The Durban University of Technology (DUT) is renowned for its academic, research and innovation excellence. The Department of Chemical Engineering Head, Dr Yusuf Isa, who is no stranger to winning research accolades, is now spearheading one of the BRICS Energy projects: Thermochemical Conversions of Lignocellulosic Biomass/wastes into Bioenergy.
The meeting was held with co-investigators from the University of the Western Cape, University of Johannesburg and Umgeni Water, at Steve Biko campus, recently. The purpose of the meeting was to interact with co-investigators and revisit the teams’ road map towards actualizing the objectives within the three-year cycle of the projects.
Dr Isa’s role in the project is as the principal investigator from the South African team which has co-investigators from DUT, UWC, UKZN, UJ and Umgeni Water. “As the principal investigator I oversee the actualization of the set goals of the project nationally and internationally among the five participating countries,” he said excitedly.
Explaining more on the project and how it came about, Dr Isa said Thermochemical conversions of lignocellulosic biomass/wastes into bioenergy and biofuels and its utilization in internal combustion engine is one of the 11 projects on new and renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency that are supported by eight organisations from the five BRICS member states. “The overall BRICS projects came into existence following an MOU signed by Ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2015 with the aim to support excellent basic and applied research joint projects submitted in specified research fields identified by the BRICS partners through a multinational approach,” he said.
Dr Isa said other goals were to also provide an opportunity for young and emerging researchers within BRICS countries to meet and interact; and to contribute meaningfully to research capacity development through the provision of Masters’ and Doctoral scholarships and student exchange programmes.
He further added that this specific project focuses on value addition to waste and biomass for application in internal combustion engines and power generation. Dr Isa said that this is one of the projects that was approved for support from the 2019 applications, and it has partners from various universities across the BRICS member states with a total of 31 investigators.
Dr Isa said that the team comprises of experts in various fields related to energy; some do research in fuels generation from renewable sources, product upgrade, catalysis and process parameters, and valorization of wastewater residues, artificial intelligence and life cycle analyses. “The South African team will focus mainly in conversion of biomass and wastewater residues to fuels, we also hope to actively engage communities in this regard by developing processes that could make available affordable fuels for domestic use,” he said.
He further added that investigators from Umgeni Water will be actively involved and the hope is to utilize its water treatment effluents for production of various fuels that will be used domestically in the near future.
The principal investigator further said it is vital for DUT to be part of such a project because the opportunity this will bring to any participating institution is enormous, especially for students and research mobility while addressing global challenges like pollution and access to energy and its efficiency.
Pictured: The Department of Chemical Engineering Head, Dr Yusuf Isa with some of the co-investigators at the BRICS Energy projects meeting.