by Boris OGORODNIKOV, Dr. Sc. (Chem.), Karpov Institute of Physico-Chemical Studies
One really striking fact in the scientific career of Academician Igor Petryanov-Sokolov, a leading figure in this country's physical chemistry research, is that he joined our research center 70 years ago-back in 1929- and was true to his "one and only love" to the end of his days.
Igor Petryanov-Sokolov was born on June 18, 1907, into a peasant family in the Nizhni Novgorod goubernya (province). As fate would have it, most of the residents of the Bolshaya Yakshel village shared a common family name of Petryanovs and could only be distinguished by a double name (like Sokolov, in our particular case).
In 1931 Igor Petryanov-Sokolov graduated from the Chemistry Department of Moscow State University But he had begun to earn his own bread and butter much earlier - in 1926 - first as an artist in technical journals, then as a chemist in the Central Lab of the Russkye Samotsvety ("Russian Gems") Trust. In September 1929 he made the career choice of his life, getting the post of a junior research assistant at the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry.
His first scientific discovery was made in 1927 when, working together with Natalya Rosenblum and Nikolai Fuksov, he pioneered a method of production of ultrathin polymer fibers. Thanks to this achievement he was able to design and produce shortly before the start of World War II a gas mask which was then the best of its kind in the world. In 1940 he defended his thesis for an academic degree of Candidate of Sciences (M. Sc.) and was immediately awarded a doctorate instead. Haifa year later he was promoted to professorship.
When Hitler's armies approached Moscow, the Aerosols Lab of which
Igor Petryanov was the head was moved away from the battlefront to the safety of the Urals and charged with the task of launching a mass production of filters for gas masks. From 1945 he was enlisted on Russia's A-bomb project. That was the start of his long years of scientific and personal cooperation with Igor Kurchatov, the chief architect of the Soviet nuclear program (his team constructed a nuclear reactor in 1946, built the Soviet Union's first A-bomb in 1949 and its first hydrogen bomb in 1953; he worked side by side with such pillars of Russian science as Academicians Yuly Khariton and Georgi Flyorov.
Right after the war Igor Petryanov was sent to Germany where he was to study methods of production of
heavy water developed by experts of the Third Reich. When back in Russia he focused on the problems of isotope separation and analysis, and on methods of production of deuterium-enriched water. Working on this project the scientist developed an original "float-gauge" method of measuring its concentration. Later on Prof. Petryanov shifted his efforts on studying the properties of radioactive aerosols; he developed principles and methods of preventing their formation, and designed trapping techniques. These studies provided the basis for a system of effective radiation protection of the staff of nuclear fuel plants.
In the meantime what were commonly known here as FP filters (or Petryanov filters) from ultrafine polymer fibers were gaining in popularity among specialists in this country. Thanks to their high plasticity, or pliability, they could easily be placed into very small spaces and volumes. In LAIK filters, for example, 100 m2 of FP fiber fits into a volume of one cubic meter. These filters of rectangular shape can be easily put together into bigger assemblies which can process hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of contaminated air per hour. Fine FP filters find a whole range of applications in the medical, radio electronic, radiochemical, food, mining and other industries. They are used, for example, for air sterilization in ventilation systems in hospitals, for the treatment of gas discharges from atomic power stations and reactors, and also in highly effective air-frying procedures.
FP filters provide the basis for highly effective, light and user-friendly respirators. Experts point out that the presence of electric charges on the fiber and data on the mechanisms of aerosol capture have made it possible to design and build respirators with a very low resistance to breathing which can be used by staffs engaged on heavy manual jobs where conventional respirators just cannot be used.
One case in point are the Lepestok respirators which weigh only 10 grams and have no traditional rubber face mask. Its role is fulfilled by the filtering layer itself (with a working area of 240 cm2) which is positioned on a light frame covered with gauze.
The air filter is held in place by a rubber cord with a flexible aluminum plate custom-fitted for users having different facial features. Such respirator masks do not interfere with the user's field of vision or hearing.
After 1957 these fabric filters became a common item at all of this country's nuclear plants without exception. During the Chernobyl disaster thousands of rescue workers sent into the 30-kilometer zone of the accident were all wearing Lepestok respirators to protect themselves from radioactive aerosols.
Academician Petryanov and his team also developed other types of respirators including the Astra model equipped with a face mask and a replaceable FP filter. The respirator is recommended for use in the conditions of heavy dust pollution or in premises with high levels of airborne liquid spray or mist.
Also used at nuclear plants are what are called sorption-filtering materials, self- cleaning and granular filters, and separators for chemical power sources. All these items originated in the lab headed by Academician Petryanov.
The use of new analytical filters based on FP materials has made it possible to considerably improve the accuracy of air sampling in all sorts of industrial premises and shorten the time of such tests. They can also be used for new kinds of aerosol tests such as those by weight, chemical composition, and also for radiometric, spectral, dispersion, radiograph-ic, bacterial and other tests. FP materials have also been used as a basis for new analytical filters and devices for single or continuous control.
One of the brainwaves that hit the scientist one fine evening in 1953 crystallized in a concept of what he described as zonal arrangement of premises used for the handling of highly toxic radioactive materials. The idea consists in partitioning a working area into separate zones used for particular operations with medical "checkpoints" at the entrance of each individual zone. The ventilation system is so designed that the air flows from the less polluted into the more polluted rooms. This system makes it possible to sharply reduce the number of staff exposed to hazardous conditions and cut the volumes of air going through ventilation and filtration. By the end of the 1950s the concept was materialized in standard equipment with the personal participation of the author. Since that time what is called "zonal planning" has been adopted at all of this country's centers handling radioactive materials.
Apart from that Academician Petryanov suggested what is called a self-guarding safety system in which air expelled through ventilation from every workstation handling nuclear fuel is passed through a fine filter unit of its own. Such filters usually occupy whole ventilation shafts, or tunnels, and in case of an emergency the leakage is immediately detected by a sensor installed at each individual filter and adjusted to a certain level of accumulation of radionuclides. Practical experience with systems of this kind has proved that any serious accidents can be prevented in time because of the early detection of any escapes of radioactivity into the air through, e.g., some cracks resulting from metal fatigue.
In a speech on the 50th birthday of Igor Petryanov Academician Valentin Kargin, the founder of the Soviet school of the physicochemistry of polymers, who originally introduced the promising young student to the Karpov Institute, said: "His basic characteristic as a researcher consists in a combination of the talents of a research scientist and engineer, which provides for a close link between his ideas and practical requirements. His brilliant gift of a researcher, backed by his truly remarkable physicochemical intuition, has paved the way for a truly innovative approach to the solution of a whole range of practical problems."
In 1949 a new Department of physical chemistry was opened at the Moscow Chemico-Technological Institute to train engineers for the Soviet nuclear industry. And right from the start Professor Petryanov was one of the lecturers at the Chair of Isotope Separation and Uses. His association with the Institute continued for almost forty years.
In 1953 Igor Petryanov was elected Corresponding Member of what was then the USSR Academy of Sciences. This came as a recognition of not just his own scientific achievements, but of aerosols
research in general and also of the Institute itself which did not belong to the network of Academic centers.
And there was yet one more vital goal in the life of Academician Petryanov. Working in cooperation with Academician Nikolai Semyo-nov (Nobel Prize winner), he was preoccupied not only with the problem of environmental pollution from nuclear weapon tests, but with the broader problem of the environmental impact of all sorts of industrial wastes. He became preoccupied with the scale of harmful discharges and their transfer over large distances from various industrial enterprises and units, such as chemical and metallurgical plants, coal-firing power stations and so on. Car exhausts were there too. In the early 1960s both scientists reported at a conference in Kemerovo on their novel principles of waste-free technologies.
The year 1964 saw the opening of a new science magazine called Khimlya i Zhiwj ("Chemistry and Life"). Its first editor-in-chief was Academician Petryanov - a post he held for nearly 30 years making the periodical one of the most interesting and popular science monthlies in this country. Academician Petryanov was also the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular science serial called Scientists to Schoolchildren and the science editor of the Soviet Children's Encyclopaedia. He also headed the Section of Popular Science Literature of the Editorial and Publishing Council of the USSR Academy of Sciences, was member of the editorial board of the Otchiyza ("Motherland") magazine and Golos Rodiny ("Voice of the Motherland") newspaper, and chaired the editorial board of the Pamyatniki Otechestva ("Monuments of Motherland") almanac.
His efforts in the field of dissemi-nation of scientific knowledge and his cultural and educational work won him the Ushinsky Medal (named after the founder of Russia's school of scholarly pedagogics) and the Kalingi Prize from UNESCO.
In 1966 Igor Petryanov-Sokolov was elected full Member of the
USSR Academy of Sciences. At that time he became active in broad scientific- organizational work. He was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Scientific Council for the Protection of the Environment and Comprehensive Uses of Natural Resources attached to the State Committee for Science and Technology of the USSR Council of Ministers. He also
held the post of chairman of the Scientific Council of the USSR Academy of Sciences on Colloidal Chemistry and Physico-Chemical Mechanics.
In 1988 Igor Petryanov became editor-in-chief of the Academic Kol-loidniy Zhurnal ("Journal of Colloids") - the post he retained to the last days of his life.
The 1970s to 1980s saw a marked broadening of the scientific interests of Academician Petryanov with the opening up of new areas of aerosols research. His team launched studies of artificial dispersed clouds ("cosmosols") required for the development of space technologies and for studies of the ecological conditions of near-earth space. Studies were launched of Halley's comet and the cloud cover of Venus.
His achievements in physics research won Academician Petryanov the Vavilov Gold Medal of the USSR Academy of Sciences (named after Sergei Vavilov, the founder of the Russian school of physical optics).
Academician Igor Petryanov-Sokolov passed away in Moscow on May 19, 1996. His 90th birthday was marked by Petryanov lectures as they were called and the second such event took place in June of 1999.
For the 80th birthday of our Institute the Publishing House for Nuclear Technology brought out a book entitled /. V. Petryanov-Sokolov. About Myself and My Work. About Himself and His Work". The first part of the book is a collection of scientific and popular science articles by Academician Petryanov and also his poems and prose, and some family photos. The second half features reminiscences about the scientist left by his relatives and friends, and some of his academic comrades in arms. An introduction to the book was written by the Vice-President of the Academy, Academician Oleg Nefedov and the list of authors of reminiscences includes Academicians Anatoliy Buchachenko, Nikolai Plate, Nikita Moiseev, Boris Myasoedov, Andrei Sakharov and Yakov Kolotyrkin, Corresponding Member of the Academy Gennady Yagodin and Member of the Russian Medical Academy Leonid Ilyin. The book ends with one of the last few articles by Academician Petryanov entitled "How Many More Years of Life Are Left to Mankind?" With the turn of the century in sight, the author voiced his concern about the senseless waste of the planet's mineral wealth and the mounting threat of environmental pollution which concerns in the final analysis all of mankind. For me personally, work on the book was a precious gift of remembrance linked with the person who was near and dear to me. During this work 1 lived anew not just the 40 years of our association with Igor Petryanov with whom we were friends ever since we were college students, but all of the 89 years of his eventful life.
The word "Teacher" carries a sacred meaning to me. It implies a person of goodness and knowledge, worthy of sincere admiration and respect. As we enter the new millennium, I associate this notion with the memory of Igor Petryanov-Sokolov.
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