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South African Institute For Advanced Material Chemistry - Research Interests and Current Projects

The HySA Systems Integration & Technology Validation Competence Centre, HySA Systems, hosted by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and located at the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC), and directed by Professor Bruno G. Pollet FRSC, is one of three national Competence Centres that were initiated by the Department of Science and Technology’s National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (HFCT) Flagship Project, also known as Hydrogen South Africa or HySA.

This long-term (15-year) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (HFCT) Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) strategy was officially launched in September 2008 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in South Africa.  The overall vision of the HFCT RDI strategy is to bring about wealth, job and IPR creation through the initiation of new high technology industries based on minerals found on South African soil, especially Platinum Group Metals (PGMs).

HySA Systems, a Systems Integration and Technology Validation Competence Centre on HFCT was established in 2007 at the SAIAMC at the University of the Western Cape.  The main objective with HySA Systems is to (i) develop HFC systems and prototypes, (ii) perform technology validation and system integration in three key HySA programmes: (1) Combined Heat and Power (CHP), (2) Portable systems and (3) Hydrogen Fuelled Vehicles (HFV). HySA Systems is also responsible for the development, prototyping, testing, validating and commissioning of the following key technologies: Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEAs) for High Temperature (HT) (≥120 oC) Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells, HT-PEM fuel cell stacks, metal hydrides for hydrogen storage and compression, Li-ion batteries and system integration of Energy Storage Devices for domestic and automotive applications.

HySA Systems is an industry, technology and product development oriented Competence Centre, which has demonstrated on many occasions its ability to develop, build, commission and validate prototype systems.

HySA Systems

Director: Prof. Bruno G. Pollet FRSC

Bruno G. Pollet recently joined HySA Systems Competence Centre as Director and Professor of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies. Pollet is known for his expertise and dynamism in the research fields of PEMFC and Electrochemical Engineering. He was formerly Associate Director (and Acting Director) of the Birmingham Centre for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research and Operations and Delivery Director of the £5.5M EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and their Applications. He was responsible for the £1.3M DECC HFCCAT Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle project and PEMFC & MEA activities at the University of Birmingham. He successfully implemented a Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Supply Chain (EPSRC project) within the UK West Midlands with 60 SMEs involved in the development and manufacturing of hydrogen and fuel cell components. He has worked for Samuel Banner Ltd (Banner Chemicals Group) and Albion Chemicals Ltd (now Brenntag (UK) Ltd) in Sales and Marketing, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Ltd (Johnson Matthey Plc) as Test Facility Scientist, Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) Design Scientist and Programme Leader, SmartWater Europe Ltd as Research Manager and Coventry University as Head of Sonoelectrochemistry, Project Development Manager and Lecturer in Environmental & Physical Sciences. Pollet also worked as an EPSRC and EU Research Fellow in the field of Fuel Cells and Electrochemiluminescence at the Liverpool Electrochemistry Group headed by Professor David J. Schiffrin. He was awarded an Engineering Diploma in Chemistry and Material Sciences from the Université Joseph Fourier (Grenoble, France), a BSc (Hons) in Applied Chemistry from Coventry University and an MSc in Analytical Chemistry from The University of Aberdeen. He also gained his PhD in Physical Chemistry in the field of Electrochemistry (Sonochemistry & Sonoelectrochemistry) under the supervision of Professor J. Phil Lorimer at Coventry University. Pollet has published several publications and chapters in the field of Fuel Cells and Electrochemical Engineering.

CHP Programme Manager

Dr. Sivakumar Pasupathi

Dr. Pasupathi is responsible for the key programme on combined heat and power and its deliverables. He manages a team consisting of scientists, engineers and researchers, within HySA systems and its spokes towards delivering the goals of the programme. His responsibilities also include student supervision, development of HTPEM MEAs, stacks and systems, assisting with lecturing for chemistry BSc Hons students and undergraduate practicals, all as part of HySA Systems activities. Dr Pasupathi started as a postdoctoral fellow in 2005 and joined Institute staff as a researcher in 2007. During this period his research focus was on MEAs and catalysts for low temperature PEM fuel cells and electrolysers. From 2009 he has been involved in the development of high temperature PEM fuel cell systems. In July 2010 he was appointed as the Programme Manager for the CHP programme under HySA Systems.

Current Projects:

  • Fuel cell catalysts and membrane electrode assemblies

  • Power management of CHP systems

  • CHP system integration and technology validation

  • High temperature MEAs for FCVs

FCV Programme Manager

Mr. Gerhard Swart

Mr Swart is an experienced Systems Engineer and Engineering Manager who has joined SAIAMC as Chief Engineer on 1 November 2012. He is also acting Programme Manager for the HySA Systems Key Programme 3, which includes Hydrogen-Fuelled Vehicles.

