Pro­fes­sor of Chem­istry at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. He worked togeth­er with Her­man Pines to dis­cov­er and devel­op the impor­tant process­es of iso­mer­iza­tion and alky­la­tion with liq­uid acids based upon the reac­tion of paraf­fin mol­e­cules in petro­le­um react­ing with an aque­ous solu­tion of sul­fu­ric acid. In ear­ly 1940, at the begin­ning of World War II, the first alky­la­tion plant came on stream in the US. The boost in air­craft fuel octane made pos­si­ble by this plant played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the suc­cess of the British Roy­al Air Force in the Bat­tle of Britain.]

Ipati­eff authored hun­dreds of arti­cles on chem­istry in a num­ber of lan­guages, as well as text­books, such as Kolich­estven­nyi anal­iz, which he wrote while still a stu­dent (St. Peters­burg, 1891); a sci­en­tif­ic auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Cat­alyt­ic Reac­tions at High Pres­sures and Tem­per­a­tures (New York, 1936); and per­son­al mem­oirs, Zhizn’ odno­go khimi­ka (New York, 1945), trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish as The Life of a Chemist (Stan­ford, 1946). He also held sev­er­al hun­dred patents, mark­ing his most sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to sci­ence: the for­mu­la­tion of high-octane gaso­line, the “crack­ing” method now used to refine gas, and oth­er dis­cov­er­ies relat­ing to cat­alyt­ic reac­tions (espe­cial­ly under high pres­sures and tem­per­a­tures), and the syn­the­sis of petro­le­um and its dis­til­lates.
Con­tributed by Hoover Insti­tute and Peter Stair
From the Hoover Institution’s Archives: (http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/hila/ruscollection/ipat_b.html)

Sir Eric Rideal

E. Rideal

Sir Eric Ride­al

Sir Eric Ride­al who was one of the founders of catal­y­sis in Great Britain and who was the eponym of the famous Eley Ride­al mech­a­nism. Pro­fes­sor E. Ride­al was famous for the work of the Col­loid Sci­ence Lab­o­ra­to­ry which he set up in Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty in the 1930s. He was born in 1890 and was first involved in sur­face chem­istry dur­ing the First World War when, with
H.S. Tay­lor, he worked on cat­a­lysts for the Haber process for the pro­duc­tion of ammo­nia from nitro­gen and hydro­gen, and for the selec­tive oxi­da­tion of car­bon monox­ide in mix­tures of CO and hydro­gen. Lat­er Tay­lor and Ride­al wrote a pio­neer­ing book Catal­y­sis in The­o­ry and Prac­tice. The Ride­al Con­fer­ence is so named in his hon­or; this tri­en­ni­al series of UK research con­fer­ences on sur­face chem­istry and catal­y­sis was ini­ti­at­ed by Charles Kem­ball and oth­ers in the late 1960s.
Con­tributed by Jacques Vedrine
June 2002

Robert L. Burwell, Jr.: Helped established catalysis concepts

Robert L. Burwell, Jr.

Robert L. Bur­well, Jr.

Robert L. Bur­well, Jr., Ipati­eff Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Chem­istry at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, will always be remem­bered by his many friends, col­leagues, and stu­dents as a learned gen­tle­man of high moral stan­dard, a ded­i­cat­ed edu­ca­tor, and a thor­ough and bril­liant researcher in het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis. He was a lead­ing fig­ure in guid­ing the devel­op­ment of the catal­y­sis com­mu­ni­ty in the U.S. and the world. His many con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­ni­ty includ­ed serv­ing on the gov­ern­ing body of the (North Amer­i­can) Catal­y­sis Soci­ety from 1964 to 1977 as Direc­tor, Vice Pres­i­dent, and in 1973–77, Pres­i­dent. From 1955–84, he served on the Board of Direc­tor, as U.S Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Con­gress, Vice Pres­i­dent, and Pres­i­dent (1980–84) of the Inter­na­tion­al Con­gress on Catal­y­sis. He chaired the Gor­don Research Con­fer­ence on Catal­y­sis in 1957, and was Asso­ciate Edi­tor and a mem­ber of the Edi­to­r­i­al Board of Jour­nal of Catal­y­sis.

