Lehigh University
Lehigh University

News

Creating value from industrial waste

Israel Wachs, the G. Whitney Snyder Professor of chemical engineering, has been chosen to receive the 2005 Catalysis Club of Philadelphia Award.

The award honors Wachs’ contributions to the advancement of catalysis and his “extensive experience and expertise” in technological, scientific and organizational leadership roles in the field.

The award comes on the heels of the 19th North American Catalysis Society Meeting, held in late May in Philadelphia, at which Wachs and his international research group gave 16 oral and poster presentations – more than any other catalysis research group in the U.S.

“Your colleagues commented that you had not only made a tremendous impact in the discovery and application of innovative catalysis to technological problems, but in demonstrating to all of us how to attack such problems,” Hasan Dindi, past chair of the Catalysis Club of Philadelphia, wrote in an award citation to Wachs.

Dindi praised Wachs for developing a method of using a catalyst to convert contaminated methanol waste streams generated by paper mills into usable formaldehyde. Officials at Georgia-Pacific Corp., which successfully tested Wachs’ method, say a mill producing 2,000 tons of pulp a day could save $500,000 to $1 million a year using the process. Wachs received a U.S. patent, one of more than two dozen he holds, for the process in 2001.

“Your conception and design of a new catalyst and process for converting waste streams from pulp mills to valuable chemical products, one colleague states, ranks as one of the most important practical developments in heterogeneous catalysis in recent years,” Dindi wrote.

Dindi also noted Wachs’ breakthroughs in applying spectroscopy to determine the chemical and physical properties of catalysts, and Wachs’ journal articles, which are frequently cited by other researchers.

“You were also recognized as having a significant impact on the understanding of supported metal oxide catalysts using Raman spectroscopy. For much of the preceding decade, you have led the application of Raman spectroscopy and other advanced techniques to understanding the structure and function of supported metal oxide catalysts.

“It is virtually impossible to publish a heterogeneous catalysis paper containing Raman data without citing your work.”

Wachs’ peers, in testimonial statements, also recognized the professor as “an outstanding teacher, as well as an excellent mentor and role model for undergraduate and graduate students at Leigh,” Dindi wrote.

Wachs, the director of the Operando Molecular Spectroscopy and Catalysis Research Lab at Lehigh, received the 2002 Clean Air Technology Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for his work with paper pulp mill pollution.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2005

share this story: