• The Ziegler Catalysts: Serendipity or Systematic Research?

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    • Keywords


      Organometallic catalysts, organoaluminum, organolithium, organonickel, olefins, carbonmetal bond, Ziegler’s catalysts, polyethylene, LDPE, HDPE, serendipity.

    • Abstract


      Fifty-four years after the Nobel Prize was awarded to KarlZiegler and Giulio Natta for the polymerization of olefins bycomplex organometallic catalysts, the field continues to elicitenormous interest, both from the academia and the industry.Furthermore, this chemistry and technology occupy ahigh ground in the annals of 20th-century science. The eleganceand simplicity of Ziegler’s chemistry continue to astoundresearchers even today, and the enormous impact thischemistry has had on the quality of our life is truly incredible.Polyethylene, produced using Ziegler’s chemistry hastouched every aspect of common man’s life, so much so that,today it is impossible to imagine life on this planet withoutpolyethylene. Equally fascinating is the story of how Zieglerstumbled on this most impactful discovery. Ziegler’s disciplineand rigor in systematically following every lead in thelaboratory, however trivial it seemed, and his penchant forunderstanding the basics of science culminated in 1954, witha simple reaction for converting ethylene to polyethylene, thequintessential carbon-carbon (C-C) bond forming reaction.His life and work hold many lessons for all scientists whodream of making their scientific quests useful and relevantto society. It is also relevant to the contemporary debate onbasic versus applied research.

    • Author Affiliations


      S Sivaram1

      1. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Dr Homi Bhabha Road, Pune 411 008, India.
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