Ipatiev, Vladimir Nikolaevich

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Ipatiev, Vladimir Nikolaevich

(b. Moscow, Russia, 9 November 1867; d. Chicago, Illinois, 29 November 1952)


Ipatiev received a military secondary and higher education, graduating from the Artillery School and then, in 1892, from the Artillery Academy in St. Petersburg. Yet his calling was not military but scientific. In 1899 he became professor at the Artillery Academy.In 1914 he was elected associate member, and in 1916 member, of the Russian Academy of Sciences. After the October Revolution, Ipatiev held many high administrative posts and was a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy, exerting leadership over the chemical industry and scientific research. From 1926 he was simultaneously a consultant to many chemical enterprises in Germany, particularly to the Bavarian central laboratory for nitrogen-producing factories. From 1930 Ipatiev was director of the Catalytic High Pressure Laboratory (now bearing his name) at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

At the beginning of his scientific career (1892-1896), while studying action of bromine upon tertiary alcohols and of hydrogen bromine upon acetylene and allene hydrocarbons in acid acetic solution, at the suggestion of his teacher, A. Y. Favorsky, Ipatiev established new means for the synthesis of unsaturated hydrocarbons and obtained isoprene. This was the first synthesis of the substance which is the basic monomeric component of natural rubber. Before Ipatiev’s work this was separated only from the products of the pyrogenic decomposition of rubber or terpenes. The synthesis of isoprene immediately made Ipatiev’s name well-known.

After 1900 Ipatiev began to depart from the classic methods of organic synthesis in his development of heterogeneous catalysis. Studying the various directions of the thermocatalytic decomposition of alcohols, he was able to prepare aldehydes, esters, and olefin and diene hydrocarbons by the catalytic dehydrogenation and dehydration of alcohol with various catalysts and under various physical reaction conditions. At this time Ipatiev and his colleagues began a systematic investigation of the catalytic properties of alumina, one of the most widely used catalysts in contemporary chemistry.

In 1904 Ipatiev introduced high pressures—400-500 atmospheres and higher—into heterogeneous catalysis. A device he constructed, the “Ipatiev bomb”, introduced into chemical practice the use of a new type of reactor: the autoclave. Using such a device, Ipatiev was the first to synthesize methane from carbon and hydrogen; to obtain changes of reaction equilibriums in the dehydrogenation and dehydration of alcohol, the process being interrupted at intermediate stages; and to demonstrate the possibility of hydrogenating compounds which do not take up hydrogen in the presence of the same catalysts at normal atmospheric pressure. The introduction of high pressures into organic synthesis, which at first met with skepticism (for example, from Sabatier), allowed the kinetics of chemical reactions to be radically changed—to accelerate them a thousandfold or increase the equilibrium relationships of the product concentrations of the reaction a millionfold. In addition, Ipatiev promulgated the application of high pressure to inorganic reactions; in particular he proposed methods of separating metals from water solutions of their salts using hydrogen at high pressure (1909). These methods permit pure metals and minerals, as well as new modifications of element metalloids, to be obtained.

In 1912 Ipatiev was the first to use multicomponent catalysts. He demonstrated the possibility of combining oxidation-reduction reactions with dehydration reactions in one process which proceeds with the aid of the two-component catalyst Ni2 O3-Al2 O3. Multi- functional catalysts have come to occupy a leading position in cracking and re-forming processes and in other branches of petrochemical synthesis.

Ipatiev was the author of one of the most effective theories of catalysis, according to which the basic role in the heterogeneous catalytic reaction belongs to metallic oxides. In this connection he examined the catalytic activity of many oxides—FeO, Fe2 O3, Cr2 O3, TIO, Mo2 O5, WO3, and WO—and selected from among them catalysts for processes that found wide application in the petrochemical industry and often bore his name: (1) the synthesis of benzene polymers from the gas by-products of cracking by means of “solid phosphoric acid”; (2) the dehydrogenation of C4- and C5-alkanes, obtaining olefins and diene monomers of synthetic rubber; (3) alkylation of aromatic and paraffin hydrocarbons by means of olefins; (4) the synthesis of issooctane; (5) the isomerization of paraffins with the aim of increasing the octane number of gasoline; (6) many cracking and re-forming processes; (7) the dehydrocyclization of paraffins, obtaining alicyclic hydrocarbons and aromatics.

Following unsuccessful attempts by many, including Butlerov, Ipatiev was the first to achieve the polymerization of ethylene in reduction (1913), indicating the possibility of obtaining polyethylene of various molecular weights. He discovered a series of reactions which exemplify selective catalysis, such as the reaction of hydrodemethylation.

Combining the qualities of researcher, engineer, and administrator, Ipatiev found industrial applications for all the results of his scientific research—even for the most unexpected. Many factories throughout the world use technology he developed or produce goods according to his methods.

Ipatiev trained many chemists, including, in the Soviet Union, G. A. Razuvaev, B. L. Moldavsky, E. I. Shpitalsky, A. D. Petrov, A. V. Frost, B. N. Dolgov, and V. V. Ipatiev, and, in the United States, H. Pines, R. Barvell, and L. Schmerling.

Ipatiev wrote 350 papers and took out 200 patents.


I. Original Works. Ipetiev’s writings include Kurs organicheskoy khimii (“A Course in Organic Chemistry”;St. Petersburg, 1903); Kurs neorganicheskoy khimii (“A Course in Inorganic Chemistry”; St. Petersburg, 1909), written with A. V. Sapozhnikov; Neft i ee proiskhozhdenie (“Petroleum and Its Origin”; Moscow, 1922); Kataliticheskie reaktsii pri vysokikh temperaturakh i davleniakh (“Catalytic Reactions at High Temperatures and Pressures”;Moscow-Leningrad, 1936); and The Life of A Chemist: Memoirs of Vladimir N. Ipatieff, X. J. Eudin et al., eds. (Stanford, Calif., 1946).

II. Secondary Literature. See K 35-letiyu nauchnoy deyatelnosti akademika V. N. Ipatieva (“On the Thirty-Fifty Year of Academician V. N. Ipatiev’s Scientific Career”;Moscow, 1929), an anthology; V. I. Komarewsky, ed., Advances in Catalysis and Related Subjects, V (1948), 9; and V. I. Kuznetsov, Razvitie kataliticheskogo organicheskogo sinteza (“The Development of Catalytic Organic Synthesis”; Moscow, 1964).

V. I. Kuznetsov

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