When the DuPont Co. announced in 1988 that it would phase out use of CFCs -- efficient, inexpensive refrigerants for air conditioners and insulation but then linked to the ozone hole over the Antarctic -- Manzer led the team that developed commercially viable replacements, including the HFC 134A now common in automobile air conditioners.
Five years ago Manzer also designed catalysts, chemistry's construction workers, that could make the polycarbonate of compact disks and bulletproof glass without generating another ozone-depleting compound, carbon tetrachloride, as a byproduct.
"What's neat is that in less than two years we were able to go from lab work to a full-scale commercial plant," he said. "It's an example of solving a problem at the source instead of at end of the pipe -- that is, instead of using incinerators. And the process is now actually more efficient."
A project still under development is liquefying the natural gas in oil wells instead of simply burning it off at the site. Manzer's team helped Conoco get started in 1997, while DuPont still owned the petroleum company, and it currently has a pilot plant running to convert the natural gas to sulfur-free diesel fuel.
Manzer grew up on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and remembers walking across to a U.S. pharmacy to restock his chemistry set. "This interest in chemistry has never left me for over 40 years, and every day that I come to work I'm anxiously looking for the next invention," he said. "The excitement of doing something that no one in the
Contact: Allison Byrum
American Chemical Society