04:03am Sunday 31 May 2020

Celebrating 200 years of iodine research and its many applications

In celebration of the bicentennial anniversary of the discovery of this important element, an international consortium of 11 scientists today publish a review of the history of iodine research in the reputable German journal Angewandte Chemie.

Lead author Professor Frithjof Küpper from the Scottish Marine Institute, who was recently appointed to the Chair in Marine Biodiversity at the University of Aberdeen, says: “Two hundred years ago, in November 1811, French chemist Bernard Courtois accidentally discovered iodine when burning seaweed in an otherwise unsuccessful attempt to extract nitrate for gun-powder production. Our publication celebrates the many contributions iodine research has since made to improving our understanding of natural processes and to developing new applications.”

“For example, iodine is essential to human health because of its role in vertebrate thyroid function. Many people take iodised salt to avoid contracting iodine deficiency, which affects 2 billion people and is linked with mental retardation and diseases like goitre.”

“Our own research has shown that iodine is emitted into the atmosphere by brown seaweeds and that it can affect climatic processes in coastal areas,” explains Dr Küpper. “My research also found that iodide acts as a simple inorganic antioxidant. It is even the first inorganic antioxidant described from a living system.”

Historically, coastal areas of Scotland, Ireland and Brittany were major producers of iodine from seaweeds. Today elemental iodine is produced at a large industrial scale from fossil deposits across the globe, but in particular in Chile and Japan.

Media contact details

  • Dr Anuschka Miller, Scottish Marine Institute, Oban PA37 1QA
  • T: 01631 559 300
  • M: 07786 327780
  • E: [email protected]


Notes for editors

  1. Iodine is a highly reactive halogen
  2. Reference information: Frithjof C. Küpper,* Martin C. Feiters, Berit Olofsson, Tatsuo Kaiho, Shozo Yanagida, Michael B. Zimmermann, Lucy J. Carpenter, George W. Luther III, Zunli Lu, Mats Jonsson, and Lars Kloo* (2011) Commemorating Two Centuries of Iodine Research: An Interdisciplinary Overview of Current Research. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 50: 11,598 – 11,620                                http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201100028/abstract
  3. The Scottish Marine Institute delivers research and education that aim to improve our understanding and sustainable use of the marine environment. It is home to the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), a learned society that is among the oldest oceanographic organisations in the world (est. 1884 by Sir John Murray). The organisation enjoys close partnership links with the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Natural Environment Research Council. The Institute is based near Oban and SAMS employs ca 150 staff.

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