The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2007
Born: 10 October 1936, Bad Cannstatt, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: "for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces."
Prize share: 1/1
Often, chemical reactions are speeded up by surfaces, as in the case when gaseous molecules come in contact with a metal surface. During the 1960s Gerhard Ertl developed a number of methods for studying surface chemical reactions. Among other things, he made use of techniques for producing a very pure vacuum, which had been developed within the semiconductor industry. Gerhard Ertl was able to map out details of a process of great importance in the production of artificial fertilizer: the Haber-Bosch process in which nitrogen in the air is converted to ammonia via an iron catalyst.