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UC Berkeley Professor and world-renowned catalysis researcher Gábor Somorjai named 2016 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer at Pitt

PITTSBURGH (February 8, 2016) … In recognition of his exemplary research in the fields of catalysis and surface chemistry, the University of California’s Gábor A. Somorjai has been named the 2016 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer by Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Dr. Somorjai is Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory managed by the University of California. The Covestro Distinguished Lectureship, a continuation of the Bayer Distinguished Lectureship, recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research, and is funded by Covestro LLC.

Dr. Somorjai will present lectures on Thursday, May 5 at 5:00 pm with a reception following, and Friday, May 6 at 9:30 am. Both lectures will be presented in Benedum Hall Room 102, 3700 O’Hara Street. Parking is limited. For more information, email che@engr.pitt.edu or call 412-624-9630.

“The field of catalysis is synonymous with Dr. Somorjai, and we are honored to present him with this year’s award,” noted Steven R. Little, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. “Catalysis is an integral part of our department’s research and curriculum, and so we welcome Dr. Somorjai and look forward to his insight in this rapidly evolving field.”

Gabor A. Somorjai has been a leader in the field of Catalysis for more than 45 years.  He has published more than 1200 papers and 4 books. Somorjai received his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1960 and he was appointed to the faculty there in 1964.  Since then, he has won just about every honor in his field, among them the Nichols Medal (2014), NAS Award in Chemical Sciences (2013), the Honda Prize, the ENI New Frontiers of Hydrocarbons Prize and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Sciences (2011), the Priestley Medal (2008), the Langmuir prize from the American Physical Society (2007), the National Medal of Science (2002), the Wolf Prize (1998), the von Hippel Award from the Materials Research Society, and Peter Debye Award from the American Chemical Society (1989). He became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1979 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1983.

Lecture 1: Metal Nanocatalysts, Their Synthesis and Size Dependent Covalent Bond Catalysis:  Instrumentation for Characterization under Reaction Conditions
May 5, 2016, 5:00 p.m. - Benedum 102 (Reception follows)
ABSTRACT: Colloidal chemistry is used to control the size, shape and composition of metal nanoparticles usually in the 1-10 nm range.  In-situ methods are used to characterize the size, structure (electronic and atomic), bonding, composition and oxidation states under reaction conditions.  These methods include sum frequency generation nonlinear optical spectroscopy (SFG), ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (APXPS) and high pressure scanning tunneling microscope (STM).  The catalytic behavior depends on the oxidation state, coordination number, crystallographic orientation of metal sites and bonding and orientation of surface adsorbates.

Lecture 2: Oxide-metal Interfaces as Active Sites for Acid-base Catalysis: Oxidation State of Nanocatalyst Change with Decreasing Size, Conversion of Heterogeneous to Homogeneous Catalysis, Hybrid Systems

May 6, 2016, 9:30 a.m. - Benedum 102
ABSTRACT: When metal nanoparticles are placed on different mezoporous or microporous oxide supports the catalytic turnover rates and selectivities markedly change.  The charge flow between the metal and the oxide ionizes the adsorbed molecules at the oxide-metal interfaces and alters the catalytic chemistry (acid-base catalysis).  

The oxidation state of metal nanoparticles becomes less metallic and assume higher oxidation states with decreasing size.  The small nanoclusters behave similar to transition metal ions that are active homogeneous catalysts.  Hybrid systems composed of enzymes, homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts are constructed to study molecularly unified catalytic schemes for the future.  

About Covestro LLC
Covestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business. Covestro manufactures high-tech polymer materials and develops innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction, medical and sports and leisure industries. The Covestro group has 30 production sites around the globe and employed approximately 15,700 people at the end of September 2015.

About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and our industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Our commitment to the future of the chemical process industry drives the development of educational and research programs. The Department has a tradition of excellence in education and research, evidenced by recent national awards including numerous NSF CAREER Awards, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award, among others. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. The vibrant research culture within the Department includes active collaboration with the adjacent University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Center for Simulation and Modeling, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering and the U.S. DOE-affiliated Institute for Advanced Energy Solutions.


Contact: Paul Kovach