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About Us


The Center for Catalysis and Surface Science (CCSS) promotes interdisciplinary research fundamental to the discovery, synthesis, and understanding of catalysts and catalytic reactions essential to modern society. As a part of the Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy, we apply our fundamental advances in catalysis science towards applications in alternative fuels, abatement of harmful emissions, resource recovery concepts, new processing routes, and many other strategies towards making chemicals more sustainable.


Ipatieff's Legacy

For nearly a century, Northwestern University has been at the forefront of catalysis research. In 1931, Vladimir N. Ipatieff, the world's leading expert on the subject, arrived from Russia and established a laboratory at Northwestern. Here, along with the assistance of research assistant Herman Pines, many breakthroughs in catalysis and high pressure chemistry were made, including the development of autoclave reactors and many aspects of acid and metal heterogeneous catalysis. They also discovered a revolutionary refining process that converted waste gases to high-octane aviation fuel. This fuel remains used today and was a critical secret of World War II credited with helping outmanned, outgunned British pilots hold off the superior German air power during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Ipatieff Professors of Catalytic Chemistry

After Ipatieff's death in 1952, a chairmanship carrying his name became a permanent part of Northwestern University's Department of Chemistry. Herman Pines was appointed the first Ipatieff Professor, followed by Robert Burwell, Wolfgang M.H. Sachtler, and Tobin J. Marks, who has held the position since 2000. Through the efforts of these leaders, research activities in catalysis and surface science have continuously expanded.

The Center for Catalysis and Surface Science

In 1984, a major milestone was the construction of a building specifically designed to meet the needs of research in catalysis and surface science. That year also saw the formal establishment of the Center for Catalysis and Surface Science (CCSS) to consolidate research efforts and bring in new partners. Sachtler became its first director, followed by Harold H. Kung, Peter C. Stair, and Justin M. Notestein. The Reactor Engineering and Catalyst Testing (REACT) core facility was established in 2012 as a part of CCSS. It was the first user facility dedicated to catalysis science in the United States.

Catalysis 30-Year Legacy Dinner

In August 2015, CCSS celebrated 30 years as a Northwestern University research center. Former Ipatieff Professor Wolfgang M.H. Sachtler attended a celebratory dinner as the guest of honor.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Ipatieff Sesquicentennial Celebration

In September 2017, CCSS and the Trienens Institute held a symposium to commemorate the 150th birthday of Vladimir Nikolayevich Ipatieff and his rich 80-year history of catalytic reseach at the university.
Browse the event program.