SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE FUTURE

Demo waste plant set to improve the sustainability of SA’s paper industry

To help South Africa’s paper, packaging and tissue industry secure a more sustainable future — that is the mission of a new demonstration plant at a papermill in KwaZulu-Natal. Driven by the ingenuity of Stellenbosch University’s chemical engineers, it was put into operation in 2023. The plant showcases the value of a process by which paper waste sludge destined for disposal in a landfill is turned into purified, high-value bioethanol.

Research reveals environmental and commercial benefits to tackling bioplastics disposal dilemma

Microbiologist Wessel Myburgh “grew up” as a scientist and entrepreneur during his time as a member of the Senior Chair of Energy Research (CoER): Biofuels and Other Alternative Clean Fuels. Now the co-founder of Urobo Biotech, Myburgh uses his knowledge of how yeasts and enzymes effectively break down plant-based waste into new products to improve the state of the planet he so dearly loves. He does this by tackling the mounting issue of what happens to used bioplastics.

The added dimensions of biofuels research

At the turn of the millennium, microbiologist Prof Emile van Zyl took up the challenge of driving postgraduate research and training in biofuels and other clean fuel options at Stellenbosch University. His aim? To gather expertise, drive research outputs, and develop human capital to help build the necessary technology for boosting the biofuels industry in South Africa and beyond.

A call answered — an international scholar returned home to help leverage Africa’s potential

Umezuruike Linus Opara grew up in a farming village in rural Nigeria and nearly didn’t make it to secondary school because of financial constraints. Yet, he went on to perform so well at university that his bachelor’s degree earned him a scholarship to do his PhD. Later, he sacrificed a comfortable job in Oman in order to relocate to South Africa — a country he hardly knew at the time — to take up a DSI-NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Postharvest Technology.

Research chair bears fruit

Prof Umezuruike Linus Opara's SARChI Chair comes to an end in 2024, but he has already ensured the continuation of its impactful work through a new entity — the Africa Institute for Postharvest Technology. "The institute was envisioned to leverage the successes we have had with the Chair thus far,” he says. “We have made a sure contribution towards building human capacity in terms of postharvest technology."

The interconnected, growing threat of TB in animals and humans

Tuberculosis (TB) is often thought of as a disease that affects only humans when, in fact, it is a multi-host disease [that affects many species]. A team of researchers, based in Stellenbosch University's ​Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, are determined to understand exactly how the transmission of TB occurs between wildlife, livestock, and people.

Revolutionising the concept of shark management

Shark-specific barrier technology developed by marine biologists from Stellenbosch University and their collaborators has been installed in the Bahamas by a client with a private island in the Bahamas. The installation of the 30-metre-long SharkSafe Barrier along a bay on one of the islands will further strengthen marine conservation efforts in the region.

SU fire engineers explore risks for humans and dwellings

“As a society, we need to understand how fires spread if we are to prevent them from becoming total disasters,” says Prof Richard Walls, who heads up the fire engineering team at Stellenbosch University (SU). “Urban fires can be incredibly dangerous, particularly in informal settlements.” Established in SU’s Department of Civil Engineering, this group of researchers is helping train the next generation of fire safety experts.

SU vibration scientists help make sense of mechanical shudders on polar vessel

Prof Anriëtte (Annie) Bekker, a vibration science expert at Stellenbosch University, is willing to brave harsh conditions in pursuit of new knowledge. Her interest lies in how data from mechanical sensors and engineering models on board a polar vessel can help seafarers make more informed decisions towards safer ship operations.

Institute leads cutting-edge biomedical research in Africa, for Africa

An investigator tracking the path of COVID-19, a scientist deciphering the body’s own armour against antimicrobial resistance, and an immunologist studying the placentas of pregnant women for clues that can explain preterm births. These are but three of the scientists at Stellenbosch University who are contributing to research for impact in Africa, and the world at large.