Gerhard Ertl

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2007


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Gerhard Ertl was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies on chemical processes on solid surfaces. His methods of experimentation and data collecting were something that the scientific community in his field had never applied.
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Ertl's Method

Ertl's techniques as technology progressed and made new methods possible. He combined numerous techniques to perform his experiments, and adjusted or rearranged the methods he had at his disposal to best fit the criteria of the experiment. His work studying other processes that occur on a sold surface, he furthered the knowledge of these reactions and measured their effects.

Experiments & Lab Work

Why did he win?

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Ertl developed methods of study that revolutionized the way scientists studied the field of surface chemistry. Because of this, studies in this field have improved technology and will continue to do so.

What problems did he solve?

Because surfaces are extremely chemically active, they are difficult to keep clean enough to study their reactions. Through the use of a vacuum chamber he was able to work with a clean surface and recieve accurate results.

Did his conclusions contradict previous knowledge?

Ertl was one of the first scientists to study this field, so his discoveries and ideas have not challenged previous knowledge, instead creating new ideas on how scientists should conduct research in this field.

How are his contributions used today and how will they be used in the future?

Current use: Methodology for all other scientists to use in order to further study surface chemistry- Knowledge of surface chemistry explains: why iron rusts, how artificial fertilizers are produced, how catalyst in car’s exhaust pipe works, why ozone layer is deteriorating

Also used in electronics industry to manufacture semiconductor parts

Future Use: Scientists will continue to use Ertl’s methods to learn about surface chemistry, which will help efficiently produce renewable energy sources and create new electronic materials


Catalyst: a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction

Vacuum chamber: a container from which air and other gases are removed