The Global Energy Prize laureate 2016

The catalysts developed by Valentin Parmon speed up the reactions in the field of oil refinery in the same way as biocatalysts accelerate photosynthesis processes


In 2016, academician Valentin Parmon, Academic Advisor of Boreskov Institute of Catalysis of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, world-renowned expert in chemical methods of energy transformation, the only researcher whose achievements with traditional and non-traditional energy sources have been equally remarkable, received the Global Energy Prize “for breakthrough development of new catalysts in petroleum refining and renewable which have contributed to the energy industry of the future”. In his laureate speech he noted that it is the first time when a chemist receives an award for energy-related developments. It is especially important for me, he noted, that the achievements in the field of catalysis had been marked, as this had been the most demanded segment of chemistry. This proves relevance of chemistry in resolution of energy problems we all face. Indeed, today’s rapid industrial growth would have been impossible without the development of new chemical technologies. Nevertheless, the catalyst is not a metaphor, but a chemical term. As far back as in 1835, Swedish researcher Jöns Berzelius discovered that over certain substances, the speed of some chemical reactions increases. He was the first to call such substances catalysts (from Greek “katalysis” meaning relaxation). According to Berzelius, catalyst substances are able to loosen interatomic binding in the molecules participating in the reaction and in this way aid interaction between them. Fifty years after, his colleague chemist W. Ostwald went further in catalysis studies, it was him who gave the definition we use: the substance changing the speed of reaction. Dr. Parmon believes that science is driven by crisis times. In particular, the first peak of interest towards solar energy occurred in 1901– 1902. At the beginning of 1970s, during the second energy crisis, people would change cars for bicycles, so the attention of researchers again turned to the energy of the Sun. Scientists forecast slowdown of demand for standard petrol and this urges to initiate new R&D in the field of petrochemicals and alternative fuel. Tightening of environmental standards has become powerful motivators (or shall we call them catalysts?) for the development of new technologies.  In support of the idea of crises pushing science ahead: in 2003 – 2006, Russia faced an urgent need in domestic catalysts for the production of motor fuels according to standards Euro 4 and Euro 5. During three years of project research, the scientific institution led by Parmon, received 500 mln rubles of state financing. By comparison, implementation of new catalysts resulted in additional products – super-grade fuels, for the amount almost equal to 10 bln rubles, that is 17 times more than the amount invested. Today, about 15% of all high-octane gasoline in Russia is manufactured using the catalysts created by the research center formerly headed by Valentin Parmon, as well as its former Omsk branch (the latter was transformed into the Institute of hydrocarbon processing problems of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science sever years ago). 

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