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Analytical Chemistry

Modern analytical chemistry involves many aspects sampling and sample handling, as well as developing tools such as sensors for medically important molecules.  The department is active in several of these areas, for example in the use of nanostructured materials such as carbon nanotubes for sensor development as well as the use of novel sampling strategies such as in-situ sampling, and in-situ clean-up. New separation and detection techniques include the use of solid phase extraction (SPE), solid phase micro-extraction (SPME), and molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs).  Sample analysis through the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance is also a growing area. 

In addition to these areas, the department and the NIC combined have a very powerful suite of analytical instruments, including NMR, ESR, IR and Raman spectroscopies, X-ray diffraction, and XPS capabilities, and numerous electrochemical thermal analysis techniques.

Staff members with interests in these fields include Professor Nyokong (gail.cobus@ru.ac.za) (NIC).

Chemometrics and Chemical Education

Chemometrics is the application of descriptive and predictive tools to solve problems in chemistry. These tools are often applied to large and complex data sets in order to learn something about the properties of chemical systems or the way these systems interact.

These are very useful in for example predicting the properties of new materials such as better drugs or catalysts, or in assisting lecturers in determining how students learn and where misconceptions may be present. These analyses are often highly complex since these data usually involving many interconnected variables.

Chemical education is concerned with several aspects of teaching and learning chemistry. These studies allow us to better understand how students learn chemistry, why some students struggle and therefore how best improve student performance by using appropriate teaching and assessment methods.Mrs Sewry is the person to contact for further information.

Computational Chemistry

The department hosts its own modest chemistry computing cluster and maintains links to several other computing resources for the use of computational chemistry in several areas of research, including medicinal chemistry, catalysis, supramolecular chemistry and the study of reaction mechanisms. Techniques used are not limited to conformational searching, docking, molecular dynamics, ab initio molecular dynamics and routine DFT work using software packages such as VASP, GAMESS, Gaussian, CPMD and CHARMM. For instance, many research groups use molecular modelling calculations with DFT methods to support empirical data.
Dr Khene (s.khene@ru.ac.za), Dr Mack (j.mack@ru.ac.za)(NIC) and Dr Lobb (k.lobb@ru.ac.za) are three staff members to contact in the first instance.

Inorganic Chemistry

Research in this area spans a number of interests and some projects are interdisciplinary.
Projects include the development of metal-organic molecular frameworks (MOFs), as a recent class of network materials with applications in catalysis, adsorbents and hydrogen storage materials, amongst others.
Other catalytic materials include complexes of Schiff bases, vanadium and other transition metal complexes, carbenes, and phthalocyanines, etc.
Research into the development of new zeolite materials and photoactive materials such as doped titania for renewable energy are also developing.
Professor Watkins (g.watkins@ru.ac.za) and Dr Khene (s.khene@ru.ac.za) are staff members to contact.

Medicinal Chemistry

"Our position at the tip of Africa puts medicinal chemistry at Rhodes University in an important context. On the one hand we have access to enormous bio-diversity both on land and in the ocean, which facilitates exciting research in the isolation and characterisation of natural products, particularly those from marine sources, and on the other hand, we find ourselves driven to synthetic chemistry within the context of diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, and malaria.

Consequently many of the medicinal chemistry initiatives in the department are concentrated on developing organic compounds with medicinal potential (often heterocyclic compounds), against these disease targets.
Some of the work is done under the auspices of the NRF Chair in Medicinal Chemistry (Professor Nyokong). Other aspects of this research are done in collaboration with the Centre for Chemico and Biomedicinal Research (CCBR) at Rhodes University involving the expertise of colleagues in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Pharmacy.
Still other aspects include the development NMR techniques for protein target identification, as well as strategies for improved drug delivery.
Interested researchers and students can contact Dr Klein (r.klein@ru.ac.za), Dr Khanye (s.khanye@ru.ac.za), or Prof Nyokong (gail.cobus.ru.ac.za) (NIC) for further information


Nanoscience involves the study of materials with very small dimensions.  Many materials are investigated in the Department from 1-dimensional materials such as Quantum Dots to nanotubes and 3-D materials.The synthesis and characterisation of the unique properties of these materials are the focus of some projects, while others aim to take advantage of these properties in developing medical applications, sensors, electrospun nanofibres for analytical chemistry, etc.

Professor Nokong’s group has been very active in the use of nanomaterials for more effective cancer therapies such photodynamic therapy (PDT) and sensors. Other researchers including Prof Krause and Prof Watkins have focussed nanomaterials for drug delivery, catalysis, water treatment and renewable energy.

Further information can be obtained from the NIC webpage, or by contacting Prof Nyokong (gail.cobus@ru.ac.za) (NIC), Prof Watkins (g.watkins@ru.ac.za) or Prof Krause (r.krause@ru.ac.za).

Smart Materials

Many new materials take advantage of the interplay of properties to develop systems that can be applied to solve the problems facing the world today.  These problems demand the collaboration of scientists from several areas.  

Within the Department we touch on several aspects, including supramolecular systems for drug delivery which enhance the bioavailability of pharmaceutical compounds, their pharmacodynamics, and kinetics, and allow for the possibility of directing the drugs more accurately to the site of action.

This is often achieved by building into the materials, a latent activity that is triggered through the application of a stimulus.  These “Stimuli-Responsive Systems” (SRS) have materials that respond to changes in their environment, and are useful in many areas from pollutant sensors to biomaterials for health.
Further information can be obtained from Professor Krause (r.krause@ru.ac.za)


The Department houses some of the most advanced equipment in the country, and many of these are accessible to other institutions and industries. Notable facilities include an extensive NMR suite, including 400 and 600 MHz NMR (with cryoprobe and solid-state NMR capabilities), molecular spectroscopy including IR, Raman, ESR, and UV-Vis, as well as several thermal analyses, elemental analysis (NIC) and surface techniques such as BET (NIC). For NMR please contact Dr Kempgens or our NMR Forum (RUConnected)

The Nanotechnology Centre (NIC) is hosted in the Department and also has extensive equipment including XPS and TOF-SIMs - please contact the NIC directly.

Department of Chemistry Equipment

Below are contact details for equipment bookings and cost:

Elemental Analysis: Mr Francis Chindeka (f.chindeka@ru.ac.za) / Ms Gail Cobus (gail.cobus@ru.ac.za)

EPR: Dr John Mack (j.mack@ru.ac.za) / Ms Gail Cobus

ICP: Mr Francis Chindeka / Mrs Benita Tarr (b.tarr@ru.ac.za)

IR: Mr Francis Chindeka / Prof Gary Watkins (g.watkins@ru.ac.za)

NMR: Dr Pierre Kempgens (p.kempgens@ru.ac.za) / Prof Rui Krause (r.krause@ru.ac.za) / Dr Xavier Siwe Noundou (xaviersiwe@yahoo.fr)

Raman: Dr Jonathan Britton (j.britton@ru.ac.za) / Ms Gail Cobus

UV - VIS: Dr John Mack / Dr Jonathan Britton 

XPS: Dr Philani Mashazi (P.Mashazi@ru.ac.za) / Ms Gail Cobus

X-Ray Diffraction: Dr Jonathan Britton / Ms Gail Cobus

CLICK here for TRAINING opportunities in NMR

NMR Training

NMR is available to students and researchers as well as industry through training, but a limited service is also run.

High-Resolution Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Service