Robert Bur­well received his Ph.D. in 1936 from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty under the guid­ance of Sir Hugh Tay­lor. After three years as a Chem­istry Instruc­tor at Trin­i­ty Col­lege, in 1939 he joined the Chem­istry Depart­ment at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. Except for the World War II peri­od from 1942 until 1945, when, hav­ing enlist­ed, he worked at the Naval Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Dr. Bur­well served at North­west­ern until he retired in 1980. As Ipati­eff Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus, he con­tin­ued his research and intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ties for anoth­er decade after retire­ment. Dur­ing his career he pub­lished over 170 orig­i­nal research arti­cles, served on Nation­al Research Coun­cil Com­mit­tees, IUPAC Com­mit­tees, the Petro­le­um Research Fund Advi­so­ry Board, the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion Chem­istry Advi­so­ry Board, and oth­ers, as well as Chair­ing the Chem­istry Depart­ment at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. In 1994, he moved to Vir­ginia with Elise, his wife of over six­ty years.

Pro­fes­sor Bur­well was among the first sci­en­tists who under­stood the crit­i­cal con­nec­tion between gen­er­al chem­istry and catal­y­sis. He intro­duced and pop­u­lar­ized con­cepts that are now famil­iar to and even com­mon­place with­in the entire catal­y­sis com­mu­ni­ty. His research themes cen­tered around elu­ci­da­tion of the reac­tion mech­a­nisms, nature of sur­face inter­me­di­ates, and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of active sites of sol­id cat­a­lysts. He was well known for the use of H‑D exchange for such stud­ies. Using this tech­nique, he iden­ti­fied the impor­tance of 1,2‑diadsorbed alka­ne on noble met­al sur­faces in the exchange and the hydro­gena­tion reac­tion, and the irre­versibil­i­ty in the adsorp­tion of alkene dur­ing hydro­gena­tion. He estab­lished the “rollover” mech­a­nism for cyclic hydro­car­bons in these reac­tions, and the term “sur­face organometal­lic zoo”. He care­ful­ly doc­u­ment­ed the impor­tance of sur­face coor­di­na­tion unsat­u­ra­tion in catal­y­sis by met­al oxides, and devel­oped new cat­a­lysts of unusu­al activ­i­ties by depo­si­tion of organometal­lic com­plex­es on alu­mi­na and sil­i­ca, and by mod­i­fy­ing sil­i­ca sur­face.

His many sci­en­tif­ic con­tri­bu­tions and their indus­tri­al appli­ca­tions were rec­og­nized in his day, as evi­denced by the many awards and hon­ors he received. They includ­ed the ACS Kendall Award in Col­loid and Sur­face Chem­istry, the Lubri­zol Award in Petro­le­um Chem­istry, and the Hum­boldt Senior Sci­en­tist Award. In addi­tion, the Robert L. Bur­well Lec­ture­ship Award of the (North Amer­i­can) Catal­y­sis Soci­ety was estab­lished in recog­ni­tion of his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the field of catal­y­sis. Pro­fes­sor Bur­well was also known for the first short course in het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis that he taught for sev­er­al years togeth­er with Michel Boudart.

To those who knew him per­son­al­ly, Bur­well was not only an impos­ing intel­lect, but a warm, deeply car­ing, pleas­ant per­son, a com­pli­cat­ed per­son with many facets. For instance, while wise and judi­cious, he nev­er­the­less con­duct­ed him­self with a great sense of humor and wit. Any who he favored soon real­ized he could engage in live­ly con­ver­sa­tion on prac­ti­cal­ly any sub­ject. Many of his cowork­ers also remem­bered him for his numer­ous per­cep­tive sci­en­tif­ic advice and sug­ges­tions. Very often in sem­i­nars, stu­dents felt that they learned more about a sub­ject from his prob­ing ques­tions than the actu­al sem­i­nar itself. His fam­i­ly remem­bered him also as a care­tak­er extra­or­di­naire. His devo­tion to his wife, par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing the last year of her life, will be remem­bered by all.

Dr. Bur­well was a walk­ing encyclopedia—indeed he was sci­en­tif­ic con­sul­tant to the World Book Ency­clo­pe­dia. He read exten­sive­ly on vir­tu­al­ly every sub­ject. He par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed a com­mand­ing knowl­edge of the birds, flo­ra and fau­na and could be seen bird watch­ing in the snowy ear­ly springs in Evanston. He enjoyed cul­tur­al mat­ters and shar­ing of his knowl­edge with his col­leagues, friends, and post-doc­tor­al and grad­u­ate stu­dents, a trait he con­tin­ued even after he retired to Vir­ginia with his wife, where he became an active mem­ber of many local Vir­ginia muse­ums and a vari­ety of genealog­i­cal soci­eties (and a founder of the Com­put­er Club and Wine Club at the retire­ment com­mu­ni­ty). He was often expect­ed to be the cul­tur­al guide for his group of friends on tours around the world. He par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed teach­ing Amer­i­can cul­ture and the nuances of the Eng­lish lan­guage to his inter­na­tion­al post-doc­tor­al and grad­u­ate stu­dents. Dr. Bur­well loved to refer to the 4th of July as “the day we cel­e­brate Eng­lish becom­ing a for­eign lan­guage”. He also pos­sessed a cul­ti­vat­ed taste for wine, and was proud of his col­lec­tion of antique porce­lain.