Prior to joining UWC, Mr Swart has taken technical leadership in several high-profile development projects such as the weapons system for the Rooivalk Attack Helicopter and the Southern African Large Telescope. Most recently he was the Chief Technical Officer of Optimal Energy and co founder, the developer of South Africa’s first serious Electric Vehicle, the Joule.

Mr Swart specialises in Systems Engineering as applied to the real-world development of complex products.

Current Projects:

  • FCV system integration and technology validation


Battery Programme Manager

Dr San Ji

Dr. Ji is responsible for deliverables and management of HySA Li-ion battery key programme that was initiated in 2011.  He is instrumental in design and construction of industrial pilot plant battery cell manufacturing line at SAIAMC.  He is currently developing advanced battery cells, supervising PhD and MSc students and he publishes prolifically.  Dr. Ji started his career as a postdoctoral research fellow at UWC in 2002 and since then initiated the first Li ion cell manufacturing activity in South Africa through his strong collaborative links with a number of research institutes and Li-ion secondary battery manufacturers in China.

Current Projects:

  • HySA Li-ion battery key programme

  • Combined Li-ion battery and supercapacitor for FCVs

Prof. Ben Bladergroen

Deputy Director & Associate Professor: SAIAMC Innovation Centre

Key Technology Specialist – Pd Membrane Reactors

Prof. Bladergroen, a former student at the University of Twente in the Netherlands joined UWC in 1998 as a PhD student and continued as a postdoctoral fellow in hydrogen separation (2003), hydrogen production (2004) and was appointed as research manager for industrial contract research in 2005, followed by a senior lecturer appointment in 2006. In 2011 he was promoted to the level of Associate Professor at SAIAMC where his main role is managing applied research and development activities.  Since 2007 Prof. Bladergroen has been Deputy Director Operations, establishing the operational procedures at SAIAMC. In 2011, his portfolio included Innovation activities at SAIAMC and two HySA projects.  Prof. Bladergroen is the Vice-Chair of the International Association for Hydrogen Energy Youth Division.

Current Projects:

  • Pd-nanocomposite membrane reactors

Dr. Mykhaylo Lototskyy

Key Technology Specialist – Metal Hydride Hydrogen Storage Materials and Systems

Dr. Mykhaylo Lototskyy (also known as Michael V. Lototsky) graduated from the Moscow State University in 1977 and received his PhD degree in 1992 from the Lviv State University (Ukraine).  He held postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway, 2002–2003) and the University of the Western Cape.

Dr Lototskyy’s passion for Research started in 1975 when he was a student at the Chemistry Faculty of Moscow State University engaging in the activities on Plasma-Chemical Synthesis of Metal Hydrides.  After graduation from the University he was involved in R&D on purification of exhaust gases in ferrous metallurgy.  Since 1979 Dr. Lototskyy has carried out his research in metal hydrides and in 1983 he became part of the Leading National Team (Institute of Mechanical Engineering Problems, Kharkov, Ukraine) working in the field of Hydrogen Energy and Technology, including the applications of metal hydrides.  In 1988, his work in hydride material science (in co-authorship with the group from Moscow State University) was awarded by the famous and prestigious Lenin Comsomol Prize (top-rank State Award for young scientists in the former USSR).

In 2001 Dr Lototskyy was invited as a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway) where he was working in the field of metal hydride materials and technologies on a full-time (2002–2003) and part-time basis (1/2 workload; during the rest of his time he was continuing his metal hydride activities in Ukraine).

Dr. Lototskyy joined the University of the Western Cape in 2006 as a Visiting Researcher and later, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2007–2008).  Currently, Dr. Lototskyy is a Senior Researcher at the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry and Key Technology Specialist on Hydrogen Storage and Related Applications within South African Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies RDI Program (HySA Systems Competence Centre hosted by UWC).

Dr. Lototskyy is an internationally recognized and renowned researcher in the fields of Hydrogen Energy and Technology, hydrogen storage, material science and applications of metal hydrides.  His current research activities focus on: the analysis of trends in hydrogen technologies, the preparation and advanced characterization of various metallic hydride-forming materials and nanocomposites on their basis, the experimental studies and modelling of thermodynamic and the kinetic performances of metal – hydrogen systems, gas-phase applications of metal hydrides including storage, compression and separation / purification of hydrogen.

Current Projects:

  • On-board use of metal hydrides for utility vehicles
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