Atoms, Molecules, Architecture and Function

Prof. dr. Gerard van Koten
Debye Institute of Nanomaterials Science
Utrecht University

Over the years, I have had the privilege to watch and enjoy, with a mixture of fascination and sometimes unbelieve, the expansion of our knowledge about what molecules are, how their properties relate to their architecture, and what chemist can learn from molecules in Life and Environment. This “explosion” of knowledge has been enabled by an even more spectacular development of instrumental and computing techniques. Or, simply put, during this period of about 50 years, the eyesight of the chemist (including mine) has been sharpened from a misty one to an unexpectedly, sharpened level of single atoms and molecules. As an illustration I will use an example from my own research that started in the early 1970s with the question: “What will happen with metal’s reactivity when this metal center becomes embedded in an organic template that rigidly binds to it from three directions in a plane but leave it’s other binding positions open for other organic groupings.” From this seemingly simple question the idea for the so-called “Pincer-metal platform” emerged. Examples from the development of catalysts for “Green” chemistry to novel sensor materials for the detection of SO 2 will be discussed.

Gerard van Koten is Honorary Distinguished University Professor of Utrecht University. From 2005 to 2007 he has been (founding) Dean of the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University. Since 2007 he is also connected to Cardiff University (UK) where he became Honorary Distinguished Professor in October 2010. His research comprises the study of fundamental processes in organometallic chemistry and the
development of organometallic complexes (viz. pincer-metal complexes) as homogeneous catalysts. Recent interests are the immobilization of catalysts on dendrimers and on inorganic supports as well as the use of these materials for tandem catalysis. This includes also the development of novel enzyme-organometallic hybrid catalytic materials. (Extended CV plus publications at

Prof. dr. Gerard van Koten

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