Nobel laureate pushes for recyclable tyres


DOHA NOBEL laureate Dr Robert Howard Grubbs, a Caltech professor and leading researcher in organic chemistry, is currently visiting Qatar to follow up on a research group he helped organise at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ).

The research studies the potential use of a catalyst developed by Grubbs in producing recyclable tyres.

The catalyst, which is used in the recycling process, came out of Dr Grubbs’ research, and as such is known as the Grubbs catalyst in honour of the researcher who discovered it. It has been used in various applications for 14 years now, although its application in this way is new, and moreover is particularly useful in Qatar.

Speaking with Qatar Tribune on Sunday, Dr Grubbs said “this is a new application of the catalyst, and it particularly applies to work here, because the starting material is an underutilised derivative of petroleum.” Dr Grubbs explained the history of the research programme, which is studying the new application of the Grubbs catalyst. He said “a year ago, we started a research programme here, and since then, there has been one postdoctoral position which has been associated with my group, and will have another one joining up pretty soon. My visit to TAMUQ has been organised to catch up with the researchers, to plan the next year of the research programme, and do an evaluation of where we are.” “The first part of the programme was to explore an elastomer, which can be made in a new way using catalyst systems that we have.

This elastomer has been explored as an alternative material to make auto tyres.

Moreover, it can be depolymerised using a catalyst, so it can be a recyclable tyre,” Grubbs added, explaining the group’s research further.

According to Grubbs, the raw material being used today to manufacture tyres is butadiene, but its cost has skyrocketed due to high demand for new tyres. “The use of a different and recyclable material to use in its place has important economic implications”, he said.

Dr Grubbs received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Columbia University in New York. He is currently the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA, where he has been a faculty member since 1978. Before moving to Caltech, he was at Michigan State University from 1969 to 1978 achieving the rank of Associate Professor.

The research group of Grubbs is involved in the design, synthesis, and mechanistic studies of complexes that catalyze basic organic transformations.

The major focus of the group over the past few years has been on the olefin metathesis reaction. To optimise the utility of this reaction, new catalysts have been developed that are extremely tolerant of organic functional groups.

Due to their high-activity, functional group tolerance, and ease of use, these ruthenium based catalysts have found wide applications in organic and polymer synthesis.

He has 500+ publications and 115+ patents based on his research.

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