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Vol. 31 No. 4
July-August 2009

Colloid and Interface Science: Alive and Kicking at the 30th Anniversary of IACIS

by Mieke Kleijn

On 21 August 1979, the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists (IACIS) was established as a nonprofit organization of individuals who are actively interested in the field of colloid and interface science. During its 30-year existence, the field has become more and more important and integrated with other disciplines and applied sciences. IACIS is still the leading international organization, keeping its members informed via the IACIS Newsletter and the Internet and organizing well-attended worldwide conferences every three years. This year’s IACIS conference, organized with the American Chemistry Society Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, was 14–19 June, at Columbia University in New York, USA.

Mesoscopic Length Scales and Huge Interfaces
The term “colloid” (as both adjective and noun) refers to a particular state of matter in which at least one length scale falls into the mesoscopic domain—i.e., the range between atomic and macroscopic, from a few nanometers to a micron. From this, an important property immediately follows—i.e., the extremely large specific interfacial area between colloids and their surroundings. Any chemical or physical phenomenon that depends on the existence of an interface becomes very prominent in colloidal systems. Interface science and colloid science are thus by nature strongly related fields.

Colloids include a variety of complex materials, ranging from solid particles, droplets, or bubbles dispersed in a different medium (emulsions, dispersions, aerosols, or foams) and more intricate phase-separated systems to all kinds of self-assembled (supramolecular) structures. Colloids and colloidal systems have an impact on virtually every aspect of life. They are important components of a range of products that are used in everyday life; examples include cosmetics, food products, pharmaceutical preparations, paints, and paper. In addition, nearly all industrial processes involve colloidal systems or chemical reactions at surfaces. Last, but not least, colloids are also abundant in living cells in the form of proteins, DNA, RNA, and other macromolecules, membranes, and other molecular assemblies.

Colloid and interface science is an interdisciplinary field combining aspects of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and, in some cases, biology. In the last decades, the field has become more and more integrated with applied sciences, such as food, environmental, and biomedical sciences. Recently, the conceptual framework of colloid and interface science has been essential in understanding and exploiting many aspects of nanotechnology. These concepts also help in understanding the intricacies of life processes.

The first IACIS Council. From left: Alexi Scheludko (Bulgaria), Hans Lyklema (Netherlands), Tom Healy (Australia), Geoff Parfitt (UK), Lisbeth Ter-Minassian-Saraga (France), Erwin Wolfram (Hungary), Per Stenius (Sweden), Armin Weiss (West Germany), Božo Tezak (Croatia, Yugoslavia), and Egon Matijevic (USA). At the occasion that this photo was taken (Stockholm, 24 August 1979), Boris Derjaguin (USSR) and Eiji Suito (Japan), also members of this council, were not present.

Colloidal systems are nowadays also referred to as “soft condensed matter” or “soft matter,” indicating that their structure and dynamics are governed by physical interactions, which are generally weak. The continued development of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics and advances in theories of liquids, together with computer modeling and simulations, have created a very powerful conceptual framework. On the experimental side, there has been a revolution in the resolution at which colloid experiments can be performed. For example, individual colloidal particles can now be visualized directly in real time using confocal microscopy. Furthermore, interaction forces between colloids and surfaces can be measured directly and very accurately. This means that a tremendous amount of new detailed information is available. Colloid and interface science becomes more exciting every day!

History of IACIS
In the 1970s, colloid and interface science was actively studied by keen and successful groups, and several national organizations—the oldest being the German Colloid Society (or “Kolloidgesellschaft”)—were in existence. On an international level, there was the Commission 1.6 on Surface and Colloid Science of IUPAC, but this was a closed group with limited tasks. Several developments showed the need for an open international organization that would present and unite those active in the field of colloid and interface science and that could serve as an umbrella organization for several international activities in the field.

The first of these developments was the start of the series of biennial European Chemistry and Interfaces Conferences (ECIC) by British colloid scientist Geoffrey Parfitt in 1968. The first five of these meetings were affiliated with Euchema, the European Chemistry Organization, but when it was decided to have the sixth ECIC in Bulgaria (1978), Euchema did not agree to have the conference in an Eastern-Bloc country. Adjacent to that, on behalf of IUPAC, Erwin Wolfram from Hungary started in 1975 another important series of conferences, the International Conferences on Colloid and Surface Science (ICSCS). Lastly, at the 29th General Assembly of IUPAC in Warsaw in 1977, it was decided to start an international newsletter with the aim of promoting international cooperation in the field of colloid and interface science.

During the 2nd ICSCS, in San Juan, Puerto Rico (1976), it was decided that an international organization should be established. The initiative was taken by Geoffrey Parfitt, chair of the Standing Committee of ECIC. Together with Hans Lyklema, editor of the international newsletter, and Armin Weiss, president of the Kolloidgesellschaft, he composed a draft constitution and announced a general meeting during the 3rd ICSCS in Stockholm. As a result, on 21 August 1979, IACIS was formally established in the presence of 120 scientists from 22 countries. Parfitt served as the inaugural president and brought together a founding group to consider the draft constitution and to plan future directions of IACIS. This committee acted as the first council of IACIS. The main objectives of the association were, and still are, to promote international cooperation among colloid and interface scientists and to encourage advancement and understanding in the field of colloid and interface science. The responsibility for the ICSCS conferences and the newsletter were transferred from IUPAC to IACIS.