Per­haps the most appro­pri­ate ref­er­ence to Robert Bur­well was from Marie West­brook, the Depart­ment Sec­re­tary of Chem­istry at North­west­ern, who referred to him always as “Mr. Bur­well”, not as “Doc­tor” or “Pro­fes­sor”. When asked why, she replied: “A lot of peo­ple can become a Pro­fes­sor or a Doc­tor, and I use Mis­ter just for him”. On May 15, Mr. Bur­well passed away at the age of 91. He was buried on June 28th, 2003 in Christ Epis­co­pal Church in West Riv­er, Mary­land next to his beloved wife, Elise.
Con­tributed by Prof. H. Kung

Pioneer of Catalytic Cracking: Almer McAfee at Gulf Oil

With the sup­port of Gulf Refin­ing Com­pa­ny, Almer McDuffie McAfee devel­oped the petro­le­um indus­try’s first com­mer­cial­ly viable cat­alyt­ic crack­ing process‑a method that could dou­ble or even triple the gaso­line yield­ed from crude oil by then-stan­dard dis­til­la­tion meth­ods. Based part­ly on an 1877 Friedel-Crafts patent, the McAfee crack­ing process required anhy­drous alu­minum chlo­ride, a cat­a­lyst that was pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive. In 1923 McAfee and Gulf would solve that prob­lem by devel­op­ing a way to syn­the­size the cat­alyt­ic reagent at low cost, on an indus­tri­al scale. Indeed, each time McAfee’s meth­ods appeared to become obso­lete, cir­cum­stances changed in his favor. Today the results of McAfee’s fur­ther work with alu­minum chlo­ride, which led to the Alchlor process, are still on the scene.

For a more com­plete his­to­ry on McAfee’s inno­va­tions (by Paul T. Buono­ra), please see Chem­i­cal Her­itage Mag­a­zine, 16:2 (Fall 1998). Chem­i­cal Her­itage Foun­da­tion web­site: www.chemheritage.org/.
Con­tributed by J. Armor

John Sinfelt: Removal of lead from gasoline with bimetallics

John Sinfelt

John Sin­felt

Use of lead alkyls, pri­mar­i­ly in the form of tetraethyl­lead, to enhance the octane num­ber and per­for­mance of U.S. motor gaso­lines near­ly dou­bled from 235,000 tons in 1955 to 445,000 in 1975. As the harm­ful health effects of tailpipe-exhaust­ed lead com­pounds became increas­ing­ly appar­ent, leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives, begin­ning in 1975, man­dat­ed the com­plete removal of lead addi­tives from U.S. motor fuels by year-end 1991. Dr. Sin­felt’s research on alter­nate petro­le­um con­ver­sion chemistries allowed refin­ers to remove lead alkyls from gaso­line years before the man­dat­ed dead­line. Appli­ca­tion of nov­el, high­ly active and selec­tive bimetal­lic clus­ter cat­a­lyst sys­tems he invent­ed and cham­pi­oned made it pos­si­ble to pro­duce high-octane motor gaso­line with­out the use of lead addi­tives.

Dr. Sinfelt’s dis­tinc­tive research method­ol­o­gy empha­sized entire­ly new con­cepts in the under­stand­ing and use of cat­a­lyst mate­ri­als con­tain­ing bimetal­lic clus­ters. Ear­li­er work on met­al alloys empha­sized the rela­tion between cat­alyt­ic per­for­mance of a met­al and its elec­tron band struc­ture. How­ev­er, lit­tle atten­tion had been paid to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of cat­alyt­i­cal­ly influ­enc­ing the selec­tiv­i­ty of chem­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions (prod­uct selec­tiv­i­ties). One of Dr. Sinfelt’s most impor­tant dis­cov­er­ies, achieved through in-depth stud­ies on bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts, con­cerns con­trol of chem­i­cal reac­tion selec­tiv­i­ty. He dis­cov­ered that it is, in fact, pos­si­ble to cat­alyze one type of chem­i­cal reac­tion in pref­er­ence to oth­er reac­tions that are them­selves ther­mo­dy­nam­i­cal­ly favor­able. He clear­ly showed that bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts could be tai­lored to effec­tive­ly reduce unde­sir­able com­pet­ing reac­tions, and thus con­trol the kinet­ic speci­fici­ty of sur­face reac­tions. This made pos­si­ble the eco­nom­i­cal con­ver­sion of low octane num­ber mol­e­cules to ones with high octane num­bers. The pub­lic ben­e­fit­ed great­ly from the envi­ron­men­tal improve­ments due to lead-free gaso­line, and motorists did not pay a hugh price for it.

