Professor George Olah ForMemRS
George Olah was a chemist who researched the generation and reactivity of carbocations — positively-charged carbon atoms — via superacids. Spanning a wide range of synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry, George’s work earned him the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He held around 100 patents and has co-authored 15 books.
George discovered new superacids that are both fluid at low temperatures and millions, or even billions, of times more acidic than pure sulphuric acid. Otherwise transient, carbocations are stable in superacids, allowing their structures and properties to be determined. George’s work revolutionised organic chemistry and led to new discoveries and improvements in the production of fuel, plastics and pharmaceuticals, amongst others.
After winning his Nobel Prize, George jointly developed a methanol-based fuel cell with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Caltech. This hydrocarbon and energy conservation technology has the potential to relieve the current burden on fossil-fuel resources and mitigate global warming.
Professor George Olah ForMemRS died on 8 March 2017.