Johannes Lercher was born in Vienna, Austria in 1954. He is Professor of Chemistry and member of the Catalysis Research Institute at the Technische Universität München as well as Director of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, USA.
His academic career started with receiving the degree Diplom Ingenieur (summa cum laude) in 1978 from the Technische Universität Wien. He continued at this institution with doctoral studies with Prof. Heinrich Noller receiving the Dr. techn. in 1980 (summa cum laude). 1982 he spent at Yale University working with Prof. Gary Haller as postdoctoral researcher. After returning to the TU Wien he obtained the venia docendi in 1985. From 1989 to 1993 he was Associate Professor at the same Institution. During the following five years (1993-1998) was Professor of Chemical Technology at the University of Twente, Netherlands. In 1998 he joined the Technische Universität München. Since 2011 he is also the Director of the Institute of Integrated Catalysis and Battelle Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Prof. Lercher’s research group addresses fundamental aspects of catalyzed reactions with the aim to understand elementary reaction steps on the surface of solid catalysts during catalytic conversions. This knowledge is used to design and synthesize nanoscopically well-defined chemically functionalized surfaces and materials, able to enhance the rates of these reactions. The synthesis and modification of the catalytic materials is controlled on the level of the individual chemical reactions during the genesis of the catalytic entities and their assembly to multifunctional materials. Lercher’s work combines advanced physicochemical methods to characterize organic reactions on surfaces and in pores including IR, Raman, and solid state NMR spectroscopy with X-ray absorption spectroscopy to characterize the structure and electronic state of these materials in stages of preparation as well as during sorption and catalysis. Lercher’s group has pioneered in situ molecular spectroscopy for characterizing surface reactions, using this information to develop novel complex catalysts with successful examples including xylene isomerization, alkylation of aromatic molecules and the generation of hydrocarbons from methanol as well as the selective oxidation of methane to methanol. The materials studied include primarily structured micro and mesoporous materials containing protons, metal ions as well as metal and metal oxide clusters.
Catalytic reactions studied are acid catalyzed activation, functionalization, and transformation of alkanes, the oxidative activation of light alkanes including methane, the hydrogenation and hydrodefunctionalization of complex molecules and polymers from biogenic and fossil origins such as lignin as well as aromatic molecules containing nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen. His contributions have markedly advanced the understanding, how molecules are sorbed and converted in microporous materials, highlighting the contributions of dispersion forces and direct polarizing interactions. Using insight into the elementary steps and selective control of sorption and diffusion in molecular sieves, novel hierarchic materials have been designed, combining shape selectivity with the enhanced reactivity through improved transport properties. Qualitative and quantitive insight into the elementary reaction steps has also led to new catalytic routes to convert biomass derived raw materials to clean hydrocarbon fuels using bifunctional catalysts with components such as water-stable zeolites and supported base metal particles.
Johannes Lercher is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Catalysis, the premier journal in the field of catalysis, and is member of the Editorial board of several catalysis journals. He has served as President of the International Zeolite Association (2001 - 2004) and currently serves as President of the European Federation of Catalysis Societies.
In 2008, he was elected to the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2010 to the Academia Europaea, 2015 to the European Academy of Sciences. His contributions to research have been recognized by several recent awards including, the ENI Award for Hydrocarbon research, the inaugural David Trimm and Noel Cant Lectureship of the Australian Catalysis Society (2016), the R.B. Anderson Award of the Canadian Catalysis Society (2015), the Francois Gault Lectureship Award of the European Federation of Catalysis Societies (2013) and the Kozo Tanabe Prize for Acid Base Catalysis (2013), and the Robert Burwell Lectureship in Catalysis of the North American Catalysis Society (2011). He is Honorary Professor at the China University of Petroleum, the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. Recent named lectures include the Eastman Lecture at the UC Berkeley, the Hougen Lecture at the University of Wisconsin Madison, the Dodge Lecture at Yale University, the Xinda Lecture at Peking University, the Hess Lecture at the University of Virginia, and the Val Haensel Inaugural Lecture at UOP.