nitrogen-containing organic molecules is as profound as are the energy requirements for abiological fixation. Chirik’s metallocene complexes, which bind dinitrogen, promise new approaches to activation of this typically inert molecule.

It is notable that the detailed mechanistic approaches of L. Que and S. Stahl may be expected to also contribute to the understanding of the reversal of the oxygenation process. Oxygen removal from carbohydrates is important for the development of biofuels. The work of J. Dumesic of the University of Wisconsin includes two main approaches to reforming of oxygenated compounds (Box 5.1): biomass gasification, followed by water-gas shift and Fischer–Tropsch reaction, and hydrogenation of biomass to produce a liquid fuel.

The Catalysis Science Program staff has stated that a new emphasis on biomimetic chemistry will be announced in the near future. This will be highly appropriate given the convergence of molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysical techniques, protein crystallography and synthetic analogues of metalloenzyme active sites. Synthetic biology presents an opportunity for understanding the function of such evolutionarily perfected selective catalysts.


On the basis of the information evaluated, the BES has done well with its investment in the Catalysis Science Program. Its investment has led to a greater understanding of the fundamental catalytic processes that underlie energy applications, and it has contributed to meeting long-term national energy goals by focusing research on catalytic processes that reduce energy use or explore alternative energy sources. In some areas the impact of the research has been dramatic, while in other areas important advances are yet to be made. The committee’s key findings and recommendations for the Catalysis Science Program are summarized in Chapter 6.

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