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Professor Ben Burger

Extraordinary Professor
Office: 2025 De Beers Building
Phone: +27 (0)21 808-3328
Fax: +27 (0)21 808-3360

Educational Background:
MSc Inorganic Chemistry (Stell) 1960
DSc Organic Chemistry (Stell) 1966

1989: Havenga Gold Medal for Chemistry, South African Academy for Science and Art
1990: Tamkang Chair Lecturer, Tamkang University, Taiwan
1991: ILSA-Shimadzu Floating Trophy for outstanding contributions in chromatography
2001: M.J.E. Golay Silver Medal for pioneering work in the
development of capillary chromatography
2004: South African Chemical Institute Gold medal for Chemistry

Research Emphasis:
Chemical ecology, Semiochemicals, Pheromones, Gas chromatography, Natural products analysis

analitical chemistry
Analytical Chemistry

chemical chemistry Chemical Biology

inorganic chemistry Inorganic Chemistry

organic chemistry Organic Chemistry

physical chemistry Physical Chemistry

polymer science Polymer Science

supramolecular chemistry & materialsSupra- molecular Chemistry
& Materials

Research Summary:
The Laboratory for Ecological Chemistry (LECUS) focuses on the development of techniques for the analysis of trace quantities of volatile organic compounds and the application of these methods in the analysis of insect, mammalian, avian and reptile semiochemicals (e.g. pheromones), the analysis of air and water pollutants and the identification of off-flavours in food and beverages.

Research Description:
Method development: The recent development of comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (2D-GC), a technique that increases the peak capacity of a capillary column with several orders of magnitude, is bound to revolutionise gas chromatographic analysis of complex samples. However, one negative aspect of the technique is the high running costs of the currently available 2D-GC instruments. LECUS has developed a resistively heated modulator that can be operated at a fraction of the operating cost of the crymodulating type. Research is now aimed at improving the efficiency and user friendliness of this modulator.

Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) has gained enormous popularity as a very convenient sample enrichment technique, unfortunately with relatively low sensitivity. It is gradually replaced by stir-bar sorptive extraction (SBSE), which has a very high sensitivity. On the other hand, the implementation of SBSE is quite expensive. LECUS has succeeded in developing a high sensitivity sample enrichment probe (SEP), which can be implemented on any GC at practically no cost. The application of the SEP in the trace analysis of various sample types such as, for example the determination of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole in cork and for the identification of biological markers for various pathological conditions in humans, is now being investigated

Mammalian semiochemicals: The initial euphoria following the characterisation of the first insect pheromone has largely evaporated because it became clear that the development and implementation of methods of controlling insects and other animals by using their pheromones is laborious and expensive. Research on the semiochemicals of mammals is especially daunting. However, the high cost of game capturing operations and the conflict between nature conservationists and farmers has created a need for the development of alternative methods of controlling the movement and translocation of wild animals. LECUS has been involved in this type of research since 1972 and it has contributed a large volume of chemical knowledge on the exocrine secretions of mammals. At present research on the territorial marking fluid of the Bengal tiger, Panthera tigris, is nearing completion. Preliminary field tests with some of the constituents of the marking fluid produced promising results.


Selected Publications:

  • On method development:
    Thermal modulator array for analyte modulation and comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography. B.V. Burger, T. Snyman, W.J.G. Burger, and W.F. van Rooyen. J. Separation Sci. 26:123–128 (2003).
  • Simplified Analysis of Organic Compounds in Headspace and Aqueous Samples by High-Capacity Sample Enrichment Probe. B.V. Burger, B. Marx, M. le Roux and W.J.G. Burger. J Chromatography A 1121:259-267 (2006).
  • On mammalian semiochemicals:
    Mammalian exocrine secretions XVIII. Chemical characterization of interdigital secretion of red hartebeest, Alcelaphus buselaphus. B. Reiter, B.V. Burger, and J. Dry J. Chem. Ecol. 29:2235-2252 (2003).
  • Elemental sulfur identified in urine of cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus. B.V. Burger, R. Visser, A. Moses and M. le Roux. J. Chem. Ecol. 32:1347-1352 (2006).
  • On natural products analysis:
    Isolation of the major germination cue from plant-derived smoke. J. van Staden, A.K. Jäger, M.E. Light en B.V. Burger. South Afr. J. Bot. 70:654-659 (2004).
  • On avian semiochemicals:
    Avian semiochemicals. I: Chemical characterization of uropygial secretion of green woodhoopoe, Phoeniculus purpureus. B.V. Burger, O. Borzyk, B. Reiter, and M.A. du Plessis. J. Chem. Ecol. 30:1603 – 1611 (2004).
  • On insect pheromones:
    Semiochemicals of the Scarabaeinae VII: Identification of EAD-active constituents of abdominal secretion of male dung beetle Kheper subaeneus. B.V. Burger, W.G.B. Petersen, W.G. Weber, and Z.M. Munro. J. Chem. Ecol. 28:2527 - 2539 (2002).

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