Exactly one hundred years ago the chemist Wilhelm Ostwald received the Nobel prize for his work on the topic of catalysis. And as we see today his research work have really been pathbreaking: Without catalysts modern chemistry would not be possible. It is only logical, that catalysis also plays a major role in this year’s Nobel Laureates Meeting.
Which basic meaning catalysis has for nowadays chemistry can already be seen on the fact, that in the last three years three Nobel Prizes in chemistry were given to scientists that worked in catalysis research.
In Europe catalysis takes an active part in the production of goods worth 1.2 trillion Euros every year.
Catalysis in inevitable
But let’s go back to the chemical relevance of catalysis. Wilhelm Ostwald defined it one hundred years ago like this:
“Catalysis is the acceleration of a slowly running chemical process by the presence of an external substance.”
And this explanation is still valid today. Most chemical reactions are sluggish or slow to such extent that the addition of a catalysator is neccessary to leverage the reaction.
In Lindau Gerhard Ertl, who got the Nobel prize in 2007 will be lecturing the first talk on this topic. “From atoms to complexity – reactions on surfaces” will be the title of his speech, focusing the exciting effects that happen when solids are coated with gossamer surfaces (that work as catalyst).
If you focus on these processes with modern techniques you may possibly – as Ertl announces in his speech abstract – draw conclusions on the mechanisms of natural self organisation.
Enzymes and the future of energy generation?
An interesting forecast on future fields of application of catalysis will be given by John. E Walker, Nobel Laureate in 1997, who will be talking about “Energy conversion in biology”. Research on catalysis may be giving an answer to the energy problems of our time.
In nature there are of course catalytic processes as well. Enzymes are playing a big part in metabolism as a reaction activator. Walker had proved in the 1980s how organisms produce their energy by using the enzyme ATP-synthase. And this mechanism, that basically is the “molecular machine” may be useful for our energy supply in the future.
In the press release of the Lindau Meeting named “Creative Playmakers” there will be further details on this topic. And it also enunciates the hope that catalysis may be looking forward to a career of at least one hundred further years:
“One day the vision of a regenerative and eco-friendly hydrogen economy to supply our earth with energy may become reality.”
|» Marc Scheloske ist Sozialwissenschaftler und Redakteur von ScienceBlogs|
|» Jessica Riccò is an editor at ScienceBlogs and translator of this blog.|