Institute for Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability

2022 Masters and Doctoral Admissions

PROPOSED RESEARCH TOPICS FOR 2022 MASTERS AND DOCTORAL CANDIDATES

Research projects for 2022 are now available for Masters and Doctoral candidates. Interested candidates are to email their:

1. Comprehensive CV and
2. Academic records

to Mr. Halahala Mbongo at inanows@unisa.ac.za. Submission deadline is 8 October 2021 at 16h00

WATER SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS AREA RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR 2022

URBAN WATER CYCLE AND WATER TREATMENT TECHNOLOGIES (UWC&WTT) THEMATIC AREA

RESEARCH PLATFORM 1 - DE FACTO WATER REUSE

Supervisor:   Prof Thabo TI Nkambule (nkambtt@unisa.ac.za)
Co-supervisors:       Prof Hlengilizwe Nyoni; Dr Tshepo J Malefetse

Project 1: The status and extent of de facto water reuse in South Africa (x 1 PhD)

The aim of this project is to determine the national extent of de facto water reuse in the South Africa. This will be done by determining the percentage wastewater content of the raw water sources (rivers and dams) supplying the major cities and large towns, and the potential health impact, treatment requirements and public acceptance of de facto reuse through carrying out four case studies. The aim of this project is to determine the wastewater content of the raw water intake from rivers and dams to water treatment plants supplying the major cities and large towns in South Africa, and thereby establishing the extent of de facto reuse. To identify at least top 25 cities impacted by de facto reuse. Perform case studies of high priority de facto reuse water treatment plants, to evaluate the spatial and temporal factors (including climate change) impacting on the extent of reuse in each of the selected case studies. Do a detailed analysis on treatment plant capabilities for treating the water to drinking water standard, raw water quality analysis, and OPEX costs. Finally, the projects aim to establish the public knowledge and perceptions as well as acceptance of de facto reuse in the case.

RESEARCH PLATFORM 2 - DEVELOPMENT OF WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT TECHNOLOGIES

Supervisor:   Prof Hlengilizwe Nyoni (nyonih@unisa.ac.za)
Co-supervisors:       Prof Thabo TI Nkambule; Dr Tshepo J Malefetse

Project 1: Integrated monitoring of emerging pollutants in aquatic environments (x 1 PhD)

The use of non-conventional water resources such as treated wastewater effluents has been introduced to meet the current and future demands by countries, especially those who are in the arid and semi-arid regions. The use of such water, however, needs thorough assessment and monitoring of its quality because of the health risk associated with them. The common approach employed relies on collecting discrete, spot samples of water at a given time, which are then analyzed for the potential pollutants in the laboratory. However, information obtained from such grab environmental samples only focus on concentration levels at the time of sampling and may fail to account for episodic contaminations. This can be addressed by increasing the frequency of sampling or installing automatic sampling systems that can take numerous water samples over a given time, but the cost of analysis is increased. In the last three decades, passive samplers have been recommended as complementary methods to improve the level of confidence in water monitoring in comparison with conventional spot sampling methods. However, there exist barriers that prevent regulatory acceptance and actual implementation of passive samplers for routine monitoring of contaminants in aquatic systems. This research is focused on concrete actions required to foster the use of passive sampling techniques for routine monitoring of contaminants in the aquatic system.

Project 2: Implementation of effect-based methods for water quality assessment: combined strategy of passive sampling and bioassay measurements (x 1 PhD)

Supervisor:   Prof Hlengilizwe Nyoni (nyonih@unisa.ac.za)
Co-supervisors:       Prof Thabo TI Nkambule; Dr Tshepo J Malefetse

Surface waters are contaminated by an increasing diversity of anthropogenic compounds, giving rise to the presence of complex contaminant mixtures that can cause serious harm to aquatic ecosystems. Contamination of surface waters by micropollutants is one of the major threats to water quality. Currently identified risks to aquatic ecosystems are caused by complex mixtures of (un)known, unregulated and unmonitored compounds. Unfortunately, legally prescribed chemical monitoring is unfit for determining the pollution status of surface waters and there is a need for improved assessment methods that consider the aggregated bioavailable micropollutants present in the aquatic environment. As a result, there is increasing use of bioanalytical tools in water quality assessment. These tools are collectively called Effect Based Methods (EBMs). EBMs employ in vitro (cellular) and/or in vivo (whole organism) bioassays to detect and measure the effects of chemical contaminants on ecotoxicological end-points of concern. Research on effect-based methods (EBM) focuses on the use of bioanalytical tools in evaluating the performance of treatment technologies (including conventional drinking water, water reuse, desalination, and wastewater treatment plants) as part of water safety planning. EBM research also includes determining potential impacts of wastewater discharges to surface waters.

