Scientific Concepts in the Field of Chemistry

ScientificConcepts in the Field of Chemistry

ScientificConcepts in the Field of Chemistry

ScientistGerhard Ertl

GerhardErtl is a professor emeritus and a German physicist. Ertl was born1936 and studied in Germany, where he received the PhD degree in theyear1965 (Wennerstrom, 2007). Since then, he has taught in differentuniversities, including the Technical University, the University ofCalifornia, and Humboldt University among others. Ertl was motivatedby an increase in the economic significance of the chemical reactionsthat occur on the surface and started studying these reactions in themid 1970s.


Ertlwas awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after studying “ChemicalProcesses on Solid Surfaces”. Ertl borrowed the model andtechniques used in the Haber – Bosch process to study the reactionbetween gas molecules and solid surfaces.

Benefitsof the discovery

Ertldiscovered that gas molecules can bounce back when they come intocontact with some solid surface or be adsorbed. Adsorbed moleculesundergo a binary reaction on the solid surface. This discovery helpedscientists comprehend how the Haber process worked and paved way forthe development of a catalytic system that is reduce emission ofgreenhouse gases by modern cars. This discovery has benefitted thesociety by reducing the rate at which ozone layer is being depleted.

Anelement in periodic table

Propertiesof carbon

Carbonexists in the form of two isotopes (graphite and diamond) that have acrystalline structure, which describes its physical characteristics.Chemical properties include the ability to form endless chains ofatoms and long chains. In addition, carbon does not react with acidand water (Rank, 2015).


Humanbeings became aware of the existence of carbon after observing smokefrom firewood. During Roman civilization (509 B.C. to A.D. 476) amethod that could be used to produce charcoal was developed. ReaumurFerchault (1683-1757), a French Physicist, stated that carbon couldbe an element. A French chemist developed a method of namingdifferent elements and named carbon “Carbone”.


Diamondis so hard and therefore used to cut metal and glass. It is also usedto make jewelry. Graphite may be used as a lubricant or a pencil lead(Rank, 2015).

Importancein life

Carbonis so important in life because nearly all substances (including foodand human body) contain carbon. It can be considered as among the keydeterminants of life.

Lifein absence of carbon

Althoughscientists have identified that life could still exist in the absenceof carbon, the basic knowledge informs that the modern human beingsand plants would be extinct since carbon is the key elements in theirstructures.

Inconclusion, Gerhard Ertl made a breakthrough in science by studying“Chemical Processes on Solid Surfaces”. Carbon is the mostsignificant element since it is present in nearly all substances onearth.


Rank,J. (2015). Chemistry explained: Foundations and applications.Chemistryexplained.Retrieved October 13, 2015, from

Wennerstrom,H. (2007). Chemicalproperties on solid surfaces.Stockholm: The Royal Swedish Academy of Science.