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.

Continue reading Smarter Teflon recycling in South Africa (Day 293)

Chemical engineers on the toilet (Day 254)

ToiletThere was a great news story in January about Bill Gates drinking a cup of clean water that, five minutes earlier, had been raw sewage.

It was a fantastic PR stunt that drew attention to how engineers can change the world in all sorts of ways.

It was also a good illustration of how trust is important to get our engineering ideas off the ground.

The ‘Omni Processor’, which processes the sewage into drinking water, was created by Janicki Bioenergy; a company which received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This project reminded me of a similar but separate Gates Foundation initiative called the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.’ This initiative sought to develop a waterless, hygienic toilet that doesn’t have to be connected to a sewer.

Continue reading Chemical engineers on the toilet (Day 254)