Jean Marie Basset
physical science and engineering division
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia
Professor Basset, who has authored more than 450 scientific papers and reports, works to identify the possible relationships between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. For that purpose, he developed "surface organometallic chemistry", a new field of chemistry that tries to answer various questions: Are the concepts of the reactivity of molecular chemistry applicable when an organometallic molecule reacts with a surface? Can the structures of molecular surface species be rationalized on the same basis as those of molecular species in solution? Does the reactivity of surface organometallic fragments allow understanding the elementary steps of heterogeneous catalysis? Can we make single site catalysts on a surface? Can we render heterogeneous catalysis a predictable science? Can we anticipate the discovery of new catalytic reactions? This chemistry resulted in the discovery of a number of new catalytic reactions, such as the metathesis of alkanes which transforms any paraffin into its lower and higher homologues, the cleavage of paraffins by methane, the coupling of methane into ethane and hydrogen, the Ziegler-Natta depolymerisation which transforms polyethylene into diesel range gazoline, the transformation of ethylene to propylene, and the removal of traces of arsenic from water.