Paul B. Weisz pioneered the use of natural and synthetic zeolites, which are also known as hydrous silicates as catalysts. These catalysts are highly selective and facilitated only certain reactions between specific molecules of given shapes.
Paul B. Weisz was born in the year 1919. Weisz grew up in Berlin, Germany and he knew from an early age that he wanted to be a scientist and go to America. He worked as a radio "ham," at the age of 16 and published articles in a radio journal. Weisz managed to get a summer job with Telefunken, which was a major radio and electronics company.
He later interned at the Cosmic Ray Institute after being turned down by Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner's Institute because those scientists were working on "classified" research. Meanwhile, his goal of coming to the United States was still out of reach. Weisz had no American relatives, and Germany banned the export of monetary funds to America. But at the age of 16, Weisz wrote to three American universities offering his family's support of an American wishing to study in Germany in exchange for similar support for him in the United States. Such an exchange was worked out through Auburn University which was formerly known as Alabama Technical University.
Pioneers the Use of Hydrous Silicates as Catalysts
Weisz pioneered the use of natural and synthetic zeolites, which are also known as hydrous silicates as catalysts while he was working at Mobil Oil which is now known as ExxonMobil. These catalysts are highly selective and facilitated only certain reactions between specific molecules of given shapes.
Processes based on zeolite catalysts were first developed in the 1960s and were found to increase both the amount of gasoline obtainable from petroleum and the octane rating of the gasoline. Shape-selective zeolite catalysts proved to be widely applicable to many other industrial processes, including the manufacture of gasoline from natural gas and the production of raw materials for making polyester garments, plastics, and other products that were procured from petroleum.
In 1939, Weisz arrived in Alabama by narrowly escaping the outbreak of war. Having interrupted his graduate work in Berlin, he completed the credits for a bachelor's degree in less than one year. He then continued research on cosmic radiation at the Bartol Research Foundation of the Franklin Institute in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. After the United States entered World War II, Weisz who was a long time radio enthusiast, became an electronics engineer and started teaching Signal Corps trainees first at Swarthmore College and later at the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There they were participating in the development of LORAN, or long-range aid to navigation which were based on radio signals.
Soon, Weisz had become a well-established researcher in catalytic chemistry. Weisz achieved his long-deferred goal of a doctoral degree at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Switzerland. His thesis on the mechanism of dyeing fibres developed some of the basic laws about the entrance of dyes into fibres, based on his experience with the velocity with which chemicals flow into the catalytic materials.
After retiring from Mobil, Weisz began yet another career wherein he applied general chemical and physical principles to biomedical research.