RESEARCH PLATFORM 3 - WASTEWATER-BASED EPIDEMIOLOGY (WBE) AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY OF URBAN WATER AND WASTEWATER

Supervisor:   Dr Tshepo J Malefetse (maleftj@unisa.ac.za)
Co-supervisors:       Prof Thabo TI Nkambule; Prof Titus Msagati; Prof Hlengilizwe Nyoni;

Project 1: WBE for Public Health Monitoring (x 1 PhD)

Over the last decade, wastewater analysis has demonstrated its utility as an important tool for monitoring the use and prevalence of illicit drugs. Recently, wastewater analysis has moved from being an experimental technique to being an important addition in the epidemiological toolkit. WBE is a rapidly developing scientific discipline based on the chemical analysis of specific human metabolic excretion products (biomarkers) in wastewater. WBE has shown great progress in providing objective and real-time information on xenobiotics directly or indirectly ingested by a population. Therefore, WBE has opened up many possibilities for expanding its application to provide relevant information about lifestyle, public health and human exposure to potentially harmful compounds such as personal care products, pesticides, mycotoxins, brominated flame retardants, pharmaceutical compounds (e.g., antibiotics) and even pathogens. This project involves the analysis and monitoring specific human metabolic excretion products (biomarkers) in wastewaters with a view to establish the exposure to environmental and food contaminants, consumption patterns, the lifestyle habits, and the health and well-being of communities. The ultimate aim is to develop early-warning systems that could be used by municipalities and health authorities to identify infection hot spots for various harmful chemical agents and diseases. The project will be conducted in three phases, namely: (i) Community health assessment studies; (ii) Wastewater biomarkers analysis and method development; and Integration of analytical data for epidemiological studies. Plans are afoot to initiate a collaborative research partnerships with both local and international players.

Project 2: Microbial Biotechnology for Water Treatment and Nutrient Recovery (x 1 MSc)

Biomaterials derived from crop and forest residues, wood chips, algae, sewage sludge, manures, and municipal solid and agricultural wastes have received attention for their ability to treat wastewater. Biomaterials are efficient, environmentally friendly, cost-effective material and can be used as adsorbents for organic and inorganic pollutants. Some of these biomaterials can also provide a good habitat for microorganisms. This study seeks to exploit some of the properties of these biomaterials by: (i) synthesizing biomaterials and bionanocomposites for application in the treatment of water; (ii) developing a proof-of-concept for inoculating biomaterials and bionanocomposites with microorganisms for the extraction of heavy metals and emerging organic pollutants from wastewaters as well as the recovery of valuable nutrients from used water streams.

SPECIAL PROJECTS

Supervisor:   Dr Yadira Bajón Fernández, Cranfield University, UK (y.bajonfernandez@cranfield.ac.uk)
Co-supervisors:       Prof Thabo TI Nkambule; Prof Titus Msagati; Prof Hlengilizwe Nyoni; Dr Tshepo J Malefetse

This research will be conducted in collaboration with Dr Yadira Bajón Fernández of Cranfield University’s Water Science Institute in the UK. The respective students will be registered at Unisa. Where possible, part of the research will be conducted at Cranfield University. Attempts will also be made to link this research to specific South African water utilities such as Rand Water and Magalies Water.

Project 1: Sludge Characterization (x 1 PhD)

Sewage sludge characterization has become increasingly important as it determines available opportunities for value recovery. In particular, legislation governing application of sludge to land as an organic fertilizer has become ever more restrictive in many countries over the last decade, with some countries banning this recovery route and others imposing tighter concentrations of pollutant levels in order to safeguard land application. In some countries, regulatory bodies are considering endorsement of tighter metal concentrations and new consents for organic micropollutants (OMP), which poses great pressures for water utilities currently applying ca. 98% of their digested sewage sludge to land as a dry product. This has resulted in researchers and practitioners in the sewage sludge sector investigating alternatives to future proof value recovery from this organic waste, namely investigating one of three ways: i) finding alternative value recovery options negating entirely the application of sludge to land (e.g. thermal treatment); ii) investigating fate of those pollutants and their toxicity for soil and crops to inform whether new permits should be relaxed and iii) assessing were pollutants of concern could be removed from the sludges. This project focusses on ii) and iii) where available literature is currently more limited. The aim is to characterize pollutant fate across different sludge treatment units to determine what pollutants are of true concern and options for intervention to safeguard the sludge to land route. This will require particular focus on investigating which mechanisms control metals and OMP fractionation between particulate, colloidal and truly dissolved fractions and well as preferential forms in each of those phases. The proposed project will: 1) conduct a literature review on the mechanisms that control metals fractionation between particulate, colloidal and truly dissolved fractions, as well as preferential forms in each of those phases; 2) characterize pollutant fate in sludge treatment centres by sampling at several points of different sludge treatment flowsheets and 3) investigate opportunities to influence pollutant fate in sludge treatment centres to prevent them from remaining in the solid fraction.

