Obituaries

Dr. Kirill V. Kovtunov (1983 – 2020)

kovtunov

Our colleague and friend passed away at the age of only 37. Yet, he contributed substantially to the field that combines catalysis and magnetic resonance, including the development of NMR signal enhancement techniques for the mechanistic studies of catalytic reactions and operando NMR spectroscopy and imaging of reactors. In 2016, Kirill received the Young Scientist Prize at ICC16 in Beijing, China, and was invited to give a talk at ICC17 in San Diego. Through his research he developed strong ties with numerous collaboration partners in Russia and abroad. In December 2019, he defended his Habilitation thesis and was very enthusiastic about starting a number of new exciting projects. But life decided differently. In January Kirill was diagnosed with cancer, and despite his unwavering resolve and determination to fight the disease, we lost him. His demise is a tremendous grief for his family, colleagues, students and friends.

 

Igor Koptyug, Eduard Chekmenev, Boyd Goodson, Valerii Bukhtiyarov

 

Professor Bernard Delmon

delmon2Our colleague, Professor Bernard Delmon passed away on Tuesday April 7 (not from Coronavirus) at the age of 87. Full professor at UCLouvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium), he has been a major player in the development of heterogeneous catalysis, publishing 18 books and several hundreds of articles. He was doctor honoris causa of the University of Patras (Greece), founder of the journals "Applied Catalysis", "Catalysis Today" and of the series "Studies in Surface Science and Catalysis", initiator of several series of international congresses still running today, member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and had been president of the European Federation of Chemical Engineering. In 1992, he received the prestigious "Alexander Von Humbolt" award. Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Bioengineers of UCLouvain since  1997, he has inspired generations of students and researchers and founded the research group on heterogeneous catalysis still active nowadays in Louvain-la-Neuve.

May Professor Delmon rest in peace.

Eric Gaigneaux, Patricio Ruiz, Michel Devillers, Damien Debecker, Sophie Hermans

 

Professor Jose Luis García Fierro (1948 –2020)

fierroOn 3 February, Professor Jose Luis Garcia Fierro died in Madrid, Spain, at the age of 71. Professor Fierro studied Chemistry at the University of Oviedo (Spain) where in 1973 he graduated with honours. In 1976, he received his PhD Degree in Chemistry from the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). As post-doctoral researcher, he expanded his scientific experience working in prestigious laboratories of University Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris, France), University College of Cork (Ireland) and Université Catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). Since 1974 and untill end of his life, he worked at the Spanish National Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) where he developed his passion for scientific research.

Professor Fierro was an internationally recognized scientist in diverse areas of heterogeneous catalysis and solid state chemistry applied to: natural gas conversion, selective oxidations of paraffins and olefins, synfuels, environmental catalysis, catalytic combustion, surface chemistry, heteroatom removal and dearomatization of petroleum feedstocks, fuel cells and hydrogen production. He was a reference in the application of XPS technique for the characterisation of catalytic surfaces and pioneered in Spain the developments of catalytic technologies in C1 chemistry, the set of reactions around methane that allow the synthesis from natural gas of a variety of chemicals and fuels. He was the promoter and leader of the Sustainable Chemistry and Energy Group at the Institute of Catalysis and Petrochemistry (CSIC) which has become an important Spanish research group of renowned international prestige in the areas of heterogeneous catalysis and chemistry of materials and where a large number of national and foreign students have carried out their doctoral work. His broad research, both fundamental and applied, are compiled in more than 1200 papers in renowned specialist journals devoted to heterogeneous catalysis, chemical engineering, materials science and surface chemistry. He has edited a total of 10 books (editor and/or co-author), holds 37 patents, and was plenary speaker at many congresses, seminars and scientific events held in national and international Universities, research centres and companies all around the world. His work was recognised with several acknowledgements: Award on Hydrogen production from Renewable Energies (2004), Senior Research Award of the Iberoamerican Federation of Catalysis Societies (FISOCAT)( 2008), Medal of the King Saud University, Saudi Arabia (2008), Senior Research Award “Miguel Catalan”, Madrid (2008) and Honoris Causa Doctorates from the University of Patras, Greece (2009), the University of Concepción, Chile (2014), and the San Marcos University, Peru (2017).

During his scientific career, Professor Fierro oversaw and inspired more than 100 doctorate, graduate students and postdocs all around the world (USA, Saudi Arabia and especially Latin American countries such as Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Colombia, with which he always kept a special connection). Among his former students and post-doc researchers, there are many scientists who today occupy key positions in national and international universities, industries and different organisations. All of them will remember his brilliant scientific capacity, his meticulousness and patience in the laboratory and his willingness to help. In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Professor Fierro was known for his ability to build and manage successful work teams and create a family environment among researchers. He was a wonderful colleague and friend and one of those rare beings, an exceptionally effective and dedicated scientist, a good and cheerful person and always with time to listen and help others. His human quality was exceptional, valuing everyone's work, from the most important to the least, which made him win the respect for all of us who were lucky enough know and meet him.

