The chemistry and biology of volatiles

The chemistry and biology of volatiles

Andreas Herrmann (ed)

Chichester, UK: Wiley 2010 | 428 pp | ?90.00 (HB)

ISBN: 9780470777787

Reviewed by Susan M Owen 


This book is an unusual assemblage of chapters by authors of diverse credentials, on a wide range of volatile organic compound (VOC) research including biosynthesis, ecology (particularly inter- and intra-species signalling), food flavouring, perfumery and atmospheric chemistry. 

Mechanisms, however, for the protective roles of these compounds in plants are not considered in any detail, and might well have warranted an additional chapter.

Although the editor’s introduction explains that each chapter contributes to the complex story of the ’life cycle’ of natural VOCs, each chapter is a learned stand-alone review (with a couple of exceptions), and a springboard for further reading and investigation.

The style and content quality of the different chapters vary considerably. A couple of chapters are scientifically weak, but contribute interest nevertheless.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. The word ’biology’ in the title might well be replaced by ’biosynthesis and ecology’, but the word ’chemistry’ is more deserving of its place.

There are copious illustrations of chemical structures, and plenty of chemistry schemes for VOC synthesis and atmospheric degradation.

The book could be recommended reading for new postgraduate students, providing an in-depth overview of diverse (but not all) aspects of VOC science, applications and analytical methodologies. 
It could also be good bed-time reading for the jaded VOC expert, having potential to revive interest, broaden outlook and perhaps spark a line of research or collaboration not previously considered.

In spite of its few shortcomings, this book deserves to be a well-used reference in the library of any laboratory specialising in VOC research.