Project 2: Treatment of Drinking Water Sludge (x 1 MSc)

Costs resulting from sludge transport and treatment remain a significant part of the operational expenditure for water utilities. While there is vast research on value recovery opportunities from wastewater sourced sludges, investigation of how transport and treatment of drinking water sludges can be optimized remains limited. Previous studies have mostly focused on efficiency opportunities for on-site dewatering to reduce costs of transporting the sludges to big, centralized treatment centres, with few looking at more circular options for treatment, such as opportunities to recover coagulants. This project intends to review existing practices for drinking water sludge treatment in South Africa and to investigate available or innovative holistic treatment options that can minimize costs for treatment while focusing on value recovery.

ANALYTICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH THEMATIC AREA

AER thematic area mainly investigates the development of analytical methods that are sensitive and selective for detection of pollutants (organic, inorganic and pathogens) in the aquatic environments. In addition, other research interests include risk assessment, the establishment of toxicological data and patterns of all pollutants in the aquatic environments and development of models to predict their bioavailability under changing environmental and climatic conditions. AER is also involved in the preparation of kits for analytical procedures and the development of models that can be used for the establishment of guidelines. This thematic area also develops bioremediation technologies to mitigate the environment where technologies that falls under wetlands bioremediation, microbial leaching and biodegradation of pollutants are being developed and optimized to suite for the target pollutants in selected environments. Development of environmental surveillance schemes for pollutants is part of the activities conducted under AER. The following research projects are available for postgraduate studies in 2022:

RESEARCH PLATFORM 1 – CONTAMINANTS OF EMERGING CONCERNS

Project 1: An integrated biotechnological approach for the removal of priority and emerging pollutants from wastewater (PhD)

Supervisor: H Nyoni (Email: nyonih@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: I Kamika, TAM Msagati, TL Botha, LM Madikizela

Considering the growing demand for potable water and the shortage of water supplies, water reuse will soon be an imperative requirement in densely populated areas. In this scenario, developing innovative, efficient, cost-effective and sustainable strategies for wastewater treatment to acceptable quality is a major technological challenge. Priority pollutants (PP) are substances or groups of substances that because of their persistence, toxicity, bioaccumulation potential, and occurrence in water bodies, represent a significant environmental risk. Emerging pollutants (EP) are substances that may have been present in the environment for a long time but whose significance is only now being recognized. That is the case of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and transformation products of man-made chemicals resulting from biological, chemical and physical breakdown reactions. Contrasting with PP, for which environmental quality standards (EQS) have been defined, EP are usually not covered by routine monitoring systems although some are candidates as future PP in European regulations. PP and EP represent a critical limitation to water reuse and innovative solutions for their remediation are urgently needed. The use of microorganism to degrade, sequester or remove them from wastewater stands out as a promising approach. The main objective of this study is to develop a wastewater treatment module targeting EP (pharmaceuticals) and PP (hydrocarbons, metalloids and metals) using innovative biotechnological-based processes.

Project 2: Genomic assessment of environmental antibiotic resistance (MSc)

Supervisor: I Kamika (kamiki@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, TL Botha, LM Madikizela

The administration of antibiotics in human and animals for multiple purposes has intensified the emergence and dissemination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) and their resistance genes in environmental settings. For containment measures, it is, therefore, important to track and characterize ARB and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) from hospital, households and livestock farms to the nearby aquatic environment. This study intends to characterize and track resistant microbes such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and their genes from hospital wastes, animal husbandry soil and water to the nearby receiving water body, and their possible health related issues.

