Photo of Vladimir Haensel

Vladimir Haensel

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his outstanding research in the catalytic reforming of hydrocarbons which has greatly enhanced the economic value of our petroleum natural resources.

In 2015, the United States consumed about 140 billion gallons of gasoline, a number that has decreased over the last decade. This trend – facilitated by an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency – began with Vladimir Haensel.

In the late 1940s, Haensel, a German-born chemical engineer at Universal Oil Products, wanted to improve the way crude oil is processed into fuel.

At the time, gas contained lead additives, a source of pollution, to improve octane rating. Haensel invented a process called “platforming,” which phased out lead additives, creating cleaner-burning, more efficient fuel.

The process, which uses platinum as a catalyst in refining crude oil, added 35 percent more mileage to a gallon of high-octane gasoline.

“Work to produce something important,” he said in 1995. “Do something new. Do something interesting, something that makes you want to shout out loud when you’ve got it. Life is too darn amazing – and too short – for anything less.”