May he rest in peace!

His disciples and friends

 

Professor Michel Che

cheMichel was born in Lyon in December 1941. After obtaining a degree in Chemical Engineering in Lyon, he joined the « Institut de Recherches sur la Catalyse », CNRS Laboratory (IRC) in Lyon. He was awarded his PhD in 1968 by the University of Lyon and subsequently was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University (1969–1971) working with Prof J. Turkevich. In 1975, he moved from the IRC to assume the role of professor at Université P. & M. Curie-Paris-6, where he became director of the « Laboratoire de Réactivité de Surface » and in 1995 he became senior member of the « Institut Universitaire de France ».
Michel Che was very active in serving the catalysis and wider scientific community. He was President of the « Catalysis Division » of the « Société Chimique de France » and from 2007-2009 he was Vice-President of « Société Chimique de France» . From 1993 – 1995, he was the President-Founder of EFCATS (the European Federation of Catalysis Societies) being instrumental in initiating the biennial EuropaCat congresses. He was also President of IACS (the International Association of Catalysis Societies) between the years 2000-2004.

He was the recipient of numerous international awards, most notably from China, France, Italy, Germany, Japan The Netherlands, Poland, the UK, the USA and he was a pro-active member of many scientific committees, and in particular in those in China, France, Japan and UK.

 He pioneered a molecular approach to catalyst design by bridging the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis through the new field of interfacial coordination chemistry based on the combined use of transition metal complexes, specific isotopes and physical techniques. He made a major contribution to the improved understanding of the elementary step occurring at the solid-liquid (gas) interface.

He had especially close ties with China where his father had been born before emigrating to France (Lyon). Indeed, Michel was one of the first foreign scientists who visited China as early as 1977, when China opened up once again to the world. Due to his great contributions to the scientific development of China, and in particular international cooperation between France and China, he was awarded the International Cooperation Award of China which was presented to him by the Chinese President and which is the highest Chinese honor for foreign scientists.

In addition to his significant scientific contributions, Michel was greatly appreciated by all for his human qualities. All his students recognised him as an outstanding mentor. As a chairman of many committees, he used his influence to great effect including by defining research strategies, by promoting international collaborations and by fostering and educating generations of young scientists to become active and leading scientists across the globe. As Sir John Meurig Thomas wrote to me « he was a noble human being and a so fine scientist ».

We shall always remember Michel’s contribution to catalysis and his friendship with great affection. His spririt and soul will remain in our hearts for ever.

Jacques Vedrine.

 

Professor EMILIAN ANGELESCU

angelescuIt is with great sadness that we announce that former President of the Romanian Catalysis Society, Professor Emilian Angelescu died on July 23, 2019 at the age of 84.
Professor Angelescu was born on October 20, 1934 in Ploiesti, Romania. He graduated from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Bucharest in 1957. After his PhD, which was conducted under the supervision of Professor Dr. Doc. I. V. Nicolescu, he was appointed to the Department of Organic Chemistry at the same university, becoming full professor in 1980. He served as the Director of the Department of Chemical Technology and Catalysis from 1990-2004. In 1992 he was part of the group that founded the Romanian Catalysis Society for which he served as President from 1992-2004. One year later, the Romanian Catalysis Society was enrolled in the European Federation of Catalysis Societies and Professor Angelescu became a member of the Council.

He was author for a high number of publications and patents. In view of all these achievements he was presented with the “N.Teclu” award of the Romanian Academy.

 

Prof. Carlo Lamberti passed suddenly on February 1st, 2019, at the age of 54.

lambertiProf. Lamberti was a brilliant scientist and an enthusiastic teacher. His expertise ranged from Quantum Physics to Material Science, Chemistry and Catalysis, and he was always eager to infuse students and younger collaborators with his scientific passion and endless curiosity, especially in the field he helped advance most: the operando studies applied, inter alia, to solid catalysts. He was at his best at synchrotron sources and neutron beams, where he performed tirelessly hundreds of experiments (days and nights!) with X-ray and neutron sources at ADONE, LURE DCI and SuperACO, ESRF, MAX, NSLS, Elettra, SRS, SLS, APS, SOLEIL, ISIS, SOLEIL, ILL, SINQ, FRM-II. He led two long-term projects at the ESRF and one at Elettra.

