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Biographical Memoirs, Volume 88
working for the company, he was assigned to the Ipatieff High Pressure Laboratory at Northwestern University as an assistant to the famous catalysis researcher Prof. V. N. Ipatieff (NAS, 1939), who was affiliated with both Northwestern University and UOP. (Some years earlier Ipatieff had defected from Russia, where he had been a general in the Imperial Army and a professor of chemistry at St. Petersburg University. Haensel told how Ipatieff’s catalysis research grew out of his having been an artillery officer in the Imperial Army, intrigued with the high-pressure, high-temperature combustion chemistry occurring in cannons.) While at the laboratory, Haensel continued his education and earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern University in 1941. In the same year Haensel was assigned as the coordinator of the “cracking” research division of UOP. During this time, Haensel’s work focused on the use of catalysts other than platinum in the general reactions. Among his early successes was the development of a catalytic method of selective demethylation to make triptane, the hydrocarbon with the greatest antiknock properties of any compound. In 1951 he was appointed the director of refining research and in 1960 became the director of process research. In 1969 Haensel became vice-president and director of research. In 1972 he was appointed vice-president for science and technology, a position he held until 1979.
In the early 1950s it was established that the deadly photochemical smog frequently experienced in locales such as the Los Angeles basin was produced when nitrogen oxides and unburned or partially burned fuel hydrocarbons in auto exhaust reacted in bright sunlight. Haensel, at United Oil Products from 1956 to 1974, played a key role in establishing research and development programs that eventually culminated in the automotive catalytic converters that were first used on almost all U.S. autos in the 1975 model year,