Paul B. Weisz
National Medal of Technology and Innovation
For his basic discoveries and management in the field of zeolite catalysis, in conjunction with his colleagues at Mobil Corporation, leading to chemical and petroleum technologies now producing products valued at billions of dollars per year.
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BirthJuly 2, 1919
Country of BirthGermany
Key ContributionsSynthetic Zeolites Led To Ability To Extract More Gasoline From Petroleum
Revolutionized Petroleum/Gasoline Refining
Awarded byGeorge H. W. Bush
Areas of ImpactEnergy & Environment
AffiliationsUniversity of Pennsylvania
Paul B. Weisz grew up in Berlin, Germany, and as a child dreamed of studying in the United States. At age 16, Weisz wrote to three American universities and was accepted by Auburn University through an exchange program. Weisz completed his B.S. degree at Auburn in 1940.
Shortly after, Weisz joined Mobil Research and Development Corporation as a research associate. While at Mobil, Weisz became interested in catalysts—a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction. He pioneered the use of zeolites, crystalline solid structures made of silicon, aluminum and oxygen, as catalysts for petroleum refining and manufacturing.
Zeolite catalysts revolutionized refining processes because they facilitated only certain reactions between molecules, increasing both the amount of gasoline obtainable from petroleum and the octane rating of gasoline. Weisz’s chemical discovery also paved the way for production of raw materials in making polyester garments, plastics, and other products from petroleum.
By Jen Santisi