Golden hopes of chemists

Jennifer Dostal

The research of modern day chemists typically is not associated with the experimentation of alchemists of the Middle Ages, but the two extremes met on March 20 at the Coover Lecture.

Hubert Schmidbaur, 1997 Coover lecturer and professor of inorganic and analytical chemistry at the Technical University of Munich, spoke about recent findings in modern gold research in “Gold Chemistry: Where Einstein Meets Alchemists and Chemists.”

While the alchemists of the Middle Ages tried to create gold from different elements under a variety of conditions, modern research has focused on exploring gold’s chemical properties and technical applications, Schmidbaur said.

Gold has been coveted for its shine and color, but gold has several chemical properties that also make it a valuable industrial element and subject of research, he said.

Gold also has a strong resistance to rust and tarnish, as well as the ability to form strong bonds with other metals, he said.

Some of the research on compounds containing gold and sulfur possibly has led to a new method of gold electroplating, he said. This compound forms a stronger bond with the metal being covered and would increase the quality of the gold plating, Schmidbaur said.

Schmidbaur has been active in gold research. He has written over 700 research papers, review articles and books, and he is one of the five most-cited German authors of chemical research articles.

Besides heading of the Inorganic Chemistry Institute at the Technical University of Munich, Schmidbaur has held many international visiting professorships and endowed lecturing positions.

He also received the Kipping Award of the American Chemical Society, the Stock Medal and the Wacker Silicon Prize of the German Chemical Society, and the Medal of the London Chemical Society.

The annual Coover Lecture is sponsored by the American Chemical Society, the chemical engineering department and the graduate college department of chemistry.