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2005 Nobel Laureates Celebrate Contributions of DuPont Scientist To the Discovery of Olefin Metathesis


WILMINGTON, Del., September 6, 2006 - Nobel laureates and professors of chemistry Drs. Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock, recipients of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the development of olefin metathesis, visited the DuPont Experimental Station here today to celebrate the contributions of Dr. Herbert S. Eleuterio, a retired DuPont chemist who was instrumental in the early stage development of this novel technology.

“It is a matter of pride for us at DuPont that Herb was a pioneer in olefin metathesis, taking the first steps in what has become a highly versatile, widely used reaction,” said DuPont Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Technology Officer Uma Chowdhry . “While DuPont did not commercialize the science, others did. The two scientists most responsible for the ubiquity of olefin metathesis and its wide-ranging applications are Drs. Grubbs and Schrock. Over three decades of outstanding research, they have developed the science, creating a spectrum of catalysts that make olefin metathesis among the most powerful reactions available to the chemist today.”

Dr. Eleuterio retired from DuPont in 1992 following 38 years of service. He is the person most associated with the discovery of metathesis in the mid-1950s. He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Michigan State University and he joined the company in 1954 in the exploratory group of the then DuPont Petrochemicals Department. Eleuterio’s research and discovery accomplishments included olefin metathesis and the development work that led to DuPont™ Nafion® (a primary component of fuel cells ), DuPont™ Krytox® fluids and lubricants, DuPont™ Kalrez® elastomers and DuPont™ Teflon® resins.

In one of his early research projects, Eleuterio polymerized propylene using supported metal catalysts. He recalled that he was surprised to find that propylene was being converted into ethylene and butene. This serendipitous discovery became known as olefin metathesis and included his discovery of Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerization (ROMP). Olefin metathesis is an organic reaction which involves redistribution of double bonds, like exchanging dancing partners. Most organic reactions only involve the making or breaking of single bonds.

Dr. Grubbs is a professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and Dr. Schrock is a professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They are credited with the development of olefin metathesis. Shrock, who was employed by DuPont in the early 1970s, discovered the first alkylidene complex, an important step in the development of metathesis catalysts, during an experiment conducted on July 26, 1973, at the Experimental Station.

Since its discovery, olefin metathesis has gained widespread use in research and industry for making medicines, polymers and enhanced fuels. Its advantages include the creation of fewer by-products and hazardous wastes. Dr. Yves Chauvin shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis” with Drs. Grubbs and Schrock.

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