The 20th century brought critical breakthroughs in refining petroleum to produce gasoline and other substances used for fuel and lighting, as well as a wide variety of other chemicals. Catalysts form a key element of this story. They can reduce the pressures and temperatures needed for carrying out commercially useful reactions that ensure the specificity of products, thus reducing costs and potentially harmful waste products.
George O. Curme is known for his pioneering work on ways to use by-products of petroleum processing.
Eugene Houdry developed the catalytic process for “cracking” petroleum molecules into the shorter ones that constitute gasoline.
John H. Sinfelt invented a superior platinum-iridium catalyst that was important in the quest to produce lead-free, high-octane gasoline cheaply.
Paul B. Weisz pioneered the use of natural and synthetic zeolites as catalysts. Processes based on these catalysts were found to increase both the amount of gasoline obtainable from petroleum and the octane rating of gasoline.