While Dr. Sinfelt’s research has made far-reach­ing con­tri­bu­tions to our under­stand­ing of hydro­car­bon con­ver­sion process­es, the prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits of his research are equal­ly pro­found. The appli­ca­tion of bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts in petro­le­um refin­ing was cru­cial to mak­ing high-octane “lead-free” motor fuels wide­ly avail­able. Today, bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts have replaced tra­di­tion­al cat­a­lysts in cat­alyt­ic reform­ing (the major com­mer­cial process used in increas­ing the octane rat­ing of motor fuels) allow­ing there­by elim­i­na­tion of lead-based, octane improv­ing addi­tives. Dr. Sin­felt is the inven­tor both of a Pt-Ir cat­a­lyst that has been wide­ly used in cat­alyt­ic reform­ing and of a staged reform­ing process that has also found wide appli­ca­tion. The lat­ter uses two dif­fer­ent bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts in sep­a­rate reac­tors to opti­mize per­for­mance. The clas­sic work of Sin­felt on the kinet­ics of cat­alyt­ic reform­ing reac­tions in the late 1950’s and ear­ly 1960’s pro­vid­ed the foun­da­tion for these impor­tant indus­tri­al advances.

In addi­tion to elim­i­nat­ing the haz­ard of lead in gaso­line, Sinfelt’s work enabled the devel­op­ment and appli­ca­tion of mul­ti-metal­lic cat­a­lysts for the exhaust sys­tems of auto­mo­biles to decrease the emis­sion of pol­lu­tants such as car­bon monox­ide, unburned hydro­car­bons and nitro­gen oxides. The cat­a­lysts com­mon­ly used today con­tain a com­bi­na­tion of met­als; i.e., they are bi-metal­lic or tri-metal­lic. These cat­a­lysts, like reform­ing cat­a­lysts, per­form bet­ter when more than one metal­lic ele­ment is present. Cur­rent exhaust cat­a­lyst sys­tems are based on Sinfelt’s ground break­ing dis­cov­er­ies. Final­ly, since these cat­a­lysts are poi­soned by lead, its removal from gaso­line made the appli­ca­tion of auto exhaust cat­a­lysts tech­ni­cal­ly fea­si­ble.

The basic stud­ies of Dr. Sin­felt on bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts gen­er­at­ed much inter­est in the field and called atten­tion to their impor­tance for cat­alyt­ic reform­ing and for the pro­duc­tion of lead-free gaso­line. The dis­cov­ery was first report­ed in two U. S. Patents to Sin­felt et al. (3,442,973, which issued in 1969 and 3,617,518, which issued in 1971) and in two papers in the Jour­nal of Catal­y­sis 24, 283 (1972) and 29, 308 (1973). These ear­ly pub­li­ca­tions stim­u­lat­ed much inter­est in bimetal­lic cat­a­lysts as a major area of research that is still flour­ish­ing. For these con­tri­bu­tions to the lead phase-down in the Unit­ed States, Dr. Sin­felt was award­ed the Nation­al Medal of Sci­ence by the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States in 1979 and the pres­ti­gious Perkin Medal in 1984. His is among the most impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions enabling the world­wide reduc­tion of envi­ron­men­tal lead and the elim­i­na­tion of the asso­ci­at­ed risks to human health.

In a trib­ute to John Sin­felt in I&EC, 42 (2003) 1537, Pro­fes­sor Michel Boudart com­ments, “His impact has been unique­ly impor­tant because John com­bined the inven­tive­ness required for sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­ery with the abil­i­ty to engi­neer his work to many suc­cess­ful appli­ca­tions in indus­try. John suc­ceed­ed though repeat­ed sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies and engi­neer­ing appli­ca­tions, with­out ever preach­ing … John man­aged to become a role mod­el to those who prac­tice cat­alyt­ic sci­ence, not only in the secre­tive indus­tri­al envi­ron­ment but also in uni­ver­si­ties world­wide … The lega­cy of John Sin­felt is his unshak­able belief in chem­i­cal kinet­ics to advance cat­alyt­ic sci­ence and engi­neer­ing. John’s impact on the field exceeds by much the impact of his own sci­en­tif­ic and engi­neer­ing con­tri­bu­tions.”
Con­tributed by Gary McVick­er and John Armor

Herman Pines — He revolutionized the general understanding of catalysis

Her­man Pines

Her­man Pines

Her­man Pines was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1902. After earn­ing his degree at the École Supérieure de Chimie in Lyon, France, he came to the U.S. in 1928. He was the clos­est asso­ciate of Vladimir Niko­layevitch Ipati­eff from the day they met in 1930, until Ipati­ef­f’s death in 1952. Ipati­eff, who was 35 years old­er than Pines, then held two jobs: he was an employ­ee of Uni­ver­sal Oil Prod­ucts (UOP) in Des Plaines and a research pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. As a con­se­quence of the close inter­ac­tion of these two devot­ed sci­en­tists, Her­man Pines, an employ­ee at UOP, became involved in Ipati­ef­f’s research at North­west­ern. What start­ed spon­ta­neous­ly and unof­fi­cial­ly, was for­mal­ized in 1941, when Her­man was appoint­ed Research Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern, with the stip­u­la­tion that he should spend his Wednes­days work­ing here. This appoint­ment coin­cid­ed with the relo­ca­tion of Ipati­ef­f’s lab from the base­ment of Uni­ver­si­ty Hall to the new­ly erect­ed Tech­no­log­i­cal Insti­tute.

One of the first actions of this new pro­fes­sor was to write, with Ipati­eff, a mem­o­ran­dum to the Chem­istry Depart­ment propos­ing the cre­ation of a Catal­y­sis Teach­ing and High Pres­sure Lab­o­ra­to­ry. This doc­u­ment was dat­ed Sep­tem­ber 29, 1941, but it was not until 1947 that the Catal­y­sis Lab offi­cial­ly opened in the Tech­no­log­i­cal Insti­tute. A spe­cial High Pres­sure Lab­o­ra­to­ry was built in 1952 and offi­cial­ly ded­i­cat­ed August 14, 1953, in the pres­ence of the Pres­i­dents of North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty and of UOP. Pro­fes­sor Sir Hugh Tay­lor of Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty gave a lec­ture on catal­y­sis for the occa­sion. Short­ly there­after, a bronze plaque hon­or­ing Vladimir N. Ipati­eff was mount­ed over the entrance of the High Pres­sure Lab; it is now locat­ed in the recep­tion area of the Catal­y­sis Cen­ter.

Mean­while, Her­man Pines had been pro­mot­ed, in 1951, to the rank of Asso­ciate Research Pro­fes­sor; after Ipati­ef­f’s death, in 1952, he became the first V.N. Ipati­eff Pro­fes­sor of Organ­ic Chem­istry. On Jan­u­ary 1, 1953, he left UOP and began offi­cial­ly as a full-time pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern.

Only a few of the out­stand­ing sci­en­tif­ic achieve­ments of Her­man Pines can be men­tioned here; it is not an over­state­ment to say that his work rev­o­lu­tion­ized the gen­er­al under­stand­ing of chem­istry, in par­tic­u­lar the chem­istry of hydro­car­bons inter­act­ing with strong acids.

An unchal­lenged dog­ma of the chem­istry of the 1930’s was that paraf­fins would not react with any­thing at low tem­per­a­ture; even the name of this class of com­pounds, “parum affi­nis,” was based on this assumed lack of reac­tiv­i­ty. It must have been quite a shock to the sci­en­tists of those days, when Pines and Ipati­eff showed, in 1932, that in the pres­ence of a strong acid the paraf­fin iso-butane would react, even at ‑35 ºC, with olefins. This was the basis of the alky­la­tion process, patent­ed in 1938 and indus­tri­al­ly devel­oped soon after. Its most spec­tac­u­lar appli­ca­tion is the syn­the­sis of iso-octane from n‑butene and iso-butane. Iso-octane improves the qual­i­ty of gaso­line and air­plane fuel; it played a deci­sive role in the vic­to­ry of the Roy­al Air Force dur­ing the Bat­tle of Britain in 1941. The catal­y­sis of con­vert­ing paraf­fins to isoparaf­fins is, of course, one of the cor­ner­stone of the petro­le­um indus­try.

