catalyst – A substance that triggers or speeds up a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
World War II
Eugene Houdry, born in France, developed, after settling in the USA, one of the earliest catalysts to convert useless crude oil into high octane fuel. He revealed the “cracking” process at a Chicago chemicals conference in 1938. 100 octane aviation gasoline, produced by a new catalytic cracking process, improved the performance of their Spitfires & Hurricanes over of the 87-octane gasoline previously used. The 100-octane fuel that resulted from the Houdry Process increased the Spitfire’s speed by 25 mph at sea level by 34 mph at 10,000 feet. This extra speed gave the British fighters in the summer of 1940 the edge over the Luftwaffe above the English Channel and in the skies of London and south-east England.