Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer Discovered Pitzer Reactions

Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer – discoverer of pitzer reactions

Category : Personalities
Published by : Data Research Analyst, Worldofchemicals.com

Biography & contributions

Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer was an American physical and theoretical chemist, educator born on January 06, 1914 – died on December 26, 1997. He was the receiver of Priestley Medal.

He was described as "one of the most infuential physical chemists of his era" whose work "spanned almost all of the important felds of physical chemistry: thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, molecular structure, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, chemical bonding, relativistic chemical effects, properties of concentrated aqueous salt solutions, kinetics, and conformational analysis. Pitzer worked on thermodynamic properties of molecules.

Pitzer discovered ‘Pitzer equations’ to describing the behavior of ions dissolved in water and Pitzer discovered barriers to rotation about carbon-carbon single bonds. He also showed how the properties of salt solutions in the critical region differ from those of ordinary solutions in the critical region.

The most important paper Pitzer published during the war years appeared as a letter to Science in 1945. It was entitled “Strain Energies of Cyclic Hydrocarbons”. Pitzer correctly predicted the cyclopentane would not be planar.

Pitzer correctly predicted the cyclopentane would not be planar. For six-membered rings CCC bond angle distortion is relieved by distortion of carbon atoms out of planarity.

In the 1930s Hassel’s electron diffraction experiments found the chair form. Pitzer explained that the chair form would be the more stable because it had the lower internal rotation energy. His other significant interests during this period were infrared spectroscopy and the nature of the hydrogen bond in the F-H-F anion.

Qualitatively he looked at how the effects of a molecule being globular like neopentane, or being asymmetric like a normal hydrocarbon, or having a small dipole moment like H2S affects the intermolecular potential and found the effects were similar. From these considerations he proposed an extension of corresponding states for fluids by adding a third parameter for each substance in addition to critical temperature, Tc, and critical pressure, Pc. He called this parameter the ‘acentric factor’ (ω)He established a program in low-temperature calorimetry to investigate nuclear spin species conversion in methane.

Pitzer developed an experimental program in measuring the critical properties of electrolyte solutions and collaborated extensively with experimental groups measuring the properties of electrolytes.

Awards & Prizes

Pitzer was received many notable awards and prizes like American society award in the year of 1943 in pure chemistry field, in the year of 1958 Clayton prize from Institution of Mechanical Engineers- London, Gilbert Newton Lewis Prize from California American Chemical Society, National Medal of Science, Willard Gibbs Medal from American Chemical Society etc.

Cyclopentane facts


Cyclopentane is a highly flammable alicyclic hydrocarbon and class of cycloalkanes, being alkanes that have one or more rings of carbon atoms. It consisting of a ring of five carbon atoms each bonded with two hydrogen atoms above and below the plane. It occurs as a colorless liquid with a petrol-like odor. Its melting point is −94 °C and its boiling point is 49 °C.

It is formed by cracking cyclohexane in the presence of alumina at a high temperature and pressure. Cyclopentane is used in the manufacture of synthetic resins and rubber adhesives and also as a blowing agent in the manufacture of polyurethane insulating foam, as found in many domestic appliances such as refrigerators and freezers, replacing environmentally damaging alternatives such as CFC-11 and HCFC-141b.

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