Friedrich Karl Rudolf Bergius was a German scientist who invented the Bergius technique for synthesizing coal into synthetic fuel. For their contributions to the discovery and development of chemical high-pressure technologies, he and Carl Bosch shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Bergius and Bosch collaborated to develop the hydrogenation process required to convert coal dust and hydrogen into gasoline and lubricating oils while preserving the intermediate products. Bergius was fascinated by his father’s factory while he was in school, when he studied various working methods under his father’s supervision. As a result, he got familiar with chemicotechnical processes, and his time spent in laboratories provided him with a solid foundation in scientific and industrial problems from an early age. During World War II, Bergius worked for IG Farben. He studied the transformation of wood into sugar and sugar into other foods. During World War II, this aided Germany in combating the food crisis. After the war, he was unable to find work that matched his abilities. His citizenship was also called into question. Friedrich Bergius eventually went to Argentina, where he worked as a consultant for the Ministry of Industry.
Childhood and Adolescence
Friedrich Bergius was born in Goldschmieden, near Breslau, in the German Empire’s Prussian Province of Silesia on October 11, 1884. He came from a long line of scientists, theologians, government servants, army officers, and businessmen.
Bergius’ grandpa was a Breslau professor of economics. In Goldschmieden, his father used to own a chemical industry. Bergius’ early experiments were carried out in this factory by the youthful Bergius.
Before studying chemistry, he worked for 6 months at the Friedrich Wilhelms steel factory in Mülheim.
He began studying under Ladenburg, Abegg, and Herz at the University of Breslau in 1903.
He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Leipzig in 1907. The thesis was overseen by Arthur Rudolf Hantzsch, who experimented using sulphuric acid as a solvent.
In 1909, he spent a semester at the University of Karlsruhe working on the development of the Haber-Bosch Process alongside Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. In the same year, he began working at the University of Hanover with Professor Max Bodenstein, who was well-known for his chemical kinetics theories.
Bergius built his own private laboratory in Hanover in 1910 to continue his research on chemical equilibrium in gas processes, namely the production of ammonia.
Bergius served as a lecturer at the Technische Hochschule in Hanover for a short time in 1911. Technical gas processes, equilibrium theory, and metallurgy were among the subjects he taught.
He secured a patent for the Bergius process in 1913, after developing techniques for the high-pressure and high-temperature chemistry of carbon-containing substrates.
Bergius’ industrial plant was built at Theodor Goldschmidt’s factory, the Th. Goldschmidt AG, in 1914.
Bergius enlisted the help of German corporations, the Shell Trust, and a number of British businesses, particularly in the coal industry, to develop hydrogenation.
Finally, in 1927, he was able to complete his work on coal liquefaction, and the Bergius process was handed over to the I.G. Farbenindustrie and Imperial Chemical Industries for commercial production.
However, Friedrich Bergius was forced to sell his patent to BASF since the process was growing too slow due to technical issues, inflation, and Franz Joseph Emil Fischer’s continual dissatisfaction.
Bergius focused on a method of extracting sugar from cellulose in wood beginning in the late 1920s. He set up an industrial factory in the Rheinau works to conduct his research.
However, the huge expenditures and technical issues associated with the industrial process almost bankrupted him. To reclaim the money he owed, a bailiff followed him to Stockholm.
During World War II, his laboratory and home in Bad Gastein, Austria, were destroyed in an air raid.
Because of his participation with IG Farben, he was forced to flee Germany after the war.
Frierich Bergius thereafter worked as a consultant in Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, and Spain.
He was appointed as an adviser to Argentina’s Ministry of Industry, a position he held until his death.
Major Projects of Friedrich Bergius
Friedrich Bergius’ most notable study was the hydrogenating action of hydrogen on coal and heavy oils at high pressure. He began by conducting a thorough investigation of the dissociation of calcium peroxide. Later, he devised a feasible way for working in laboratories at pressures up to 300 atmospheres.
He invented this method before the well-known Fischer-Tropsch method. The I.G. Farben Group benefited from massive coal gasoline subsidies from the National Socialist government as a result of the successful commercialization of this method. He also made it possible to hydrolyze cellulose in wood and create sugar-like compounds.
Achievements & Awards
Friedrich Bergius and Carl Bosch shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1931 for “contributions to the discovery and development of chemical high-pressure procedures.”
He received the Wilhelm Exner Medal in 1937. He also earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Hanover and an honorary doctorate from the University of Heidelberg. Friedrich Bergius received the Liebig Medal and was elected to the boards of directors of a number of coal and oil companies.
Personal History and Legacy
Friedrich Bergius had two children with Margarete Bergius: Renate Juliusberger and Johannes Bergius.
He died in Buenos Aires on March 30, 1949, and was interred in the La Chacarita Cemetery.
Estimated Net Worth
Estimated net worth of Friedrich Bergius is unknown.