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August 2006



"World cup" Chemists converge in SA

2005 Nobel prize winner part of first visit of coordination chemists to Africa

More than 650 delegates from 60 countries across the world will meet in the Cape Town International Convention Centre between 13 and 18 August 2006, to take part in the 37th International Conference on Coordination Chemistry (ICCC). (See below for "what is coordination chemistry") It is the first time that an ICCC will be held in Africa since the inception of this series of meetings in the United Kingdom in 1950.

Over the past five decades, the series of conferences has developed into one of the larger and longest continuously running international meetings of inorganic chemistry worldwide.

Topics such as metals in biology, metals, materials, nanostructures, devices and solutions will be discussed along with aspects of coordination complexes in precious metals and photochemistry.

Among the plenary speakers is Robert Grubbs, who together with Yves Chauvin and Richard R. Schrock won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Chemistry last year. Grubbs is the Atkins Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, and his research focuses on developing the fundamental organometallic chemistry required to develop new catalyst systems for applications in organic and polymer chemistry.

According to conference organiser Prof Klaus Koch from Stellenbosch University's Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, this will be "the single largest assembly of leading international specialists in coordination chemistry in South African history, and will ensure unprecedented exposure to the latest development in this core science to local students and academics."

"Although it is held on a smaller scale, for science in South Africa it is as major an event as the 2010 Soccer World Cup", he explains.
He says that South Africa's richly endowed mineral wealth and the extraction of metals such as gold and platinum from ore rely fundamentally on coordination chemistry.

"The extraction of gold and the platinum metals would be inconceivable without an understanding of the specific coordination chemistry of these metals. The same goes for the numerous catalytic processes used by the unique coal-to-liquid fuel process perfected by Sasol in South Africa." - Stellenbosch University.

What is coordination chemistry?

" It studies the transition metal complex which forms when a metal is taken into a solution, such as water. The resulting metal atom, which is usually charged, is usually unstable unless it binds to other simple or poly-atomic molecules. A new molecule is formed and regarded as a coordination complex. Coordination chemistry is thus the study of all aspects of the large number of metal complexes known to scientists.

" Examples: Coordination compounds are a very important class of chemicals, because examples such as chlorophyll, haemoglobin and Vitamin B12 all play an essential role in the biochemical processes of living beings. Many enzymes also contain a metal ion. Many dyes and pigment, for instance the blue colour of writing ink, are also metal complexes. It is used for medical diagnosis and therapy as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the active compounds in chemotherapy and in photodynamic therapy for the treatment of cancer.

More information:

 Contact Prof Klaus Koch (082-496-3440) or Marlene Milani (021-808 2732 or 072 687 5774) of Stellenbosch University.




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