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Concepts and Green Applications

Gadi Rothenberg

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The Author

Dr. Gadi Rothenberg

Van‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Cover picture

Ada Rothenberg, Tel Aviv, Israel,

I never write metropolis for seven cents, because I can get the same price for city.

Mark Twain


This textbook covers the basics of catalysis from a “green chemistry” perspective. Its main message is that heterogeneous catalysis, homogeneous catalysis, and biocatalysis are all one discipline, so you need to understand only once how catalysis works. The book is divided in three sections. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce and explain the fundamentals of sustainable chemistry, catalysis, and reaction kinetics. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 show how these principles are applied in homogeneous, heterogeneous, and biocatalysis, respectively. Finally, Chapter 6 gives an overview of the exciting and fast-growing field of computer applications in catalysis research, with a special section on predictive modeling.

I have written this book for senior undergraduate students, as well as graduate researchers. Thus, each chapter includes detailed literature references, as well as exercises that embed the knowledge in a practical context. I assume that you have some background in chemistry/chemical engineering, life sciences, or earth/environmental sciences. To help you master the catalysis jargon, key terms in catalysis are printed in bold and defined the first time they appear in the text. They are also included in the index.

The website accompanying this book,, features additional teaching material (exercises, answers, and lecture slides). It also contains a searchable list of the all the references, each with its corresponding digital object identifier (DOI) hyperlink. Access to this website is free of charge.

The bulk of the references are original papers and review articles in peer-reviewed journals. I cite reviews and books when introducing a subject, and articles when discussing specific examples. Chapter 1 also contains a “Further Reading” list of recommended books on related specialized subjects.

I thank my wife Live for her constant support throughout the writing of this book, and my colleagues Jurriaan Beckers, Hans Boelens, Kees Elsevier, Anil Gaikwad, Jos Hageman, Klaas Hellingwerf, Huub Hoefsloot, Christopher Lowe, Marjo Mittelmeijer-Hazeleger, Dorette Tromp, Ron Wever, and Gooitzen Zwanenburg for their constructive and insightful comments. Thanks also to my sister Ada, who drew the cover picture, and to the Wiley-VCH editors Axel Eberhard, Joe Richmond, Gudrun Walter, and Waltraud Wüst for their encouraging and professional attitude.

As you will see, catalysis is one of the most exciting and fun subjects in chemistry. Hopefully you will share some of my enthusiasm and fascination after reading this book.

Amsterdam, December 2007

Gadi Rothenberg


This chapter outlines the principles of green chemistry, and explains the connection between catalysis and sustainable development. It covers the concepts of environmental impact, atom economy, and life-cycle analysis, with hands-on examples. Then it introduces the reader to heterogeneous catalysis, homogeneous catalysis, and biocatalysis, explaining what catalysis is and why it is important. The last two sections give an overview of the tools used in catalysis research, and a list of recommended books on specialized subjects in catalysis.