Project 3: Synthesis of deep eutectic solvent based molecularly imprinted polymer for selective extraction of emtricitabine (MSc)

Supervisor: LM Madikizela (Email: madiklm@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, TL Botha, I Kamika

In this project, a molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP) will be synthesized, characterized and applied for a selective extraction of an antiretroviral drug (emtricitabine) in water. The experimental approach will be initiated through the synthesis of a deep eutectic solvent which will be used as a green functional monomer in molecular imprinting. The synthesized MIP and functional monomer will be characterized with various laboratory techniques which include scanning electron microscope, thermogravimetric analysis and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Once successfully synthesized, the selectivity of the MIP will be investigated prior to its application in water analysis of emtricitabine.

Project 4: Ultrasound-assisted solvent extraction of pharmaceuticals from home-grown vegetables, river water and garden soils followed by LC-MS analysis (MSc)

Supervisor: LM Madikizela (Email: madiklm@unisa.ac.za)                        
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, TL Botha, I Kamika

Globally, pharmaceuticals continue to contaminate the river water which is also used for irrigation. In this study, a suitable analytical method which is based on the application of ultrasound-assisted solvent extraction for extraction of pharmaceuticals and LC-MS determination will be developed. This will be followed by monitoring the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in Gauteng rivers used for irrigation of home-grown vegetables and plant uptake. Finally, the associated ecotoxicological risks towards aquatic organisms and humans will be evaluated.

Project 5:  Investigation of the Trophic and Intergenerational Transfer Profile and Preference of Microplastics in the Target Species in the Marine Environment (PhD)

Supervisor: H Nyoni (Email: nyonih@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, LM Madikizela, I Kamika, TL Botha

Numerous reports have indicated that microplastics can directly or indirectly be ingested by aquatic organisms. The ingestion can be directly through the ingestion of microplastics that are already present in the water column or indirectly through trophic transfer from contaminated prey organisms. The trophic levels of feeding interrelationships in the marine ecosystem are composed mainly of zooplankton which act as the lower organisms in the marine food web and they form an important link with organisms in the higher trophic levels within the same marine food web. Marine organisms, such as copepods as well as gelatinous species are among those known to highly ingest microplastics. Since these organisms are known to be preyed by higher forms of marine organisms, it is plausible to conduct a study to investigate the profile and preference of microplastics accumulation, as well as investigate if there is a particular preference or trend in terms of transfer to higher organisms. Moreover. Other organisms including birds (such as Scopoli's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) that feed on squids or crustaceans which may already been contaminated by microplastics can form a good set of a study to investigate transfer on microplastics which may also end up being transferred intergenerationally to fledglings.

RESEARCH PLATFORM 2 – DEVELOPMENT OF KITS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS

Project 1. The predicted hazard potential of rapid test kits to the environment (MSc)

Supervisor: TL Botha (Email: bothatl@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, LM Madikizela, I Kamika

Nanotechnology based test kits are already in use for Pregnancy, Malaria, Drugs of abuse, HIV and Ovulation/Fertility testing in South Africa. There is a serious need for these Nano-based Rapid tests to be produced however the scale of production could lead to environmental contamination. In an overview collating SARS-CoV-2 tests which are commercially available or in development for the diagnosis of COVID-19 there were fifty-six companies indicating “colloidal gold” as the active agent. Since the conjugate is strongly bound to the test strip there is a low level of risk of exposure to the consumer. However, once the kits have been used, since most are being sold as home test, the test kits will be disposed on with traditional waste and end up in landfill sites. This study will use daphnia as a model species for exposure to determine the risks these rapid kits may pose to the environment.

RESEARCH PLATFORM 3 – TOXICOLOGY AND RISK ASSESSMENT

Project 1. Functional response as an ecosystem effect after exposure to ENM (MSc)

Supervisor: TL Botha (Email: bothatl@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, LM Madikizela, I Kamika, Dr South (Leeds University)

The release of ENM into the environment can alter the behavior or organisms within that environment causing a shift within the food chain since ecosystems do not function as individual cases but rather as a whole. Functional response is a measure of the number of prey successfully attacked per predator as a function of prey density (Solomon, 1949). It depicts how a predator reacts to changes in its prey's density. Holling (1959) classified functional responses into three categories. Generally, filter feeders follow a linear pattern while more complex interactions follow type II and III. This study will assess the interactions between different ENM within a biological exposure system using swimming behavior and functional response as end points.

