WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2011 — Just as people who have the enthusiasm and energy to make things happen are called catalysts, their namesakes — chemical catalysts — also are facilitators, jump-starting chemical reactions that would never work or would work too slowly. Almost everything we rely upon in everyday life — 90 percent of all commercially produced products (a trillion dollars worth each year) — involve catalysts at some stage of their manufacture.
A new episode in the 2011 edition of a popular video series from the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, focuses on research that led to catalysts involved in making two of the most widely used plastics, as well as biodegradable detergents and fuels.
ACS encourages educators, schools, museums, science centers, news organizations and others to embed links to Prized Science on their websites. The videos discuss scientific research in non-technical language for general audiences. New episodes in the series, which focuses on ACS’ 2011 award recipients, will be issued in November and December.
“Science awards shine light on individuals who have made impressive achievements in research,” noted ACS President Nancy B. Jackson, Ph.D. “Often, the focus is on the recipients, with the public not fully grasping how the award-winning research improves the everyday lives of people around the world. The Prized Science videos strive to give people with no special scientific knowledge the chance to discover the chemistry behind the American Chemical Society’s national awards and see how it improves and transforms our daily lives.”
Amazing Catalysts features the research of Jeffrey C. Bricker, Ph.D., winner of the 2011 ACS Award for Creative Invention sponsored by the ACS Corporation Associates. Catalysts are involved in making many things we use every day, such as fuels and plastics. One of Bricker’s inventions was a new catalyst for making styrene, one of the most widely used plastics in the world. Styrene is the stuff in foam beverage cups, food containers and home insulation. It also is an ingredient in the almost one billion car and truck tires manufactured each year. Bricker’s catalyst reduced the cost of making styrene, and it now helps produce about 1.5 million tons of styrene each year. Another Bricker catalyst improved production of polypropylene plastics. The world produces more than 45 million tons of it each year. His catalyst changes ordinary propane gas used in backyard grills into this plastic. Other catalysts he developed improve the manufacture of “green” detergents and make the process of fuel production much more eco-friendly.
The ACS administers more than 60 national awards to honor accomplishments in chemistry and service to chemistry. The nomination process involves submission of forms, with winners selected by a committee consisting of ACS members who typically are technical experts in the nominee’s specific field of research.