The alky­la­tion process was not dis­cov­ered by acci­dent. It was the pin­na­cle of research that start­ed with an obser­va­tion that puz­zled Her­man Pines in 1930. At that time he was work­ing in the ana­lyt­i­cal lab of UOP; his task was to vig­or­ous­ly shake petro­le­um frac­tions with con­cen­trat­ed sul­fu­ric acid in a cal­i­brat­ed glass cylin­der and to deter­mine how much of the oil dis­solved in the aque­ous acid phase. It was known that only unsat­u­rat­ed hydro­car­bons would be dis­solved in the acid; this exper­i­ment of shak­ing the petro­le­um and read­ing the menis­cus was the stan­dard pro­ce­dure to deter­mine how many unsat­u­rat­ed prod­ucts were present in a petro­le­um frac­tion. Her­man observed, how­ev­er, that after a few hours the phase bound­ary between oil and acid had shift­ed again: more oil was formed-oil that would not dis­solve in the aque­ous phase. Appar­ent­ly paraf­fins had been formed from olefins; Her­man con­clud­ed that this process required the simul­ta­ne­ous for­ma­tion of a high­ly unsat­u­rat­ed coprod­uct which remained dis­solved in the aque­ous phase. They called this process “con­junct poly­mer­iza­tion,” and years lat­er ana­lyt­i­cal meth­ods were found which per­mit­ted iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of this unsat­u­rat­ed coprod­uct as a mix­ture of sub­sti­tut­ed cyclopen­ta­di­enes. The step which led from this ear­ly obser­va­tion to the alky­la­tion process was lat­er described by Her­man:

On a hunch we thought that paraf­fins might even react with olefins in the pres­ence of acids; we there­fore intro­duced a stream of eth­yl­ene and hydro­gen chlo­ride to a stirred mix­ture of the pen­tanes and AlCl3. We observed that the eth­yl­ene was absorbed and that the hydro­car­bons recov­ered from the reac­tion con­sist­ed of sat­u­rat­ed hydro­car­bons only, an indi­ca­tion that eth­yl­ene must have react­ed with the pen­tanes.”

On this basis, Her­man Pines and Vladimir Ipati­eff devel­oped the new chem­istry of acid cat­alyzed reac­tions; it formed the cor­ner­stone of their sci­en­tif­ic work and was brought to its present beau­ty by Her­man in his years at North­west­ern. Major dis­cov­er­ies led to new process­es for the iso­mer­iza­tion of paraf­fins and the alky­la­tion of aro­mat­ic com­pounds, but also to base cat­alyzed organ­ic reac­tions. Two hun­dred and fifty pub­li­ca­tions in the sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture, one hun­dred and forty-five U.S. patents and the book “The Chem­istry of Cat­alyt­ic Hydro­car­bon Con­ver­sions” demon­strate the wealth of Her­man’s sci­en­tif­ic lega­cy. The forty-one grad­u­ate stu­dents and thir­ty-three post­doc­tor­al fel­lows who per­formed research in his lab helped car­ry his sci­en­tif­ic mes­sage to the world. As U.S. edi­tor of Advances in Catal­y­sis, he keen­ly looked for and crit­i­cal­ly eval­u­at­ed new con­cepts of catal­y­sis, and assured that their orig­i­na­tors described them care­ful­ly to the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. In 1957 he was chair­man of the Chica­go Catal­y­sis Soci­ety, in 1960 chair­man of the Gor­don Con­fer­ence of Catal­y­sis. He received three awards from the ACS, an hon­orary degree from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lyon and invi­ta­tions to lec­ture and advise in Israel, Brazil, Venezuela, Argenti­na, Poland, Czecho­slo­va­kia and Spain.

The Catal­y­sis Cen­ter remained his sci­en­tif­ic home. He rarely missed a sem­i­nar and often asked crit­i­cal ques­tions. He could be quite sharp when speak­ers used catal­y­sis only as a buzz­word for the intro­duc­tion of their lec­tures and spoke about work of rather ques­tion­able rel­e­vance to “real” catal­y­sis. Although he could be crit­i­cal, he was nev­er insen­si­tive; his gen­tle and friend­ly nature made it quite impos­si­ble for him to do any harm to any­one. While there is a unan­i­mous con­sen­sus that he was one of the tow­er­ing sci­en­tists of this cen­tu­ry, he always remained very mod­est; when his trend­set­ting dis­cov­er­ies of the 1930’s were men­tioned, he always referred them to Ipati­eff. He worked assid­u­ous­ly his entire life, bring­ing his last book to com­ple­tion at the age of nine­ty. Future gen­er­a­tions can learn from his exam­ple how rev­o­lu­tion­ary dis­cov­er­ies arise from sharp obser­va­tions by an inves­ti­gat­ing mind. Her­man Pines passed away on April 10, 1996.
Con­tributed by Wolf­gang Sachtler