RESEARCH PLATFORM 4 – DRUG AND ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

Project Characterizing Antimicrobial Resistance Trends in South Africa Through Integration of Data and Indices from Multiple Sectors and Sources – (PhD)

Supervisor: Prof H Nyoni (nyonih@unisa.ac.za)
Co-Supervisors: TAM Msagati, Dr TL Botha, Dr AI Kamika

The proposed project intends to:

Use a combination of modern scientific techniques, information technology and traditional approaches to compile data and indices for antimicrobial resistance that are specific in South Africa

Hypothesis

The use of multiple sectors and sources is the best option to generate specific data and indices specific for AMR in South Africa

The Novelty

The novelty of the idea comes from the integration of various disciplines and approaches to compile data and indices

NANOTECHNOLOGY/NANOSCIENCE FOCUS AREA RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR 2022

MEMBRANE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH PROJECTS

Project 1: Evaluation of graphene-oxide modified membranes for forward osmosis- Nanofiltration processes for simultaneous wastewater reclamation and seawater desalination.

The main aim of the project is to evaluate and modify the performance of in-house membranes for the treatment of various feed water streams such as municipal/industrial wastewater, saline ground water and seawater. Furthermore, fundamental information on the process operation and performance will be generated.It will combine the simple concept of direct osmosis (forward osmosis) to draw pure water from dirty wastewater effluent using the highly concentrated seawater. The product water will then be filtered through low-energy nanofiltration membranes to produce high quality water for potable use.

Level: Doctoral
Project Leader: Prof BB Mamba
Contact person: Dr MM Motsa, motsamm@unisa.ac.za

Project 2: Metal organic framework modified graphene oxide or carbon nanotube for incorporation into PES membranes for wastewater treatment

The project seeks to fabricate metal organic framework-modified carbon materials (GO and/or CNTs) and their subsequent incorporation into PES polymer membranes for wastewater remediation. The MOFs will either be grown through chemical deposition or seed meditated growth onto graphitic substrates (GO or CNT). The envisaged membranes will be both flatsheet and hollow-fibre in design.

Level: Doctoral
Project leader: Prof R Moutloali
Contact person: Prof R Moutloali, moutlrm@unisa.ac.za

Prpject 3: Hydrophilic PES membranes for wastewater treatment

The projects seeks to fabricate hydrophilic polymer membranes through the chemical grafting of hydrophilic and zwitterion polymer brushes on the base polymer (PES, PSf or PVDF). The grafted polymers will be used to fabricate membranes through phase inversion method and their subsequent assessment in wastewater remediation.

Level: Doctoral
Project leader: Prof R Moutloali
Contact person: Prof R Moutloali, moutlrm@unisa.ac.za

Project 4: Upscaling application of peracetic acid in South African wastewater treatment plants

The aim of this work is to investigate the application of peracetic acid as an alternative disinfectant to avoid disinfectant by-products in the discharged effluents downstream and reuse.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr AA Muleja mulejaa@unisa.ac.za
Contact person: mulejaa@unisa.ac.za

Project 5: Enhanced second generation of porous nanocomposites for photocatalytic applications and membrane separation

This research aims to develop materials with enhanced photocatalytic properties for selective and/or simultaneous removal of emerging organic pollutants from aqueous solution.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr AA Muleja
Contact person:  Dr AA Muleja, mulejaa@unisa.ac.za

Project 6: Study of biochar from pyrolysis/gasification of dry/wet waste in a plug flow reactor for multiple applications

The aim of this study is transformation of waste to value added materials for water treatment while cleaning the environmental and generating energy.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr AA Muleja
Contact person:  Dr AA Muleja, mulejaa@unisa.ac.za

Project 7: Development of hollow fibre catalytic membrane reactors for wastewater treatment

The purpose of this study is to develop and evaluate the usage of hollow catalytic membrane reactors in the treatment of wastewaters.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr AA Muleja
Contact person:  Dr AA Muleja, mulejaa@unisa.ac.za

Project 8: Pilot scale application of titanium dioxide membrane chemical reactor for emerging pollutants removal from wastewater.

