Catalyst Researcher Wins Recognition

Feb. 18, 2013
U.K. chemical engineering society announces first recipient of Andrew Medal.

Chemical engineers certainly appreciate the crucial role catalysts play in making many reactions commercially viable. Development of better catalysts not only can lead to more-cost-effective production from existing processes but also can open up new synthesis routes. Catalytic approaches for converting renewable feedstocks and abundant domestic supplies of natural gas have become increasingly important focuses for research — as two stories in this issue point up: "Renewable Feedstocks Maintain Momentum" and "Sulfur Spurs Methane Conversion to Ethylene."

Significant work in catalysis deserves recognition. Several groups, including the American Chemical Society, the North American Catalysis Society, the International Association of Catalysis Societies and the Royal Society of Chemistry, bestow honors. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers gives an award for chemical reaction engineering.

Now, another notable honor has joined the roster. The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), Rugby, U.K., has announced the winner of its inaugural Andrew Medal. The award, which will be bestowed every three years, recognizes significant research in the field of heterogeneous catalysis.

Chris Hardacre, head of the School of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering at Queen's University, Belfast, U.K., will formally receive the award and present the inaugural Andrew Lecture at IChemE's first Chemical Engineering and Catalysis Conference, which will take place in London in June.

"Hardacre is an internationally leading scientist in both the use of heterogeneous catalysts and in the field of ionic liquids. It is his seminal work in the field of catalysis that is being recognized with the Andrew Medal. He has worked closely with industry to tailor catalysts for very difficult applications and this has led to significant process improvements, especially for hydrogenation reactions," says Graham Hutchings of Cardiff University, a member of the panel that evaluated nominees.

The medal commemorates Sydney Andrew, who started his career as an engineer at now-defunct Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). At ICI, he worked on the fundamentals of absorption and oxidation and then on the development of the company's catalytic steam reforming process. He then became a professor of chemical engineering at Leeds University, Leeds, U.K. Concurrently while at Leeds, he ran ICI's catalysis group in Billingham, U.K. (For a perspective about the rise and demise of ICI, which once was one of the world's largest chemical companies and was a pioneer in areas like process intensification and safety, see: "ICI Fades Into History.")

The Andrew Medal is only one of several new honors the U.K. professional society initiated last year.

IChemE also launched awards focused on North America ("Recognize the Wider Impact of Recognition") including a safety award to honor corporate efforts to manage risks, and a "young chemical engineer of the year" award to recognize the technical achievements of an individual 30 years old or younger.

Dow Corning, Midland, Mich., won the inaugural safety award for an initiative to change its corporate safety culture. "The successful Dow Corning project centered on the idea that companies with an excellent performance in traditional safety metrics could still be at risk if other safety program aspects are not managed. The organization created a culture shift through education, communication and work process changes, reaching almost 12,000 employees worldwide," says IChemE. (For insights from DuPont and Dow on how to build a strong corporate safety culture, see: "Orchestrate an Effective Safety Culture," and "Make Safety Second Nature.")

Nishit Doshi received the young engineer award for his research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on biomaterials for drug delivery and diagnostics. "The synthetic platelets he has developed are the most advanced to date and their use has implications in the early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disorders," notes the institution.

Details on IChemE's 2013 North American awards should appear shortly on www.icheme.org.

If professional societies are looking for ideas for additional awards, they might do well to focus on ways to honor more practitioners, particularly those not working in research and development. To my mind, engineers who make notable contributions to process design and plant operations don't get the recognition outside of their companies that they deserve.

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at [email protected]

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