Ertl, Gerhard (gĕrˈhärt ârˈtəl), 1936– German chemist, b. Stuttgart, grad. Univ. of Stuttgart (1961), Technical Univ., Munich (Ph.D 1965). After holding a number of lecturer and research positions in the United States and Germany, Ertl was named director of the Institute for Physical Chemistry at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin in 1986. Ertl's research laid the foundation of modern surface chemistry, the study of how atoms and molecules interact at a surface. His findings were of value in both academic studies and industrial development, affecting fields as diverse as agriculture, manufacturing, and climatology. Ertl added to the understanding of the Haber process (also called the Haber-Bosch process), which is used to produce ammonia and is important to the production of inorganic fertilizers. He also contributed to the understanding of the interaction between catalysts, surfaces, and gases. In recognition of his contributions to the understanding of chemical processes on surfaces, Ertl was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
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