Application of chemical reaction engineering principles in the implementation of a titanium dioxide based photoreactor coupled with ultrafiltration membrane system.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr AA Muleja
Contact person:  Dr AA Muleja, mulejaa@unisa.ac.za

Project 9: Membranes for pre-treatment of brackish waters and softening of ground water

The two-year project is directed to towards the development of low pressure naniofiltration membranes for use in the pretreatment of brackish water and water softening using one step non-solvent induced phase separation method. Optimization of synthesis parameters necessary to generate high performance membranes will be conducted. The study will also entail the interrogation of separation mechanisms employed by fabricated membranes for the separation of salts from saline waters.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr NN Gumbi,
Contact personDr NN Gumbi, gumbinn@unisa.ac.za

APPLIED ELECTROCHEMISTRY  RESEARCH PROJECTS

Project 1: Electroanalytical biosensor for real time determination SARS-CoV-2 biomarker in domestic wastewater sample

The development of new methods for direct viral detection using biosensor systems is very important. The challenge of combatting the COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by the lack of rapid and effective methods to identify viral pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 on-demand. The project will involve the synergistic combination of the properties of electroactive polymers and quantum dots in the development of biosensors for SARS-CoV-2 detection. The composite materials possess electro-capacitive character which will contribute in the electrochemical impedance spectroscopic (EIS) and voltammetric (such as square wave voltammetric, SWV) detection of the pathogen. The biosensor system will be applied in the determination of SARS-CoV-2 virus through the biomarkers of the virus, such as its receptors and its RNA.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr U Feleni,
Contact person: felenu@unisa.ac.za

Project 2: Dual-operation mode electro-tech process for managing pollution from emerging pharmaceutical contaminants

There is a growing concern on the pollution of the aquatic environment by environmental persistent pharmaceuticals pollutants. This has resulted in an emerging environmental problem, which has its origin from wastes containing drugs used for human and vertinary treatments. Of particular interest are environmental persistent pharmaceuticals pollutants that originate from drugs that are highly prescribed for the treatment of highly contagious diseases that are endemic in South Africa, such as antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that are used for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In this study, the focus will be on the determination and elimination of antiretroviral (ARV) or HIV drug pollutants in wastewater and environmental surface water. Aluvia, lamivudine and nevirapine will be used as model ARV pharmaceutical substances since the drugs are among the ARVs that are very highly prescribed in South Africa.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr U Feleni
Contact person: felenu@unisa.ac.za

Project 3: Molecularly-based imprinted polymeric-quantum dot sensing and signaling emerging contaminants of concern from wastewater

The molecular-based imprinting area has received intensive investigation for selective removal of various pollutants from water. This is due to the molecule-specific cavities or recognition sites created during imprinting where the analytes of interest (templates) are engulfed within the polymeric network tightly packed with the aid of cross-linking agents such as ethylene glycol dimethacrylate. The created cavities are complementary to the templates in shape, size and molecular interactions. For the proposed electrochemical molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP) sensors, the signal will be enhanced with incorporation of samarium telluride selenide quantum dots and gallodinium telluride selenide quantum dots. This will increase sensitivity of the sensors and allow trace level detection and quantification of the NSAIDs.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr U Feleni
Contact person: felenu@unisa.ac.za

Project 4: Phthalocyaninato chelates Clicked on to Metal Sulfide Nanoflowers Electrochemically Fabricated on Nickel Foam for Bicalutamide detection in water

This project focuses on developing new nanoflowers using electrochemical methods and applying click chemistry to form stable organic-inorganic nanohybrids for enhanced and selective electrochemical sensing of bicalutamide. With nanoflowers having not been applied in electrochemical sensing of pharmaceuticals with anti-androgenic properties, let alone being clicked on to electrochemical active organic molecules, the approach of this proposed project is new. Pharmaceutical wastewater will be the primary target foe water sampling for analysis of bicalutamide.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr Kutloano E. Sekhosana
Contact person: sekhoke@unisa.ac.za

Project 5: Towards electrochemical sensing of Congo Red using Sandwich-type Systems of Nanoflowers and Rare-Earth Double Decker of phthalocyaninato chelates

This project focuses on developing a good electrochemical sensing system consisting thin layers of nanoflowers and phthalocyanines chelates based on lanthanoids for the detection of Congo Red. This is also a new approach for the development of sensing systems based on nanoarchitectonics.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr Kutloano E. Sekhosana
Contact person: sekhoke@unisa.ac.za

Project 6: Doubly photo-activated Rod-like self-assembly asymmetric phthalocyaninato-carbocyanine systems for microbial inhibition in water

This project is aimed at fabricating low symmetry phthalocyaninato complexes and combining them with carbocyanines to form organo-metallic nanorod-like structures. The application is based on photodynamic antimicrobial chemotherapy and will employ two different wavelengths of energy pump for the removal of microbes in water.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr Kutloano E. Sekhosana
Contact person: sekhoke@unisa.ac.za

Project 7: Synthesis and Characterization of a High-Temperature Stable Electrochemically Exfoliated Doped Graphene

This project will carry out electrochemical exfoliation of commercial graphite in an aqueous solution, and investigate the influence of the solution composition on the properties of the as-synthesized graphene for energy storage and water sustainability applications. Recently, a new and facile electrochemical exfoliation approach has been proposed to produce better quality electrochemically exfoliated graphene with excellent high-temperature stability. The method is based on graphene exfoliation in inorganic electrolytes and is carried out under ambient conditions. By controlling the exfoliation conditions the properties of the graphene produced can be tuned.  