Heinz Heinemann: One of the accomplished founders of the Catalysis Society

Dur­ing a 60-year career in indus­try and acad­e­mia, Heinz con­tributed to the inven­tion and devel­op­ment of 14 com­mer­cial fos­sil fuel process­es, received 75 patents and was the author of more than a hun­dred pub­li­ca­tions. Among his inven­tions was a process for con­vert­ing methanol to gaso­line. At his death, he was a dis­tin­guished sci­en­tist in the Wash­ing­ton office of LBNL. Dur­ing the peri­od 2001 to 2004, he served as a man­ag­er of the Wash­ing­ton Chem­i­cal Soci­ety (ACS) and as pres­i­dent of its Retired Chemists Group. After retire­ment from a career in indus­try, Heinz was a long-time lec­tur­er in the Col­lege of Chem­istry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, and a chem­istry researcher at Lawrence Berke­ley Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry.

Born in Berlin, Ger­many, he attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty and Tech­nis­che Hochschule in Berlin. When his doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion was reject­ed because he was Jew­ish, he made his way to Basel, Switzer­land, where he received his PhD in phys­i­cal chem­istry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel, before com­ing to the Unit­ed States in 1938. He became a U.S. cit­i­zen in 1944. He worked for sev­er­al petro­le­um com­pa­nies in Louisiana and Texas and won a post­doc­tor­al fel­low­ship at the then-Carnegie Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy, now Carnegie-Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty. The fel­low­ship was fund­ed by the gov­ern­ment of the Domini­can Repub­lic and involved research into ethanol, which was made from the Domini­can Repub­lic’s pri­ma­ry cash crop, sug­ar cane.

He pub­lished more than 150 papers and over 50 patents in catal­y­sis and petro­le­um chem­istry, most­ly while work­ing for Houdry Process Corp., the MW Kel­logg Co. as direc­tor of chem­i­cal and engi­neer­ing research, and the Mobil Research and Devel­op­ment Co. as man­ag­er of catal­y­sis research. Dur­ing those years he active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the research and devel­op­ment of 14 com­mer­cial process­es, includ­ing the process for con­vert­ing methanol to gaso­line.

After retir­ing from indus­try in 1978, he joined the Lawrence Berke­ley Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry as a researcher and became a lec­tur­er in the Depart­ment of Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing at UC Berke­ley. His research involved coal gasi­fi­ca­tion, cat­alyt­ic coal liq­ue­fac­tion, hydro­den­i­tri­fi­ca­tion, nitro­gen oxide emis­sion con­trol and the devel­op­ment of a spe­cial cat­a­lyst that enables methane, the major com­po­nent of nat­ur­al gas, to be used to make petro­chem­i­cals. The research team he led invent­ed and patent­ed a process known as cat­alyt­ic oxy­de­hy­dro­gena­tion.

He was a co-founder of the Philadel­phia Catal­y­sis Club, the Catal­y­sis Soci­ety of North Amer­i­ca and the Inter­na­tion­al Con­gress of Catal­y­sis, serv­ing as its pres­i­dent from 1956 to 1960. He was the founder of Catal­y­sis Reviews, and worked as its edi­tor for 20 years. He also was Con­sult­ing Edi­tor for over 90 books in the Chem­i­cal Indus­tries Series, pub­lished by Mar­cel Dekker, Inc.

He received many hon­ors, among them elec­tion to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Engi­neer­ing , the Houdry Award of the Catal­y­sis Soci­ety, the Mur­phree Award of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal Soci­ety, the H.H. Lowry Award pre­sent­ed for research he pur­sued in his sev­en­ties, and a Dis­tin­guished Scientist/Engineer award of the U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy. In addi­tion, he was elect­ed a mem­ber of the Span­ish Coun­cil for Sci­en­tif­ic Research for his sup­port in found­ing its Insti­tute of Catal­y­sis and Petro­chem­istry.

Heinz Heine­mann passed away on Nov. 23, 2005 of pneu­mo­nia. He was 92.
Con­tributed by http://chemistry.berkeley.edu/Publications/news/fall2005/heinz_obit.html

Eugene Houdry: Catalytic Cracking of low-grade fuel into gasoline

Eugene Houdry

Eugene Houdry

One of the first improve­ments in petro­chem­i­cal pro­duc­tion was the process devel­oped by Eugene Houdry for “crack­ing” petro­le­um mol­e­cules into the short­er ones that con­sti­tute gaso­line. (Ear­li­er com­mer­cial process­es for crack­ing petro­le­um relied instead on heat.)

