Ahmed H. Zewail
Nobel Prize 1999
Name: Ahmed H. Zewail
Date and place of birth: February 26, 1946, Damanhur, Egypt
Education: University of Alexandria, University of Pennsylvania, and University of California at Berkeley
Place of work when awarded: Caltech
Field of study: Physical chemistry (kinetics)
-After being awarded the Nobel Prize, he taught as a professor at Caltech.
-His research group included 150 graduate students.
-He was the only son in a family of three sisters.
What did he do?
- Created a rapid laser technique, femtosecond spectroscopy, that helped scientists study the action of atoms in a chemical reaction
- Helped scientists gain more control of the outcome of the reactions
- Breakthrough introduced a new field of physical chemistry called femtochemistry
- Began to study more of the transition states in chemical reactions
- Lab work included using the rapid laser to enable him to describe chemical reactions that happened in a short span of time- a matter of femtoseconds
- One of his experiments included isolating an anthracene molecule.
- Accomplished his goal of witnessing all of the processes from birth to death of a molecule, including coherent movements of each molecule
Why does his work matter?
- helps explain the mechanisms involved in essential life processes like photosynthesis
- scientists previously thought that a molecule had to overcome an energy barrier to react but Zewail found that high temperatures allowed molecules to immediately overcome the barrier and start reacting rapidly
- experiments led to formation of femtochemistry: uses high-speed, laser based camera that flashed light every ten femtoseconds
- used during Chemical reactions to depict atoms in transition states/ explains mechanisms behind processes
- discovered intermediates: substances that are made and used up in the reaction
- femtosecond studies used across the world to observe and analyze processes on surfaces
- ex: to understand catalysts(elements that accelerate the reaction); build on that information to improve/ more effectively use catalysts