German scientist Gerhard Ertl former director at the Max Planck Institute has been awarded the Nobel prize (US$1.5Mn.) for Chemistry on his 71st birthday.
His work concentrated on the understanding of how individual layers of atoms and molecules behave on surfaces - and he has pioneered and developed the study of the dynamical aspects of chemical processes on metal surfaces in atomic and molecular level.
All this helping to explain the way catalysts work, iron rusts, fuekl cells function and the descrtuction of the ozone layer.
An unglamourous research field but essential to providing the tools which have explained such diverse processes as the so-called Haber-Bosch process which makes fertilizers work by taking nitrogen from air and converting it into ammonia by combining it with hydrogen, thus enabling imptovments in efficiency and productivity to be developed.
The consequence of his lifelong work is that the knowledge base which his fundamental studies have addressed is directly related to major commercial processes.
He received the Japan Prize in 1992 which is generally considered to be the Japanese equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Max Planck Press release