Surface Reactions Impact Many Industries
So far this week, the 2007 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to the "fathers" of certain modern technologies, specifically the recipients of the Nobel Prize for Medicine and the Nobel Prize for Physics . Today's announcement of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Chemistry winner is no exception: Gerhard Ertl, of the Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany, is a father of the science of surface chemistry.
Surface chemistry studies the effects of various chemicals in the ambient environment of a catalytic surface, such as a metal. What, for example, makes iron rust, or silver tarnish, or bronze develop a patina? It's the reaction of certain chemical elements in the environment upon a relatively inert material. Surface chemistry even explains the breakdown of the ozone layer as the surfaces of small crystals of ice react to freons in the stratosphere.
Gerhard Ertl saw great possibilities in the field of surface chemistry and began active study of it in the 1960's. His work created a procedural methodology for ascertaining a complete picture of surface reaction. Within this framework, surface chemists can isolate various elements to find the one or ones associated with surface change. The methodology Ertl formulated is still being used in surface chemistry. It is extremely precise and involved, as it must be to avoid contamination of the environments that would lead to inaccurate results.
Ertl's experimental methodology has led to developments in artificial fertilizers, clean exhaust systems, semiconductor materials, and renewable fuels, among others.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2007 Press Release
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2007 Information for the Public
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