Charles J. Plank
Born Nov 8 1915
- Died Oct 23 1989
Catalytic Cracking of Hydrocarbons with a Crystalline Zeolite Catalyst Composite
Patent Number(s) 3,140,249
Charles J. Plank and Edward J. Rosinski invented the first zeolite catalyst commercially useful in the petroleum industry for catalytic cracking of petroleum into lighter products such as gasoline.
Plank and Rosinksi's invention is still used in the petrochemical industry because catalytic cracking combined with polymerization and alkylation increase the hydrocarbon in crude oil's gasoline range from ten to forty percent to around seventy percent. In the chain process catalyst cracking converts high molecular weight hydrocarbons into smaller, more volatile compounds, and polymerization converts the small gaseous compounds into liquid gasoline hydrocarbons. Alkylation transforms the gasoline hydrocarbons into larger hydrocarbons with a higher octane number.
These technologies have advanced so much that oil refineries can shift productions to target almost any fuel type with specific performance criteria from a single crude sample.
Born in Calcutta, India, where his American parents were Methodist missionaries, Plank returned with his family to the United States the following year and subsequently settled in his father's hometown of Lafayette, Indiana. In 1936 he received a B.S. in mathematics, chemistry, and physics from Purdue University. He later earned an M.S., and in 1942 he received his Ph.D., in physical chemistry from Purdue University. He also holds an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Purdue University.
Plank joined the Research Department of Socony-Vacuum Oil Company-the predecessor of Mobil Oil Corporation - in 1941. Practically all of his professional career has been devoted to the field of catalysis. In 1970 he became senior scientist, the highest scientific post, at Mobil's Research and Development Laboratory in New Jersey. His research has led to 83 U.S. patents and several hundred in other countries.