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History , Vision and Mission

History, vision and mission

The research thrust based at the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) has been developed over a period of several years at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The programme started in 1997 with the appointment of Prof. V M Linkov as incumbent of the Sasol Chair for Applied Chemistry. A small postgraduate research grant from the Eskom TESP programme was used by Prof. Linkov to initiate postgraduate research, and a research group was formed, namely the Inorganic Porous Media Group (IPMG). Groundbreaking and industrially relevant research done by the IPMG with cutting-edge technology generously funded by Eskom was consolidated by the inauguration of the Eskom Center for Electro-catalytic Research (ECER) in January 2003. The ECER was incorporated into the IPMG. In 2004, the IPMG applied for, and was granted institutional status by UWC.

In 2004 the Faculty of Science seconded Prof. V M Linkov as director of the SAIAMC by appointing a replacement lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. Furthermore, the Faculty of Science finalised placement of an academic post in the SAIAMC at Senior Lecturer level in October 2004 (permanent position from July 2011), to further support the development of the SAIAMC.

In early 2011 SAIAMC moved to a brand new home, SAIAMC Innovation Centre. The funding for the construction of this 30+ million Rand state of the art laboratory, technology development and office facility at the forefront of UWC campus was made available by a generous contribution of PetroSA, co-funded by UWC. The first class hydrogen infrastructure installed in the building was made available through the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Programme.

The concept that has inspired the SAIAMC, since its inception at UWC in 2004, is that of a creative new interface between research activity and industrial development aimed at the utilisation of advanced materials and processes based on South Africa's natural resources. The synergic relationship between research at the SAIAMC and the needs of industry has placed the SAIAMC at the forefront of R&D in advanced materials in South Africa. This has lead to the establishment of some major organisations as strategic partners with the SAIAMC. Of particular mention is the long-standing partnership with Eskom through a variety of projects ranging from new technologies for coal utilisation to water treatment systems for rural areas. A striking indicator of the profile and prestige that the SAIAMC has established, has been its designation by the DST as the Competence Centre in Systems Analysis, Integration and Technology Validation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (HySA Systems), as part of the DST National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Strategy; which is envisaged as a 15 year programme towards building a hydrogen economy.

The agreement signed by PetroSA and UWC in early 2010 began a five year research programme involving the establishment of a PetroSA Synthetic Fuels Innovation Centre (PSFIC) at the SAIAMC. The UWC and PetroSA have common interests in promoting and supporting research and training in all areas relating to the monetisation of gas. Conversion of Olefins to Distillate (COD) technology is a priority area of R&D for PetroSA and it has relocated a significant part of its research activities in this area from their present site at the Mossel Bay refinery to UWC. The PetroSA funding has provided for the construction of a custom built laboratory to house a pilot plant size reactor for the COD industrial process development which was commissioned in May 2011

"R&D outputs that can be directly utilised to impact new empowerment opportunities, wealth creation, and total HR development..."

A central premise that underpins the activities of the SAIAMC is to aim for R&D outputs that can be directly utilised to impact new empowerment opportunities, wealth creation, and total HR development and knowledge capacity building through the beneficiation of RSA's natural resources, with specific focus on the energy technologies. This focused aspect of the SAIAMC vision addresses both national and global priorities in terms of the necessity to create sustainable non-polluting alternatives to fossil fuels as sources of energy. Thus the inherent strengths found in university structures, such as, basic, applied R&D, and human resource development can be harnessed to the greatest benefit of society as a whole.

Novel energy generation technologies under development include Synthetic Fuels, Fuel Cells, Lithium Ion Batteries as well as production, separation, extraction and storage of hydrogen gas from various sources available and specific to South Africa with the aim of offering novel, efficient solutions to problems that relate to sustainable energy supply. Other energy related research areas include technologies that reduce the emissions of green house gasses inherently linked to the use of fossil fuels (CO2, SO, and NO), air separation, nanofluids showing enhanced heat transfer, etc.

 

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