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Vol. 31 No. 3
May-June 2009

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/indexes/Conferences

From Molecular Understanding to Innovative Applications of Humic Materials
by Irina V. Perminova

The 14th Meeting of the International Humic Substances Society (IHSS-14), held 14–19 September 2008 in Moscow-Saint Petersburg, Russia, focused on “From Molecular Understanding to Innovative Applications of Humic Materials.” The IHSS meeting was the first to take place in Russia and the first with IUPAC sponsorship. The conference set fairly ambitious goals: to demonstrate the growing importance of humic substances in the context of global climate change, and to draw the attention of industrial chemists to conversion of huge resources of humified biomass to alternative feedstock for bio-based products.

The conference venue was the four-deck ship Leonid Krasin, which traveled from Moscow to Saint Petersburg along the Moskva and Volga Rivers and Volga-Balt Channel. Holding the conference on the ship created a very special atmosphere, making everyone feel as though they were a member of the crew. Five days of wandering through the landscapes of the Russian North—in the middle of nowhere—turned out to be very productive: both scientifically and socially. There were 261 participants, 60 of them students. The conference had strong international appeal, with participants from 35 countries and 6 continents. The major party was from Russia, which had 69 participants, followed by the USA (32), Germany (22), Brazil (18), France (15), Italy and Poland (11 each), Japan (9), and all other countries.

Conference attendees on the ship Leonid Krasnin.

The topic of the conference was inspired by the movement to achieve bioeconomy, which implies a broad use of bioproducts, biofuel, and bioenergy. Humic materials occupy a transitory niche between fossil rocks and fresh biomass, with its sources encompassing different stages of biomass humification from mature lignites, peats, and sapropels, to young composts, vermicomposts, and activated sludges. Along with biomass, these significant biogenic resources can be seen as alternative stocks for green chemistry and technology implications.

Symbolically, the opening session of the IHSS-14 conference was held jointly with the Second IUPAC Green Chemistry Conference. The conference was opened by the Academician of RAS Valery Lunin, dean of the Department of Chemistry at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Natalia Tarasova welcomed the conference participants from INTAS with an address by IUPAC President Jung-Il Jin. Two presentations followed, one by Valery Charushin (Ural Branch of RAS, Russia) on the principles of green chemistry in organic synthesis, and another by Joe Bozell (University of Tennessee, USA) on technical and macroeconomic aspects of production value-added bioproducts from lignin.

The eight invited speakers and their topics were as follows:

  • Alain-Yves Huc, Institut Francais du Petrole, Paris, France: “Sedimentary Organic Matter in the Earth System: Origin and Fate”
  • Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Munich, Germany: “High Resolution and Hyphenated Analytics as Tools for Exploring Chemical Space of HS and NOM from Various Environments”
  • Steve Cabaniss, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA: “Agent-Based Modeling of Natural Organic Matter”
  • Claudio Ciavatta, University of Bologna, Italy: “Standardization and Legislative Regulations of Commercial Humic and Humic-Based Products”
  • John D. Coates, University of Berkley, USA: “Primary Energy Production by Photoreduced Humic Materials”
  • Masami Fukushima, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan: “Biomimetic Catalysts: Oxidative Degradation of Chlorophenol by Iron-Porphyrin Catalyst Bound to Humic Acid via Formaldehyde Polycondensation”
  • Yona Chen, New Jerusalem University, Rehovot, Israel: “Organo-Mineral Complexes and their Effects on the Physico-Chemical Properties of Soils”
  • Norbert Hertkorn, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Munich, Germany: “Depicting Molecular Dissimilarity in Complex Materials”

In addition to the invited speakers, there were 32 contributed oral presentations. The six poster sessions were lively and well attended. There were also eight particularly intense round table discussions which ran in parallel after dinner time.

Some of the products on display at the satellite exhibition on “Humic Materials—Materials for the 21st Century.”

Of the five main topics for the meeting, two focused on humic substances as indicators of global climate change and anthropogenic repercussions in soil and water ecosystems, with one each on molecular understanding of humic substances and natural organic matter, knowledge-based design of new humic materials, industrial production of humates, and innovative applications of humic materials. Attendance at all sessions was generally high. Details of the program can be found at <www.ihss-14.humus.ru>.

A specific feature of the conference was a satellite exhibition on “Humic Materials—Resources for the 21st Century,” which contributed greatly to participation of the business sector in the conference. The exhibitors were humate-producing companies from Russia, Hungary, Belorussia, and Germany. The catalog of the exhibition included profiles of 15 companies.

One highlight of the conference was the Honorary IHSS Membership Nomination and Award, presented to Roger Swift of the University of Queensland, Australia, for his contribution to humic science and to activities of the society. Jerzy Weber, the president elect, presented the award at the General Assembly of IHSS, held during the conference. Another highlight involved the adoption of a draft set of conclusions from the conference prepared by Irina Perminova, deputy head of the organizing committee. There was some criticism from participants concerned with the environment about the conclusions. An agreement was reached to open the presented draft for online discussion by placing it on the website of the conference <www.ihss-14.humus.ru>.

The program ended with a closing ceremony that included statements by Jerzy Weber and Irina Perminova. The conference was organized by Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Non-Commercial Partnership Center for Biogenic Resources “Humus Sapiens.” It was sponsored by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, Biomir Ltd., and Biocorrection Ltd. The conference was IUPAC sponsored as well.

Irina V. Perminova <iperm@org.chem.msu.ru> is the current associate member of the Chemistry and the Environment Division and is regional coordinator of the CIS IHSS chapter. She is affiliated with Lomonosov Moscow State University’s Department of Chemistry.


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