IACIS has a council that is responsible for the overall running of the association and for determining long-term policy. The council consists of a president, a president-elect (vice president), an immediate past president, an honorary secretary and treasurer, and twelve ordinary elected members. The council may co-opt additional members, and one of these is the newsletter editor. The other seats are used to ensure a regional balance, to allow representation of regional organizations with objectives similar to those of IACIS, and to maintain a balance between fundamental and applied aspects. Responsibility for short-term and day-to-day running of the association is delegated to a standing committee consisting of the president, the president-elect, the immediate past president, the honorary secretary and treasurer, and the newsletter editor.

The chemistry building at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, which houses the laboratory of physical chemistry and colloid science and the secretariat of IACIS.

Elections for half the ordinary council members and for the president-elect are organized every three years and completed one month before the triennial IACIS conference. During this conference, a general assembly of members is called, the new council members assume office, and the former president-elect assumes the duties of president.

During the first two years (1979–1981), the IACIS secretariat was, together with the secretariat of the Kolloidgesellschaft, at the University of Munich, Germany. After that, the secretariat moved to Wageningen, The Netherlands, where it is embedded in the Physical Chemistry and Colloid Science group at Wageningen University (led by Hans Lyklema until 1995). The current honorary secretary and treasurer, Mieke Kleijn, is also a member of this group.

Hans Lyklema edited the first 44 newsletters. This job just recently (in 2008) has been taken over by another Dutch colloid scientist, Ger Koper, who is also the IACIS webmaster. The first two newsletters, dated September 1978 and July 1979, respectively, were written under the auspices of the IUPAC Commission on Surface and Colloid Science before IACIS was formally established. Starting with NL-3 in June 1980, the newsletter has been published under IACIS auspices and has been sent to all IACIS members. They can also view the newsletter on the IACIS website, where up-to-date information on all conferences in areas related to colloid and interface science can be found as well.

Current Standing Committee of IACIS
President: Björn Lindman (Sweden)
President elect: Dennis Prieve (USA)
Immediate past president: Brian Vincent (UK)
Hon. secretary and treasurer: Mieke Kleijn (The Netherlands)
Newsletter editor: Ger Koper (The Netherlands)

IACIS has a dual membership scheme with the European Colloid and Interface Society (ECIS). IACIS members are able to join ECIS (and vice versa) through either parent organization at a reduced combined fee. Currently, the number of IACIS members is about 420.

Previous and Future International Conferences on Colloid and Interface Science
1. 1975: Budapest, Hungary
2. 1976:San Juan, Puerto Rico
3. 1979: Stockholm, Sweden
4. 1981: Jerusalem, Israel
5. 1985: Potsdam, NY, USA
6. 1988: Hakone, Japan
7. 1991: Compiègne, France
8. 1994: Adelaide, Australia
9. 1997: Sofia, Bulgaria
10. 2000: Bristol, UK
11. 2003: Iguaçu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
12. 2006: Beijing, China
13. 2009: New York, USA
14. 2012: Sendai, Japan
15. 2015: Germany

Conferences and Sponsoring Program
The first three ICSCS took place in Budapest (1975), San Juan (1976), and Stockholm (1979) and were organized under the auspices of IUPAC. With its foundation, IACIS took over the responsibility of organizing these conferences every three years. Recently, the name “ICSCS” has been dropped; the meetings are now called IACIS conferences. In practice, the organization is governed by a local organizing committee and supported by an international scientific program committee. IACIS members receive a discount on the conference fee.

Columbia University, host of the IACIS Conference in June 2009.

Apart from its own conferences, IACIS sponsors other conferences in fields related to interface and colloid science. Reduced registration fees for IACIS members apply to these conferences as well. Nowadays, sponsoring is done through a travel bursaries program. For this program, IACIS makes available a number of bursaries each year for people with limited financial means to pay for the travel expenses to the meeting concerned.

The history of IACIS was described on the occasion of its 25th anniversary in the 250th volume of Colloids and Surfaces A (2004) by different people who had or still have an important role in the association:

  • Thomas Healy, Colloids and Surfaces A 250 (2004): 9–10
  • Hans Lyklema, ibid. 11
  • Egon Matijević, ibid. 13–14
  • Dimo Platikanov, ibid. 15–16
  • Brian Vincent, ibid. 17–18

Mieke Kleijn <> has been honorary secretary and treasurer of IACIS since October 2006. She is an assistant professor in Physical Chemistry and Colloid Science at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

Editor’s note: Today, IACIS is an associated organization of IUPAC, maintaining links with chemists from all fields.

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