His outstanding scientific contributions have substantially advanced the physical understanding underpinning the performances of catalytic materials. A physicist by training (he obtained his Ph.D. in solid state physics in 1993 at the University of Torino, Italy), Carlo was able to engage with both physicists and chemists, and to communicate effectively across these two disciplines, to mutually advance in situ and operando methods, as well as their application to the study of catalytic materials (such as zeolites and other porous materials, as well as supported transition metals and metal nanoparticles). His development of new methods of characterization of metal organic frameworks by combined techniques is universally recognized as pioneering, paving the way for new researchers to follow his footsteps.

Among his 400+ published papers (cited by colleagues worldwide over 25,500 times to date, with a staggering h-factor of 89), a seminal contribution, “Reactivity of Surface Species in Heterogeneous Catalysts Probed by In Situ X-ray Absorption Techniques “ by Silvia Bordiga, Elena Groppo, Giovanni Agostini, Jeroen A. van Bokhoven, and Carlo Lamberti*, Chemical Reviews, 113, 1736-1850 (2013) https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/cr2000898, showcases part of the craftsmanship and broad scientific interest Carlo possessed.

Carlo was both an outstanding scholar and a charismatic teacher. He was a professor in Physical Chemistry at the University of Torino. He was the promotor and the Italian coordinator of the European Master Program “Materials science: exploring large scale facilities” (MaMaSELF). He also was the scientific director of the “Smart Materials Research Center” at the Southern Federal University of Rostov-on-Don (Russian Federation). His students fondly remember his ability to clearly explain difficult concepts with simplicity and enthusiasm, a characteristic of a great teacher. The room sparked with energy that he exuded every time he came to a microphone (he had questions for every speaker at every session in one of the many languages he mastered), making the sessions he attended unforgettable, and ever more interesting, regardless of the topic. He was a patient and caring educator, explaining difficult subjects of X-ray spectroscopy to beginners in short courses he liked to teach, by engaging the audience – always with a lot of creativity and good humor (in the picture Carlo explaining coordination numbers). One further example of the priceless memories about his unique way of lecturing: during a class he taught about synchrotron experiments, he made students stand up, move and behave like different nuclei. You had to see the incredulous yet captivated audience!

Carlo has clearly made a huge impact on the catalysis community leaving a great legacy in the use of in situ and operando techniques and in the comprehension of catalysis in general. He will be tremendously missed as a great colleague as well. However, he will be missed not only as the eminent scientist, but mostly as the charming, gentle, larger-than-life person he was. Many in the community mourn the passing of a true friend, to whom he often repeated: “Enjoy life, in all its aspects!”. His personality, his enthusiasm, his way of teaching and his research have left a permanent legacy in many memories.

 

Professor Robert Karl Grasselli

grasselliProfessor Robert Karl Grasselli passed away in Munich on 11 January 2018; he was 87 years old.

Robert Grasselli obtained his bachelor degree from Harvard in 1952, after wining a scholarship from the Technical University in Graz, Austria. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Case-Western Reserve University, Cleveland, from where he proceeded to Sohio as a research scientist.  After leaving Sohio he worked at the US Office of Naval Research, Washington, where he was Director of Chemical Research, and then at Mobil Corporation. From 1996 to 2006 he was Guest Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Munich and, simultaneously, Adjunct Full Professor in Chemical Engineering at the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology in the University of Delaware at Newark.  Later he became Distinguished Affiliated Professor at the Technical University of Munich (2006-2018).
Dr. Robert A. Grasselli was a highly accomplished and innovative industrial chemist, renowned  for his seminal contributions to the design, development, and commercial exploitation of novel solid catalysis. Inventor in 160 U.S. patents, he was instrumental in developing a fundamentally new method of producing the polymer precursor, acrylonitrile. The key innovation in this one-step process was the use microcrystalline bismuth molybdate; the process was so effective that, after its adoption worldwide, a 50-fold increase of acrylonitrile production was achieved.
Dr. Robert Grasselli was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering (1995); inducted into the US National Hall of Fame for Engineering, Science and Technology (1988); was a recipient of the American Chemical Society E. N. Morley Medal (1999); and the E. V. Murphee Award for Industrial and Engineering Chemistry in 1984.  He also shared the Distinguished Award in Oxidation Catalysis from the World Oxidation Catalysis Society in Berlin (2001); and he received a doctorate, honoris causa, from the University of Bologna.  He was awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Prize in1995.
Dr. Grasselli combined the best of the American optimism and ‘can-do’ spirit with the old-world European cultural depth and charm of the continent of his birth. He read extensively; he loved music and was an ardent supporter of the Vienna Phillarmonic.  He had a passion for skiing and for travel to far-away places. He loved gardening, unusual flora, and modern art. For the last twenty years of his life, he and his wife, Dr. Eva-Maria Hauck, spent their time in their two homes, one in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, the other in Munich. He will always be remembered for his ethusiam for science that led him throughout his life to bring friends together in discussion.   
(prepared by Doug Buttrey, William Goddard III, and Raul Lobo)