The 82-year-old awardee is among the world’s best known scientists in the field of fluorine and silicon chemistry. “In his work, Roesky researches low-valent silicon chemistry based on key raw materials used in the silicon-processing chemical industry,” said Robert Gnann, head of the WACKER SILICONES business division, as he presented the award yesterday evening. “Since chlorosilylenes also occur as intermediates in the production of hyperpure silicon and silicones, his work is pioneering and also of great interest for making process optimizations.”
Herbert Roesky’s most important discoveries include the synthesis of a dichlorosilylene from trichlorosilane. Such divalent silicon compounds are highly unstable and have to be stabilized prior to isolation. In 2009, Roesky managed this with the aid of an N-heterocyclic carbene, i.e. without using common reducing agents. “With this synthesis, Roesky raised the generations-long preoccupation with the trichlorosilane/base system to new heights”, Robert Gnann emphasized.
Professor Roesky was born on November 6, 1935, in Laukischken near Kaliningrad, Russia. He studied chemistry at Georg-August-University in Göttingen from 1956 and gained his doctorate in 1963 in the working group led by Professor Oskar Glemser on fluorination reactions. In 1967, he obtained his habilitation with a thesis on the chemistry of substituted phosphates. From 1971 until 1980, Roesky conducted research and taught as Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University in Frankfurt. From 1980 until 2004, he headed the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at Georg-August-University Göttingen.
Roesky only focused on low-valent silicon chemistry after his retirement. He had already caused a stir with the isolation of a chlorine-substituted silylene. Roesky was subsequently able to demonstrate that such chlorosilylenes represent a new ligand type in the coordination chemistry of transition metals. He also succeeded in introducing so-called cyclic alkylamino carbenes (cAACs) into silicon chemistry. This permitted the synthesis of novel low-valent silicon compounds, for example the synthesis of a biradical of disilicon tetrachloride or the preparation of a stable cyclic silicon cluster of three silicon atoms in the formal oxidation state 0.
Roesky has received numerous honorary doctorates and published over 1,300 scientific papers in total. His research fields include, along with low-valent silicon chemistry, fluorine chemistry, cyclic sulfur-nitrogen compounds and metallophosphazenes. For his pioneering work, Roesky has received many international research awards, including the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation and the Blaise-Pascal Medal of the European Academy of Sciences.
Roesky is also the author of numerous popular scientific chemistry books and publications. In his experimental lectures, he generates enthusiasm for the fascinating world of chemistry among students as well as non-chemists. As a board of trustees member of the German Chemical Industry Fund, he has promoted professional teacher training and modern, practical teaching of chemistry for decades. In 2012, Professor Roesky’s achievements were honored with the Heinrich Roessler Award of the German Chemical Society.