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A chemical engineer joins a select group

Israel Wachs is renowned for his pioneering use of Raman spectroscopy to investigate catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions.

In a career spanning three decades, Israel Wachs, the G. Whitney Snyder Professor of Chemical Engineering, has earned international renown for his research into catalysis.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has honored Wachs with a Clean Air Technology award for a catalytic process he invented that converts paper-mill pollutants into formaldehyde.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has given Wachs the George A. Olah Award for achievements in hydrocarbon and petroleum chemistry. The Chicago Catalysis Club has honored him with the Herman Pines Award for research accomplishments in catalysis over a five-year period.

In addition, Wachs holds three dozen patents and has published more than 300 technical articles.

Recently, Wachs added another top accolade when he was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The honor is the highest bestowed by the society.

ACS, with more than 163,000 members worldwide, is the world’s largest scientific society. It launched its Fellows program in 2009 to recognize ACS members from academe, industry and government for achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and ACS.

A rare honor

Fewer than 1 percent of ACS’s members have been awarded the title of Fellow. Their ranks include three other Lehigh faculty members.

Leslie Sperling, professor emeritus of chemical engineering and also of materials science and engineering, is the author of 14 books and an expert in polymer networks and the properties of polymers.

Ned Heindel, the Howard S. Bunn Professor of Chemistry, is a former president of ACS.

And Jim Bohning, Lehigh’s chemistry historian, is the former director of oral history at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Wachs and the other new Fellows were recognized at ACS’s fall national meeting in Denver on Aug. 29. The list of honorees includes Nobel Prize winners and members of the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

At Lehigh, Wachs directs the Operando Molecular Spectroscopy and Catalysis Research Lab. He and his students investigate catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance and reaction kinetics.

Wachs is especially known for advancing the science of mixed metal-oxide heterogeneous catalysts and for his pioneering use of Raman spectroscopy, a technique used to study vibrational, rotational and other low-frequency modes in a material.

He has served as chairman of ACS’s Division of Catalysis Science and Technology, and has organized symposiums and awards committees for the society.

 
Photo by Douglas Benedict

Story by Adrienne Wright

Posted on Friday, September 02, 2011

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