Feeds

Chemistry Nobel awarded to semiconductor boffin

While Doris Lessing scoops literature gong

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The Nobel prize for chemistry has been awarded to Gerhard Ertl, now based at Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Berlin, for his work in establishing a fundamental experimental approach to surface chemistry.

His experiments laid the foundations, quite literally, for the development of catalytic converters. He also contributed to our understanding of the Haber-Bosch process, which removes nitrogen from the air so that it can be added to fertilisers.

Ertl started his career in the semiconductor industry, where he became interested in surface chemistry. He went on to develop a methodology for the science, showing how different procedures could be used to build up a complete and reliable picture of surface chemistry.

The difficulty with experimenting in surface chemistry is keeping track of the atoms and molecules on the boundary between the surface and the environment. Work must be done in a vacuum, lest the atoms you want to watch be contaminated by anything else. Working out exactly what has and has not been allowed into an experimental system is the key, and requires a combination of techniques. This is where Ertl's work was so vital.

As well as the practical, Ertl's work has shed light on some fundamental processes, such as why (and how) iron rusts. His techniques have even helped to understand the process that destroys the ozone layer. Some of the reactions involved take place on the surface of very small ice crystals high in the stratosphere.

In other Nobel news the academy awarded the prize for literature to Doris Lessing, author of The Golden Notebook and The Good Terrorist, among others. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.