Eugene Houdry (1892–1962) obtained a degree in mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing in his native France before join­ing the fam­i­ly met­al­work­ing busi­ness in 1911. After he served in the tank corps in World War I—for which he received hon­ors for extra­or­di­nary hero­ism in battle—he pur­sued his inter­est in auto­mo­biles (espe­cial­ly race cars) and their engines. On a trip to the Unit­ed States he vis­it­ed the Ford Motor Com­pa­ny fac­to­ry and attend­ed the Indi­anapo­lis 500 race. His inter­est soon nar­rowed to improved fuels. Because France pro­duced lit­tle petroleum—and the world sup­ply was thought to have near­ly run out—Houdry, like many oth­er chemists and engi­neers, searched for a method to make gaso­line from France’s plen­ti­ful lig­nite (brown coal). After test­ing hun­dreds of cat­a­lysts to effect the hoped-for mol­e­c­u­lar rearrange­ment, Houdry began work­ing with sil­i­ca-alu­mi­na and changed his feed­stock from lig­nite to heavy liq­uid tars. By 1930 he had pro­duced small sam­ples of gaso­line that showed promise as a motor fuel.

In the ear­ly 1930s Houdry col­lab­o­rat­ed with two Amer­i­can oil com­pa­nies, Socony Vac­u­um and Sun Oil, to build pilot plants. Oil com­pa­nies that did not want to resort to the new addi­tive tetraethyl lead were eager­ly look­ing for oth­er means to increase octane lev­els in gaso­line. In 1937 Sun Oil opened a full-scale Houdry unit at its refin­ery in Mar­cus Hook, Penn­syl­va­nia, to pro­duce high-octane Nu-Blue Suno­co gaso­line. By 1942, 14 Houdry fixed-bed cat­alyt­ic units were bear­ing the unan­tic­i­pat­ed bur­den of pro­duc­ing high-octane avi­a­tion gaso­line for the armed forces.

(One lim­i­ta­tion of the process was that it deposit­ed coke on the cat­a­lyst, which required that the unit be shut down while the coke was burned off in a regen­er­a­tion cycle. War­ren K. Lewis and Edwin R. Gilliland of the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy, who were hired as con­sul­tants to Stan­dard Oil Com­pa­ny of New Jer­sey [now Exxon­Mo­bil], final­ly solved this prob­lem with great inge­nu­ity and effort. They devel­oped the “mov­ing bed” cat­alyt­ic con­vert­er, in which the cat­a­lyst was itself cir­cu­lat­ed between two enor­mous ves­sels, the reac­tor and the regen­er­a­tor.)

Houdry con­tin­ued his work with cat­a­lysts and became par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ed with the cat­alyt­ic role of enzymes in the human body and the changes in enzyme-assist­ed process­es caused by can­cer. About 1950, when the results of ear­ly stud­ies of smog in Los Ange­les were pub­lished, Houdry became con­cerned about the role of auto­mo­bile exhaust in air pol­lu­tion and found­ed a spe­cial com­pa­ny, Oxy-Cat­a­lyst, to devel­op cat­alyt­ic con­vert­ers for gaso­line engines—an idea ahead of its time. But until lead could be elim­i­nat­ed from gaso­line (lead was intro­duced in the 1920s to raise octane lev­els), it poi­soned any cat­a­lyst.

The fol­low­ing tak­en from Chem­i­cal Her­itage Foun­da­tions Oth­mer Library Cat­a­log

Eugene Houdry was born on April 18, 1892 in France. In 1911 he received a degree in mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing. He worked for his fam­i­ly’s met­al work­ing busi­ness. In 1930, he moved to the U.S. wher he rev­o­lu­tion­ized the pro­duc­tion of gaso­line by devel­op­ing a process for crack­ing low-grade fuel into high test gaso­line. Dur­ing WWII, he devel­oped a sin­gle-step butane dehy­dro­gena­tion process for pro­duc­ing syn­thet­ic rub­ber. After WWII, he found­ed a com­pa­ny enti­tled Oxy-Cat­a­lyst, and shift­ed his focus to reduc­ing health risks asso­ci­at­ed with auto­mo­bile exhaust. He patent­ed the cat­alyt­ic muf­fler for auto­mo­biles in 1962. He died on July 18, 1962. He was induct­ed into the Nation­al Inven­tor’s Hall of Fame in 1990.
Con­tributed by A. Mills and Chem­i­cal Her­itage (http://www.chemheritage.org/classroom/chemach/petroleum/houdry.html)