The FNP Prize (FNP stands for Foundation for Polish Science) is an individual prize for eminent researchers for their outstanding achievements or discoveries. Regarded as the most prestigious of its kind in Poland.
It is awarded since 1992. The prize honours renowned scientists for significant advancements and scientific discoveries which shift cognitive boundaries and open new perspectives for research, provide an exceptional contribution towards the advancement of our nation’s progress and culture as well as assure Poland a significant position for undertaking the most ambitious challenges of the modern world. Subject of the Prize must be clearly defined and confirmed scientific achievements which have in the recent period opened new perspectives for further research.
Professor Karol Grela, PhD habil. Eng. received the FNP Prize 2014 in the chemical and materials sciences for developing new catalysts for olefin metathesis reactions and applying them in industrial practice.
He was born in Warsaw in 1970 and is a chemist working on the synthesis of organic and organometallic compounds. A graduate of the Faculty of Chemistry at the Warsaw University of Technology (1994), he obtained his PhD (1998), postdoctoral degree (2003) and the title of professor (2008) at the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He spent 1999-2000 on a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute in Mülheim an der Ruhr.
He heads the Organometallic Synthesis Laboratory of the Biological and Chemical Research Centre of the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Warsaw as well as working part-time at the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Polish Chemical Society and an honorary member of the Israel Chemical Society.
He has received numerous awards and honours for scientific achievement.The FNP Prize recognises Prof.Grela’s research on catalysts used in olefin metathesis reactions (exchange of double bonds); olefins are compounds from the unsaturated hydrocarbons group which contain one or more double chemical bonds between carbon atoms. Catalysts are compounds that help considerably accelerate chemical processes, improving their efficiency and selectiveness while reducing the amount of produced waste etc.
The carbon-carbon double bond in olefins is one of the most useful elements in the structure of organic compounds. It can be used to build all kinds of organic skeletons and, due to its high chemical reactivity, is one of the most important functional groups used in numerous chemical transformations. Due to these extensive possibilities, over the past 150 years chemists have sought new ways of obtaining olefins. A completely new way of obtaining these extremely important chemical compounds was invented in recent decades: metathesis (for this achievement, three chemists – Yves Chauvin, Robert Grubbs and Richard Schrock – received the Nobel Prize in 2005).
Professor Grela and his associates have focused on the optimization of olefin metathesis reactions, i.e. seeking ways to conduct them in a way that is safe for the environment, combines high efficiency with the possibility of conducting them in mild conditions (at ambient or lower temperature or in a water solution, for example) and with tolerance for numerous, often very reactive functional groups. A catalyst, meanwhile, should be as cheap as possible, easy to recover after a reaction as well as being highly active and stable.
All these important problems and challenges have been identified and in many cases also solved by Professor Grela’s group. The research he leads has resulted in many new catalysts: complex ruthenium compounds thanks to which the metathesis process can be individually regulated (“tuned”) for countless applications, both in academic organic chemistry and in industry (e.g. in the production of new drugs, new polymer materials and recipes for new fuels based on renewable input materials).
International recognition for Professor Grela’s achievements is proved, among other things, by the fact that one of the catalysts he developed and commercialized is known in the literature as the “Grela catalyst” while his team is considered a world leader among research groups working in this field.
Prof. Karol Grela, who received the prize in the chemical and materials sciences, said that when he was starting his adventure with science, many fundamental discoveries related to olefin metathesis had already been made. Guided by a desire to expand the existing body of knowledge, he nevertheless has managed to play an enormous role in a major breakthrough in this field: getting metathesis into broad industrial application. Thanking his numerous young associates, Prof. Grela stressed the importance of the flow of experience between successive generations