Using podcasts to achieve educational excellence in South Africa (Day 337)

For an individual to excel at chemical engineering, both a good education and personal determination are needed.

Chemical engineering education must be built on a solid foundation in the fundamental principles of chemical engineering science. However, there is a need to constantly review and modernise not just our course content, but the way we deliver it as well.

Chemical engineering students

Photo Credit | UCT
Chemical engineering students

The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, has a research group dedicated to engineering education. This group contributes to a wider collaboration in the Centre for Research in Engineering and Science Education (CREE).

At UCT, there is a passion to provide the best possible foundation for young chemical engineers.

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Raising a sustainable glass of South African wine (Day 304)

Sustainable water research is big news in South Africa especially for the wine industry.

wineThe South African wine industry is the 9th largest wine producer in the world, with over 100,000 hectares of land dedicated to vineyards.

South Africa is committed to sustainable wine growing and recognises the problems of cultivating the majority of its wine in a biodiversity hotspot: the Cape Floral Kingdom.

So the introduction of the integrity and sustainability seal for wine, launched in 2010, certifies that the wine in question has been made in a manner that is respectful to nature, and guarantees sustainable wine production.

To make their wines sustainable, producers are taking responsibility by dedicating land for conservation, removing foreign plants and restoring wetlands and rivers. But there have been particular issues in many regions, for example in the Witwatersrand Basin there are reports of soil being highly acidic and contamination of water resources.

Dr Craig Sheridan, from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering openly confesses to having a passion for chemical engineering and water!

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Smarter Teflon recycling in South Africa (Day 293)

Fluorspar, or fluorite, is the mineral form of calcium fluoride and the key raw material in the production of hydrofluoric acid, a significant commodity chemical with a wide rage of uses. South Africa is a producer of acid grade-fluorspar, but around 95 per cent of its production is exported.

However, heavy reliance on income from the export of low value materials can hamper a nation’s economic prospects and render it vulnerable to global price fluctuations.

An initiative from the Southern African Department of Trade and Industry aims to address this challenge via a two-pronged approach. First, by developing cutting-edge technology in fluorochemicals and also by accelerating the skills development in fluorine engineering through world class research.

University of South Africa, Pretoria

University of South Africa, Pretoria

Chemical engineers working in the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Pretoria, South Africa, have focused their work on the production of novel fluoro-materials, development of dry-fluorination reactions and modification of polymer properties by reactive processing.

Their research also involves chemical engineers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an industry consortium.

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Energy research in South Africa (Day 284)

284 days into my blog and counting. By now, I trust you’ve realised that the chemical engineering profession is truly global.  But it’s still all too easy to focus on our own back yard. So today, I’m heading south to see what Africa has to offer.

Last July, IChemE signed an agreement with the South African Institution of Chemical Engineers (SAIChE) that formalised collaboration and brought chemical engineering in South Africa closer to IChemE’s global community.

I recently went on a trip to South Africa, and during my time there I met with many IChemE and SAIChE members who shared stories of their work.

The coal rig

Photo Credit | NWU
The coal rig

One of the research projects that caught my attention comes from North-West University (NWU) in Potchefstroom, south west of Johannesburg.

Much of the research at NWU looks at different aspects of the energy challenge, including bioenergy, fossil fuels (coal), nuclear energy and energy management. Today, I’m highlighting two different aspects of NWU’s energy research: safer and more sustainable coal stockpile management and the production of biodiesel from waste cooking oils.

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Using pedal power to charge phones (Day 256)

Charging batteriesNot being able to recharge your cell phone, and other small electronic devices, due to lack of access to power is a common problem the world over.

Part of a solution is being addressed by developing the next generation of ultra-fast charging batteries.

But what if you don’t have round the clock access to electricity or power such as those living in rural areas who experience long hours of power cuts every day?

As part of a project called “Engineering for the World’s Poorest” at Case Western Reserve University, US, chemical engineer professor Daniel Lacks and two of his students have developed a solution to this problem – a foot-powered cell phone charger.

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