For over sixty years, Northwestern University has been at the forefront of catalysis research. In 1931, Vladimir N. Ipatieff, the world's leading expert on the subject, arrived from Russia and established a laboratory at Northwestern. Here, along with the assistance of research assistant Herman Pines, many breakthroughs in catalysis were made, including the discovery of a revolutionary oil-refining process which converted waste gases to high-octane aviation fuel. This fuel is credited with helping outmanned, outgunned British pilots hold off the superior German air power during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
After Ipatieff's death in 1952, a chairmanship carrying his name became a permanent part of Northwestern University's Department of Chemistry. Herman Pines was appointed the first Ipatieff Professor, followed by Robert Burwell, and Wolfgang M.H. Sachtler. Tobin J. Marks, has been appointed the 2000 Ipatieff Professor of Chemistry. Through the efforts of Vladimir Ipatieff and those of his successors, Herman Pines, Robert L. Burwell, Jr. and Wolfgang Sachtler, the Ipatieff Laboratory was created and research activities in catalysis and related surface science have expanded.
In recent years, expanding research led to a building specifically designed to meet the needs of research in catalysis and surface science, and in 1984 following Burwell's retirement, the University formally established the Center for Catalysis and Surface Science (CCSS) to consolidate the research efforts and bring in new partners. Sachtler became its first director, followed by Harold H. Kung, and Peter C. Stair.
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