Resnick Institute

Short Documentaries

The Resnick Institute’s short documentary films aim to increase public understanding of significant achievements in sustainability science at Caltech.


Element 19 (which is the number for potassium on the periodic table) shines a light on the remarkable Caltech discovery of a renewable potassium-based catalyst. The catalyst can be used for the manufacture of essential chemical products and is both sustainable and affordable. Featuring PhD student and Dow-Resnick Fellow, Anton Toutov, Professors Robert H. Grubbs and Brian M. Stoltz, postdoctoral scholar Wen-Bo "Boger" Liu, and undergrad Kerry Betz, the film aims to broadly explain the implications of the team's groundbreaking work in sustainable chemistry in an accessible way.

Watch the Film

Learn More About the Science

The discovery showcased in Element 19 is described in more scientfic detail in Caltech's news feature, "Potassium Salt Outperforms Precious Metals As a Catalyst" and in the team's article in Nature, "Silylation of C–H bonds in aromatic heterocycles by an Earth-abundant metal catalyst". Anton Toutov also won our 2014 Dow-Resnick SISCA Prize for this discovery. Visit Robert Grubbs' webpage and the Stoltz Group website to learn more about the full range of their research.

Behind the Scenes

Element 19 was shot on location at Caltech and brought to life by the creative teams of M.Samuels Media and Oshin Studio in early 2015. Pasadena’s own Sandy Gilfillan of Altered Tastes created the film’s original score. Thank you to all who participated on this project!