George Olah – pioneer in carbocations studies

George Olah – pioneer in carbocations studies

George Olah – pioneer in carbocations studies

Biography & contributions

George Olah [George Andrew Olah] is a Hungarian American chemist and Nobel laureate born on May 22, 1927. Olah contributed his work towards chemistry of carbocations or cabonium ions. Olah is currently a working as a professor at the University of Southern California and the director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute.

Olah is recipient of many awards, prizes and medals such as National or International Prize in the year of 1964, Leo Hendrick Baekeland Award in the year of 1967, USC Associates Award in the year of 1985, Nobel Prize in the year of 1994, Cotton Medal in the year of 1996, Szechenyi Grand Prize in the year of 2011.

He is currently investigating electrophilic (protic) solvation superelectrophilic activation. He was able to successfully disassemble, examine, and then recombine carbocations through the use of superacids and ultracold solvents.

In recent years, olah research has shifted from hydrocarbons and their transformation into fuel to the methanol economy. He has joined with Robert Zubrin, Anne Korin, and James Woolsey in promoting a flexible-fuel mandate initiative.

His work allowed the mass production of synthesized high-octane gasoline, and uncovered new ways for the petroleum industry to use hydrocarbons.


A carbocation is molecule in which a carbon atom bears three bonds and a positive charge. Carbocations are generally unstable because they do not have eight electrons to satisfy the octet rule. Carbocations have only six electrons in their valence shell making them electron deficient. Thus, they are unstable electrophiles and will react very quickly with nucleophiles to form new bonds. Carbocations are often the target of nucleophilic attack by nucleophiles like hydroxide (OH) ions or halogen ions. Carbocations typically undergo rearrangement reactions from less stable structures to equally stable or more stable ones with rate constants in excess of 109/sec.

Carbocations are classified as follows

Primary carbocations – in primary carbocations, the carbon which carries the positive charge is only attached to one other alkyl group.

Secondary carbocations – in secondary carbocations the carbon with the positive charge is attached to two other alkyl groups, which may be the same or different.

Tertiary carbocations – in tertiary carbocations the positive carbon atom is attached to three alkyl groups, which may be any combination of same or different.


Superacid can be defined as it is an acid with acidity greater than that of 100per cent pure sulfuric acid / it is a medium in which the chemical potential of the proton is higher than in pure sulfuric acid

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