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr MJ Madito
Contact person: maditmj@unisa.ac.za

Project 8: Synthesis and Characterization of Doped Vertical Graphene Nanosheets synthesised via simple plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition  

Vertical standing graphene nanosheets (VGS) are highly desirable in energy storage applications because their surface can be fully utilized and have shown considerable potential due to their high electrical conductivity, large surface to volume ratio, open network structure with graphene flakes oriented perpendicularly to the substrate surface, in contrast to the horizontal graphene. Nonetheless, graphene and its derivatives hold a great promise for widespread nanotechnology applications. In this project, VGS will be synthesised via a simple plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) technique. This will also include in situ doping of graphene to enhance performance.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr MJ Madito
Contact person: maditmj@unisa.ac.za

Project 9: Synthesis and Characterization of Graphene-based Nanocomposites: Hybrid Nanomaterials

This project will use graphene obtained from electrochemical exfoliation and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition to synthesise graphene-based nanocomposites for hybrid supercapacitor applications using other techniques, e.g. hydrothermal approach.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr MJ Madito
Contact person: maditmj@unisa.ac.za

Project 10: Development of microbial fuel cell system for simultaneous wastewater treatment and energy harvesting via biocatalysts-thinfilms:

Energy scarcity and pollution are still major global concerns, particularly in developing countries. As a result, the development of low-cost renewable technologies is required to address these two concerns.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr X Fuku
Contact person: fukuxg@unisa.ac.za

Project 11: Putting CO2 to use via solar driven electrochemical cell system for production of C1-C2 hydrocarbons.

The fast-growing atmospheric CO22 level is producing a significant environment crisis for the world today. The simultaneous mitigation of CO emissions and direct generation of value-added chemicals has motivated research in solar-driven electrochemical CO22 reduction. Based on readily available technologies, systems combining a photovoltaic (PV) cell with an electrolyzer cell (EC) for CO reduction to hydrocarbons are likely to constitute a key strategy for tackling the above challenge. 

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr X Fuku
Contact person: fukuxg@unisa.ac.za

Project 12: Design of a cost-effective off-grid electro-photocatalytic system for green hydrogen production and pollutant degradation

Continuous industrialization and urbanization have resulted in significant environmental contamination, while over-exploited fossil resources have resulted in an energy crisis that has become one of the world's most pressing challenges. In response to rising global energy demand, researchers have increased their attempts to find renewable energy sources. Hydrogen is a perfect zero-emission replacement for traditional fossil fuels, and it is seen as a promising "energy carrier" for alleviating energy shortages. Photocatalytic degradation of organic components like phenol can be used to achieve these goals.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr X Fuku
Contact person: fukuxg@unisa.ac.za

Project 13: Synthesis and characterization of manganese-based hybrid nanomaterials for energy storage applications

The concept of fully integrated rechargeable hybrid battery-supercapacitor (supercapbattery) electrical energy storage devices is a promising approach to develop next-generation energy-storage systems. With this end product in mind, we focus on synthesizing new hybrid electrode materials that combine the best features of batteries and supercapacitors to achieve enhanced energy, power density, and cyclability at a lower cost. One of the major challenges that conspire against the performance of electrode materials for batteries and supercapacitors is ‘capacity fading’ at high charge/discharge rates, as well as a limited cyclability.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr N Hlongwa
Contact person: hlongnw@unisa.ac.za

Project 14: Enhanced desalination performance of capacitive deionization based on novel graphene-manganese oxide nanocomposite electrocatalyst as the effective electrode in water purification

Capacitive Deionization (CDI) method for water purification shares the same ion storage mechanism with a supercapacitor. This is cutting-edge technology, suitable for low to medium ion concentration water purification. This technology works by desalinated ions driven to and then absorbed on oppositely charged electrodes under low voltage (≤ 2 V). Unlike the reverse osmosis and thermal-based distillations, ions are absorbed directly from the water body instead of taking water molecules out during the charge step, which could save lots of energy, during the discharge. The stored ions will be released, electrodes will be regenerated, and partial energy could be recovered, the same as a supercapacitor. The key component in achieving the whole adsorption and desorption processed is the electrodes. Many forms of carbon have been utilized for CDI electrodes. The research will involve the synthesis, characterization of novel nanostructured materials to be used as electrodes in the study of water purification. The objectives of this research are to desalinate seawater, which we will begin to use common salt (NaCl, KCl) in the lab to test the CDI device constructed.

