Groundbreaking discoveries: five Nobel Prize winners who have made our technologies possible in the first place
innovation | Worth knowing | For the most progressive minds in science, the Nobel Prize is the highest honor of their kind – and a highly-contested accolade. The American Edward Kendall, for example, only received the prize 38 years after his first nomination. Ramon Gaston was nominated 155 times, but never received it, despite his pioneering invention of the vaccine against diphtheria and tetanus. However, one thing is certain: those who received the Nobel Prize have made a difference in our world. We present to you the discoveries of five historical award winners who have become an indispensable part of our engineers' everyday lives.
All of my remaining […] assets are to be disbursed as follows: the capital […] is to constitute a fund, the interest on which is to be distributed annually as prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.
This excerpt from Alfred Bernhard Nobel’s last will marks the birth of the most famous award that can be given to an individual: the Nobel Prize. The wealthy Swede defined five categories: physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace efforts. Since 1901, the Nobel Foundation has been fulfilling the last wishes of its famous namesake.
We at thyssenkrupp would also be pretty upset without these great thought leaders –especially when it comes to physics and chemistry. Every day, our engineers use the achievements of numerous Nobel Prize winners as the basis for the development and production of our innovations.
Quality control: No giant excavator can last long without Ruska and Röntgen
Perhaps you’ve already seen pictures of gigantic chain excavators used in large mining areas to transport hundreds of tons of excavated earth. Or have you visited a construction site with all kinds of excavators? In order for the operators to be able to use the wear-intensive work of the construction machines for as long as possible, the robustness and high fracture strength of every component are crucial. Every piece must meet the highest quality requirements. As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of undercarriage components for chain-driven earthmoving machines, our forging specialists in Northern Italy manufacture these components. In order to guarantee that our products will withstand all operational challenges for many years to come, our specialists research the fracture-mechanics of the undercarriage systems and test in ultra-modern laboratories whether the material used has the necessary quality.
The fact that we have these possibilities is also cause of two Nobel Prize winners: In 1986, the German electrical engineer Ernst Ruska received the award for a great technology that he invented more than five decades ago. He developed the electron microscope – a powerful analytical tool with which we can detect even the tiniest impurities thanks to magnification of up to 500,000 times. 85 years earlier, the Nobel Foundation honored Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen: With his discovery of X-rays, he not only revolutionized the diagnosis of bone fractures but also allowed us to precisely analyze the chemical composition of our metal alloys today. Thank you Ernst, thank you Conrad!
HoloLinc: From Gábor’s Holography Theory to the digital lift service of tomorrow
The hearts of many Nobel thinkers also beat in our digital innovations. This is best illustrated by HoloLinc, one of our latest developments. The technology makes it possible to visualize stair lifts before one’s eyes with the help of Microsoft’s Augmented Reality glasses HoloLens – even before they are produced. And when it comes to elevator maintenance, our service technicians can use HoloLens to visualize the characteristics of an elevator even before their service appointment, and thus complete their work up to four times faster.
It’s because of Dennis Gabór’s historical achievement that we are able to see an object made of light in our surroundings. In 1947, the engineer discovered the principle of holography. In 1971, the English citizen with a Hungarian-German past received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery.
Carbon2Chem: Turning CO2 into something valuable – thanks to Ostwald’s catalysis findings
Sustainability and climate protection are important to us. So it’s good that the chemical elements in the industrial exhaust gases of our steelworks, such as nitrogen or hydrogen, can be processed into synthesis gases using the right process. They form the basis for chemicals such as ammonia, methanol, polymers or higher alcohols. CO2 is also a component of our metallurgical gases.
Transforming both CO2 and the other substances into something valuable is precisely what our Carbon2Chem project is all about. At our Duisburg pilot plant, we produce sustainable methanol from metallurgical gases – a green world premiere. And there are hardly any other theorems in chemistry that is as important for Carbon2Chem as the following two:
Catalysis is the acceleration of a slowly proceeding chemical reaction through the presence of a foreign substance.
A catalyst is a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction but is not consumed by the reaction.
These definitions by Wilhelm Ostwald are cornerstones of today’s chemistry – and his work on chemical equilibrium ratios and reaction rates is particularly valuable for Carbon2Chem. Because we use metallic catalysts á la Ostwald to significantly accelerate the chemical reactions in the production and purification of metallurgical gases. In 1909, the Lithuanian-born chemist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this historical contribution to science.
Fertilizer production: Ammonia synthesis with Haber and Bosch
Our last two Nobel Prize winners are stars of chemistry, too. Their names: Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. As close partners, they developed their Haber-Bosch process, for which Fritz Haber was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. Today, the process forms the basis for the world’s most important chemical production processes: the synthesis of ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen.
It is not surprising that Fritz Haber has also left his mark on our fertilizer plants. We use the Haber-Bosch process to produce ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, which we then convert into mineral fertilizers – an important prerequisite for feeding a large part of the world’s population.
The Nobel Prize – a symbol for progress
Even today, the Nobel Prize remains an important sign of progress, cooperation, peace and the technological capacities of science. The accomplishments of the winners are changing our world, our innovations, and our work at thyssenkrupp and that of our customers.