After the 2007 Nobel Prize Announcements, visitors to Nobelprize.org had the possibility to submit questions to the 2007 Nobel Laureates. Here, Gerhard Ertl answers a selection of the questions.
Question: Apart from the development of more effective adsorption catalysts, what in your opinion are the most important applications of the knowledge we now have, thanks to your scientific breakthroughs?
Francis Adeleke, age 18, United Kingdom
Answer: Catalysis will be of tremendous importance in the future in solving energy and environmental problems. Their solution depends on detailed knowledge of the underlying processes to which our work contributes.
Question: Why are some organic reactions accelerated at interfaces?
Lin Yu Cheng, Taiwan
Answer: Not only organic, but chemical reactions in general, may be accelerated by adsorption of the reacting molecules at solid interfaces by which process their bonding and hence also reactivity is altered.
Question: Who, or what, inspired you to enter your field of achievement?
Bobby Cerini, age 34, Australia
Answer: I entered the field of my lifelong interests at the age of 24 on the advice of my thesis advisor Heinz Gerischer.
Question: In one word, can you describe your reaction when you knew you had been awarded the Nobel Prize?
Young eager student, age 13, United States
Answer: It took me quite some time to fully realize what this phone call from Stockholm really meant. Afterwards I was really overwhelmed.
Question: Has there ever been a time in your life and/or work when you have doubted what you were doing to the point that you seriously considered abandoning said work? Anna, age 16, United Kingdom
Answer: There were several drawbacks in the progress of my work, but I never seriously considered abandoning it.
Question: Congratulations for your well deserved awards. My question is: Who, of all the other Nobel Laureates in your field, would you most want to meet and why?
Jim Foley, age 45, United States
Answer: The last Nobel Prize in surface chemistry was awarded in 1932 to Irving Langmuir whom I admired for a long time, but never had a chance to meet.
Question: First of all, congratulations! What will you do with the prize money? You have done something extraordinary to win the Nobel Prize - perhaps you deserve to spend it all on yourself!
Scott MacLeod, age 38, United States
Answer: A considerable part of the money will be given to a science foundation.
Question: At any given time you obviously have several questions in your mind that you want to find answers for in your research. How do you choose which ones to pursue first and spend most of your efforts on?
Nurmukhammad Yusupov, age 30, Uzbekistan
Answer: Whenever you solve a scientific problem, new questions emerge. So you have to judge which ones appear most relevant to you and how you can tackle them with the possibilities available.