Page 116 - UCT Research Report 2011

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UCT Research Report '11
Competence centre
associated with this theme
DST Hydrogen Catalysis Competence Centre, HySA/catalysis
Developing a clean-power economy
Whether it’s the more efficient use of the Earth’s dwindling
natural resources – as CeBER is engaged in – or
developing new technologies to improve processes, such
as the Fisher-Tropsch process, there are others in the
engineering faculty who have put these concerns at
the front and centre of their research agendas as well.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the bid to develop
cleaner power.
By now, scientists and policy makers have come to accept
that, in finding an alternative to fossil fuel, there may well
have to be more than one option. Consensus appears to
be that the world of the future will be run on a mix of green
technologies, such as wind and solar power.
Hydrogen is seen by many as an integral part of
that future. More importantly for UCT engineers, all
related technologies, including hydrogen production,
hydrogen storage, and electricity generation from
hydrogen, are very likely to use platinum group metals.
In recognition of the future role of hydrogen, the
Department of Science and Technology launched
the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technologies Flagship
Project – or HySA – in 2008. This national project aims
The Department of Science and Technology’s
National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies
Flagship Project, colloquially referred to as Hydrogen
South Africa, or HySA, was derived from the National
Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research,
Development and Innovation Strategy. The national
flagship project established three competence
centres in 2007 to develop hydrogen and fuel cell
catalysts and catalytic device technologies, with
a view to enhanced national wealth creation via
value addition to South Africa’s strategic reserves of
platinum group metals.
The Hydrogen Catalysis Competence Centre (HySA/
catalysis) is co-hosted by UCT and Mintek. Overall
(15-year) deliverables comprise the development of
hydrogen fuel cell and fuel processor technologies and
intellectual property sufficient for the establishment of
commercial manufacturing activities within South Africa,
whether attracted from abroad or grown from inside
the country. Further, enabling deliverables of HySA/
catalysis are the establishment of research, development
and innovation facilities for fuel cell and fuel processor
technologies via an extended hub and spoke network
comprising national science councils, universities and
private enterprise, and the development of a significant
human capital base.
With the appointment of Dr Olaf Conrad as the
centre’s Programme Director from 1 January 2011,
the centre has sharpened its competency in fuel
cell electrochemistry and electrocatalyst preparation.
An initial group of five postgraduate students at
master’s degree level has been accepted into the
programme and will be joined by another four
students at the beginning of the 2012 academic year.
This complements the longer-established activities
in fuel processing with three current master’s degree
students at UCT and a further four students on HySA
projects at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Local
and international expertise has been added with
Dr Qiling Naidoo as a postdoctoral research fellow in
the middle of 2011, and the successful recruitment
of Dr Sharon Blair from Canada. Dr Blair will lead
the key programme: Portable Power Systems of the
HySA programme and will add her technical and
business expertise.
Addi t ional ly, a high-cal ibre technical steer ing
committee has been established, comprising
experts from South African industry (Eskom and
IST Powertech) and academia (Mintek and UCT),
as well as international academia (Paul Scherrer
Institute, Switzerland).
International research network activities now include
student exchange and research collaborations with
colleagues at Zentrum fuer Brennstoffzellen Technik
Duisburg, Germany, the South Dakota School of
Mining and Technology, USA, the Paul Scherrer
Institute in Switzerland, and Imperial College
London, UK.
“South Af r ican indust ry has to
learn to add value later down the
production chain.”