Change the world

InnoVenton and The Downstream Chemicals Technology Station

The DST, as part of its National Biofuels Program, has been funding a Microalgae to Energy (MA2E) project at InnoVenton: Institute for Chemical Technology over the past 4 years. This project has resulted in the development of what is currently known as the Coalgae® technology, which comprises the recovery, beneficiation and agglomeration of waste coal using microalgae to produce a solid fuel containing a biomass component. The Coalgae® may then be used in a variety of applications, including combustion for steam and energy generation, converted into fuels and chemicals through pyrolysis or gasification, or in combination.

Following the construction of a mini-scale technical demonstration facility for the Coalgae® technology at the Nelson Mandela University, the DST requested the University to expand the scope of this project so as to provide increased opportunity for technology and human capital development. The thematic areas within the enlarged microalgae technologies project are:

  • Microalgae cultivation and harvesting: Focusing on solving specific technology challenges in the large-scale cultivation of microalgae, or developing new technologies and methods to exploit new commercial opportunities.
  • Renewable energy: Focusing on developing novel solutions to the utilization of microalgae biomass, either alone or in combination with other biomass or fossil fuel materials, for the generation of electricity, heat and steam, or production of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels.
  • Biomass Utilization: Focusing on the use of microalgae biomass for the production of a variety of products that may include food and feed additives, cosmetic and personal care ingredients, pharmaceutical ingredients, radio-pharmaceuticals, and more.

Projects within the overall microalgae technologies programme involve components of research, development and implementation and are generally of an integrated disciplinary nature. This implies that individuals interested in pursuing a Master’s or Doctoral qualification within this program must be willing to work with and across different disciplines that include chemistry, biotechnology, engineering (chemical and mechanical), microbiology, biochemistry, formulation science, techno-economics, mathematics and statistics, and others. Depending on a particular project, qualifying individuals may be expected to complete theoretical modules in addition to the pursuit of specific project objectives and deliverables.

Financial support is available to qualifying persons who are passionate about solving real-life problems and the development and implementation of technology solutions. Persons wishing to complete Master’s degrees must have an appropriate Honours degree in Science (majors in chemistry, microbiology, mathematics and statistics, biochemistry, physics, etc.) or a BEng degree (Chemical Engineering, Bioprocess Engineering, Mechanical Engineering), while individuals interested in pursuing a Doctoral degree should have a Master’s Degree in one of the above fields.

Depending upon the exact nature of a particular project, it may be possible to conduct further studies within the microalgae technologies programme at a University other than the Nelon Mandela University. Individuals interested in this option must, however, be prepared to travel to the Nelson Mandela University on a quarterly basis to make technical presentations to the larger group or to attend specialist training courses. Such applications will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

For more information contact Mr Brian Tait at Brian.Tait@nmmu.ac.za