Paul B. Weisz
Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, born 1722, discovered zeolite. Today, natural and synthetic zeolites are used as catalysts to boost the amount of gasoline obtainable from petroleum, thanks to pioneering work of another chemist, Paul B. Weisz.
Paul B. Weisz (b. 1919) pioneered the use of natural and synthetic zeolites (hydrous silicates) as catalysts while he was working at Mobil Oil (now ExxonMobil). These catalysts are highly selective, facilitating only certain reactions between specific molecules of given shapes. Processes based on zeolite catalysts were first developed in the 1960s and were found to increase both the amount of gasoline obtainable from petroleum and the octane rating of gasoline. Shape-selective zeolite catalysts proved to be widely applicable to many other industrial processes, including the manufacture of gasoline from natural gas and the production of raw materials for making polyester garments, plastics, and other products from petroleum.
Not until after he had become a well-established researcher in catalytic chemistry did Weisz achieve his long-deferred goal of a doctoral degree at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich, Switzerland, while on a leave of absence from Mobil. His thesis on the mechanism of dyeing fibers developed some of the basic laws about the entrance of dyes into fibers, based on his experience with the velocity with which chemicals flow into catalytic materials.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation