maandag 13 november 2017

And then there was the next Dutch winner!

The Dutch were very proud when Ben Feringa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2016. Wow, a Dutch winner! Applications of his molecular machines still need to be developed. However, in the practical application of his research he might follow other laureates, thanks to whom the chemical industry was developed – also at Chemelot. Here’s an historic overview to mention a few of them.

Ben Feringa

Chemical thermodynamics
The first Nobel Prize laureate in 1901 was also Dutch: Jacobus van ‘t Hoff. He received the prize for his work on chemical thermodynamics. This is fundamental knowledge: without understanding chemical thermodynamics there cannot be chemical manufacturing at Chemelot.

Nitric acid
The German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald (Nobel Prize 1909) developed the Ostwald process for nitric acid. Nowadays, OCI Nitrogen operates three nitric acid plants at Chemelot for nitrogenous fertilizers.

The German chemist Fritz Haber (1918) invented (together with Carl Bosch) the Haber-Bosch process to synthesize ammonia. OCI Nitrogen has two ammonia plants in operation at Chemelot. Ammonia is used as a feedstock for several products that are manufactured on site.
Later (1931), Carl Bosch also received the Nobel Prize, together with Friedrich Bergius, for their contribution to the invention and development of chemical high pressure methods, which are widely applied in the chemical industry.

The Austrian-Hungarian Richard Adolf Zsigmondy received the Nobel Prize for his work on colloids (1925). There are various products at Chemelot that possess characteristics of a colloid; a colloid being a mixture in which one substance of microscopically dispersed insoluble particles is suspended throughout another substance (read “A separate post about separation”). Therefore, the understanding of colloids is crucial for the synthesis and/or handling of these kinds of products.

Molecular structure
The Dutch, Maastricht-born chemist Peter Debye did a lot of fundamental research on the structure of molecules, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1936.

Macromolecular chemistry
In 1922, the German chemist Herman Staudinger discovered that polymers consist of long chains of atoms. Before that, scientists believed that polymers were clusters of small molecules (colloids). In 1953, he received the Nobel Prize. Today, polymers represent the most important product at Chemelot in terms of quantity.

The German Karl Ziegler and the Italian Giulio Natta received the Nobel Prize in 1963 for their discoveries in the field of the chemistry and technology of polymers. Without their invention, there would be no polyethylene, no polypropylene, and no synthetic rubber. So, half of the companies at Chemelot are tributary to these two laureates. For instance, ARLANXEO synthesizes rubber with a Ziegler-Natta catalyst.

Molecular machines
Finally, in 2016, we have the first Dutch Nobel Prize for Chemistry laureate since 1936 and 1995 (Paul Crutzen). Ben Feringa, Jean-Pierre Sauvage, and Fraser Stoddart received the prize for the design and synthesis of molecular machines. The knowledge about these very small systems may foster the realization of ever more complex, versatile, and effective molecular machines for areas of nanotechnology.
The future will tell if we ever get these ‘machines’ running at Chemelot or Brightlands Chemelot Campus…

This is a repost of my (Dutch) September 11, 2017 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.

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