From American Chemical Society
Allentown chemist wins national award for catalysis research
Chemist John N. Armor of Orefield, Pa., will be honored April 3 by the world's largest scientific society for his achievements in the field of catalysis, technology that makes possible a host of such processes as petroleum refining, drug manufacture and pollution control. He will receive the 2001 E.V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry from the American Chemical Society at its 221st national meeting in San Diego.
As senior scientist at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Armor leads the company's search for ever-more-efficient catalysts and their application. Like highly skilled construction workers, catalysts tailor-make new products, one after another, always moving on to the next without themselves being incorporated into the structure.
Without them, many of the technologies that produce high-octane gasoline, cleaner air, plastics and other products of daily life simply would not take place, said Armor.
"My job is not just mating a catalyst to a chemical process, but also understanding how it works," he said from his Allentown, Pa., office. Over the course of his career, Armor's projects have included the purification of gases and the production of such industrial building blocks such as hydrogen and nylon.
"For a number of years, we at Air Products worked on a project to remove oxides of nitrogen, or NOx - that's the brown haze you can see in smog," he said. "Our process used not ammonia, which itself is a pollutant, but parts-per-million amounts of methane."
The catalyst was a cobalt-modified zeolite - aluminum silicate crystal containing cobalt ions - and turned NOx into nitrogen, with carbon dioxide and water as other products.
"We generated a lot of new knowledge, and then others picked up the banner. It will probably become the technology of choice," he said.
Armor received his undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1966 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1970. He is an officer in the North American Catalysis Society as well as a member of the ACS fuel and petroleum divisions.
The ACS E.V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry - named after a catalyst chemist who helped develop high-octane aviation fuel during World War II - is sponsored by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co. and ExxonMobil Chemical Co.