Alexis Bell selected for the 2007 Michel Boudart Award

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