Level: Masters
Project leader: Dr N Hlongwa
Contact person: hlongnw@unisa.ac.za

NANOSTRUCTURED MATERIALS RESEARCH PROJECTS

Project 1: Photocatalytic semiconductor materials for Advanced Oxidation Processes

Advanced oxidation processes based on photocatalytic semiconductor materials for degradation of pharmaceuticals, pesticides and personal care products in wastewater. The project involves synthesis and characterisation of visible light active heterojunction photocatalysts for removal of organic water pollutants.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Prof AT Kuvarega
Contact person: kuvarat@unisa.ac.za

Project 2: Synthesis of metal nanoparticles carbon-based nanocomposites for detection of pesticides using SERS 

The project involves the synthesis (optimization of reaction parameters) to obtain a good combination of a metal nanoparticle (provide surface plasmon resonance for enhancement of a Raman signal) and carbon-based material (carbon quantum dots, carbon spheres) to act as a Raman reporter for the detection of pesticides in water.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr M Mlambo
Contact person: mlambm@unisa.ac.za

Project 3: Polymer fibres and nanocomposites with metal and semiconductor nanoparticles for water treatment.

Project involves the design, synthesis and characterisation of materials prior to applications in removal or heavy metals and organic contaminants in water.

Level: Doctoral
Project Leader: Prof MJ Moloto
Contact person: molotmj@unisa.ac.za

Project 4: Photocatalytic application of magnetic nanoparticles for carbon dioxide conversion to useful organic materials.

This project seeks to develop an advanced technology that capable to convert CO2 into useful fuel is helpful in several ways such as to decrease global warming and reduce environmental pollution; at the same time it helps to change waste to useful materials

Level: Doctoral
Project Leader: Prof KK Kefeni
Contact person: kefenkk@unisa.ac.za

Project 5:Neutralisation integrated with membrane technology for complete conversion of AMD to useful resources.

The project will focus on valuable resources and water recovery

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Prof KK Kefeni
Contact person: kefenkk@unisa.ac.za

Project 6: Hybrid homogenous ion exchange membranes for water treatment.

The project entails the synthesis and optimization of hybrid homogenous ion exchange membranes with metal/metal oxide nanoparticles. These hybrid membranes will then be evaluated for water purification, resource recovery, microbial reduction and fouling characteristics.

Level: Doctoral
Project Leader: Dr LA de Kock
Contact person: dkockla@unisa.ac.za

Project 7: Functionalized Polymeric Cyclodextrins for removal of organic pollutants.

The project entails the synthesis of cyclodextrin polymer beads with encapsulated metal/metal oxide nanoparticles and evaluation of removal of selected pharmaceutical compounds from synthetic and real wastewater.

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr LA de Kock
Contact person: dkockla@unisa.ac.za

Project 8: Membrane brine treatment and resource recovery.

Brine produced by membrane processes poses a disposal challenge. The project involves the application of hybrid ion exchange resins for the treatment membrane brine solutions with the aim of recovering additional water and the recovery of valuable resources during the regeneration phase.

Level: Doctoral
Project Leader: Dr LA de Kock
Contact person: dkockla@unisa.ac.za

Project 9: Remediation of Coal Mine Drainage using Nanocomposite materials: Feasibility study and material reuse.

The project will entail the evaluation of different nanocomposite materials under different conditions for the removal of heavy metals from coal mine drainage. Further, the regeneration and reuse of the nanocomposite materials will be determined in order the evaluate the economic viability of the proposed materials

Level: Doctoral
Project Leader: Dr LA de Kock
Contact person: dkockla@unisa.ac.za

Project 10: Photodynamic antimicrobial chemotherapy, using porphyrinoids conjugated to nanostructured materials (Synthesis and physicochemical properties).

The project will focus on biofilm microorganism as a result of stored water

Level: Masters
Project Leader: Dr ME Managa
Contact person: managme@unisa.ac.za

Last modified: 2021/09/14