Friedrich Bergius: Pioneering the Conversion of Coal into Liquid Gold

Suman Kumar

Friedrich Bergius (11 October 1884 – 30 March 1949) was a German chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1931.

Life and Career

He was born on 11 October 1884, in Goldschmieden, Germany. He then went on to study chemistry at the University of Breslau, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1909. After completing his doctoral studies, Bergius worked as an assistant at the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the University of Breslau for a short period.

In 1910, he developed a process for the high-pressure hydrogenation of coal, which he called the “Bergius process.” This process involved the reaction of coal with hydrogen under high pressure and temperature to produce liquid hydrocarbons suitable for use as fuels. In 1911, he moved to the Technical University of Berlin, where he worked as an assistant at the Institute of Electrochemistry. He later became a lecturer at the university, and in 1927 he was appointed as a professor of physical chemistry.

During World War I, Bergius worked on the production of synthetic fuel for the German war effort using the Bergius process. After the war, he continued to develop the process and collaborated with several industrial firms to establish commercial production of synthetic fuels. He was also involved in research on the production of synthetic rubber and other chemical products from coal and other hydrocarbons. He died on 30 March 1949, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Award and Legacy

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1931, along with Carl Bosch, for his contributions to the development of high-pressure chemistry, particularly the Bergius process for the synthesis of liquid fuels from coal.

His contributions to high-pressure chemistry and the development of the Bergius process had a significant impact on the petroleum and chemical industries. His process to produce liquid fuels from coal was particularly important during World War I and World War II when access to petroleum resources was limited. The Bergius process was also used to produce synthetic fuels in several countries, including Germany, Japan, and South Africa.

In addition to his work on the Bergius process, he made important contributions to the understanding of catalysis, the chemistry of coal, and the production of synthetic rubber. His legacy continues to be celebrated in the scientific community, and he is remembered as one of the pioneers of high-pressure chemistry and a key figure in the development of synthetic fuels.