Friedrich Bergius Biography
Friedrich Karl Rudolf Bergius was a German chemist known for the Bergius process for producing synthetic fuel from coal. He and Carl Bosch jointly won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contribution in the invention and development of chemical high-pressure methods. Bergius and Bosch worked towards developing the hydrogenation method needed to change coal dust and hydrogen into gasoline and lubricating oils without removing the transitional products. From his school days, Bergius took great interest in his father's factory where he studied various working methods under the direction of his father. In this way, he became acquainted with chemicotechnical processes and this time spent in the laboratories made him obtain a substantial knowledge about scientific and industrial matters from a very early age. Bergius worked with IG Farben during World War II. He researched the conversion of wood into sugar and of sugar into other food products. This helped Germany to combat the food crisis during World War II. After the war, he could not find any work that would do justice to his abilities. His citizenship came into question too. So, Friedrich Bergius finally fled to Argentina, where he acted as an adviser to the Ministry of Industry.
- Friedrich Bergius was born on October 11, 1884, in Goldschmieden near Breslau in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia. He belonged to a distinguished family of scientists, theologians, civil servants, army officers, and businesspersons.
- Bergius’ grandfather was Professor of Economics in Breslau. His father used to run a chemical factory in Goldschmieden. It is in this factory that the young Bergius carried out his early experiments.
- He worked for 6 months at the Friedrich Wilhelms steel works in Mülheim before studying chemistry.
- In 1903, he started studying at the University of Breslau under Ladenburg, Abegg and Herz.
- In 1907, he earned his PhD degree in chemistry at the University of Leipzig. He worked on sulphuric acid as solvent and Arthur Rudolf Hantzsch supervised the thesis.
- In 1909, he worked for one semester on the development of the Haber-Bosch Process with Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch at the University of Karlsruhe. The same year he went to work at the University of Hanover with Professor Max Bodenstein, famous for his ideas on chemical kinetics.
- In1910 Bergius established his own private laboratory in Hanover to carry out his work on the chemical equilibrium in gas reactions— the synthesis of ammonia.
- For a brief period in 1911, Bergius worked as a lecturer at the Technische Hochschule in Hanover. He taught technical gas reactions, equilibrium theory, and metallurgy.
- In 1913, he developed techniques for the high-pressure and high-temperature chemistry of substrates that contain carbon and he received a patent on the Bergius process.
- In 1914, Theodor Goldschmidt sponsored the building of Bergius’ industrial plant at his factory the Th. Goldschmidt AG.
- Bergius included German companies, the Shell Trust and a number of British enterprises, in particular the coal industry, to collaborate with him in the development of hydrogenation.
- Finally, in 1927, he was able to finish work on the liquefaction of coal and the I.G. Farbenindustrie and Imperial Chemical Industries took up the responsibility of the commercial production of the Bergius process.
- However, Friedrich Bergius had to sell his patent to BASF because the process was becoming slow due to technical problems, inflation and the constant disapproval of Franz Joseph Emil Fischer.
- From the end of the 1920s, Bergius concentrated on a process of obtaining sugar from cellulose in wood. To carry out his experiments, he set up an industrial plant in the Rheinau works.
- However, the high costs and technical problems related to the industrial process nearly made him bankrupt. A bailiff followed him to Stockholm to get back the money he owned.
- During the World War II, when he was in Bad Gastein, Austria, his laboratory and house were destroyed in an air raid.
- After the war, he had to go away from Germany because of his collaboration with IG Farben.
- Thereafter Frierich Bergius worked as an adviser in Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and Spain.
- He was appointed an adviser to the Ministry of Industry in Argentina and continued in the position until his death.
- The most important research of Friedrich Bergius was the hydrogenating effect of hydrogen on coal and heavy oils under high pressure. He started with a thorough study on the dissociation of calcium peroxide. Later, he came up with a practical method for laboratory work at pressures of up to 300 atmospheres. He developed this process before the popularly known Fischer-Tropsch process came into being. Due to the successful commercialization of this process, the I.G. Farben Group profited from huge coal gasoline subsidies from the National Socialist government. He also made possible the hydrolysis of cellulose in wood and parallel substances to sugar.
- In 1931, Friedrich Bergius was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Carl Bosch “for their contributions to the invention and development of chemical high-pressure methods”.
- In 1937, he was awarded the Wilhelm Exner Medal. Apart from this, he also received honorary Dr. Phil. from the University of Heidelberg and honorary doctorate from the University of Hanover. Friedrich Bergius was awarded the Liebig Medal and he was elected to the Board of Directors of many coal and oil associations.
- Friedrich Bergius was married to Margarete Bergius and had two children - Renate Juliusberger and Johannes Bergius.
- On 30 March 1949, he died in Buenos Aires and was buried at the La Chacarita Cemetery.
How To Cite
People Also Viewed