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Former HIMS professor Piet van Leeuwen has been awarded the Alwin Mittasch Prize 2019, in honour of his groundbreaking contributions to the molecular understanding of catalysis using organometallic complexes and their transfer into industrial hydroformylation. The renowned international catalysis award will be handed to Van Leeuwen at EuropaCat 2019 on 23 August 2019 in Aachen.

Piet van Leeuwen
Piet van Leeuwen, born in 1942, studied chemistry at Leiden University and obtained his PhD in 1967. Having joined Shell in 1968, he subsequently worked for the company in several functions in the Netherlands and the U.S. In 1989, he became part-time professor at the University of Amsterdam, becoming a fulltime professor in 1994. From 2004 to 2015 he was Group Leader at the Institute of Chemical Research at Catalonia before taking over his current position as holder of the “IDEX Chaire d’Attractivité”, Université de Toulouse, INSA. Photo: DECHEMA.

Piet van Leeuwen has worked at the forefront of homogeneous catalysis for his whole professional life. From 1989 until 2004 he was a professor at the University of Amsterdam, where he made substantial contributions to the long tradition in homogeneous catalysis research. Other HIMS professors that led research in this field are Kees Vriese, Kees Elsevier, Ad Oskam and Dick Stufkens.

Molecular understanding of ligand effects

The spectrum of Piet van Leeuwen's research is broad and centers around the development of well-defined metal complexes as homogeneous catalysts and, more recently, the use of nanoparticle catalysis. He is strongly praised for his contribution to the molecular understanding of ligand effects in metal-catalyzed reactions, which have been relevant to a number of industrial applications, in particular in the field of hydroformylation.

The Alwin Mittasch Prize, issued by the German Catalysis Society (GeCatS) and DECHEMA, the German Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, recognizes outstanding research that has led to a deeper understanding or widening of fundamentals in catalysis and its industrial application. It is endowed with 10,000 Euro and supported by BASF. Image: DECHEMA.

Hydroformylation is a crucial industrial process for the conversion of alkenes to aldehydes, which are easily converted into many secondary products. For example, the resulting aldehydes are hydrogenated to alcohols that are converted to detergents. Hydroformylation is also used in speciality chemicals, relevant to the organic synthesis of fragrances and drugs.

Piet van Leeuwen has made significant contributions to understanding the effect of ligands on catalyst performance, which was in particular important for hydroformylation as it leads to the formation of the linear product. He was one of the major contributors to the 'bite-angle' concept. The bite-angle has an important influence on the rate and the selectivity of catalytic reactions and thus a key to the optimization of catalytic reactions.

World-leading research

The Amsterdam homogeneous catalysis research is still considered world-leading. Its scope has now been broadened to supramolecular catalysis, bio-inspired catalysis, and metal-radical catalysis. It is currently carried out at the research group Homogeneous, Supramolecular and Bio-inspired Catalysis at the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, led by professors Joost Reek and Bas de Bruin, associate professor Jarl Ivar van der Vlugt, and Vidi research associate Dr Tiddo Mooibroek.

Read the Press Release by DECHEMA.

Visit the website of the research group Homogeneous, Supramolecular and Bio-inspired Catalysis.