Emmett Award to Francisco Zaera

The Paul H. Emmett Award in Fun­da­men­tal Catal­y­sis to Pro­fes­sor Fran­cis­co Zaera of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at River­side, USA. The award is spon­sored by the Davi­son Chem­i­cal Divi­sion of W.R. Grace and Com­pa­ny. The Award is intend­ed to rec­og­nize and encour­age indi­vid­ual con­tri­bu­tions (under the age of 45) in the field of catal­y­sis with empha­sis on dis­cov­ery and under­stand­ing of cat­alyt­ic phe­nom­e­na, pro­pos­al of cat­alyt­ic reac­tion mech­a­nisms and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of and descrip­tion of cat­alyt­ic sites and species.

Pro­fes­sor Zaera’s main inter­ests lie with the study of mech­a­nisms of sur­face reac­tions by using mod­ern sur­face-sen­si­tive tech­niques. He is not­ed for bridg­ing the knowl­edge on sur­face reac­tions with that of organometal­lic sys­tems and for his exten­sion of kinet­ic the­o­ries to reac­tions on sur­faces. His nom­i­na­tors com­ment­ed that he has placed par­tic­u­lar empha­sis on mak­ing a con­nec­tion between the atom­ic details of sur­face reac­tions and het­ero­ge­neous cat­alyt­ic process­es. While most sur­face kinet­ic con­cepts have been rec­og­nized for some time, Fran­cis­co is cred­it­ed with quan­ti­fy­ing the kinet­ic con­se­quences of these effects by a vari­ety of sur­face sci­ence tech­niques to ratio­nal­ize the rates observed in mod­el sys­tems and cor­re­late them with prac­ti­cal het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis rates.

He has been giv­en cred­it for unequiv­o­cal­ly estab­lish­ing that most hydro­car­bon pro­cess­ing cat­a­lysts are cov­ered with a car­bona­ceous lay­er dur­ing the cat­alyt­ic process. By per­form­ing iso­tope label­ing exper­i­ments and using vibra­tional spec­troscopy and mol­e­c­u­lar beam stud­ies, Pro­fes­sor Zaera deter­mined that those deposits are not direct inter­me­di­ates in hydro­gena­tion-dehy­dro­gena­tion steps, but rather an play an indi­rect role by tem­per­ing the high activ­i­ty of the met­al sur­faces and pro­vid­ing a reser­voir for the sur­face hydro­gen. He is also cred­it­ed with estab­lish­ing the promi­nence of hydride and reduc­tive elim­i­na­tion steps as the main con­ver­sion path­ways for alkyl frag­ments on tran­si­tion met­als. He has also shown how spe­cif­ic small changes in rel­a­tive rates among com­pet­ing reac­tions can account for vast dif­fer­ences in selec­tiv­i­ty observed among some Group VIII met­al cen­ters.