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Grantees Profile

Banothile Makhubela

Country (Nationality)

South Africa

Grantee Title

Project Title: New metal catalysts for conversion of non-edible biomass and bio-sourced molecules to value-added liquid fuels and chemicals

Grantee Description

Host Organisation: University of Johannesburg, South Africa

The purpose of the project is to design, prepare and characterise new base metal complexes and use these as catalysts for the conversion of biomass/bio-sourced molecules to liquid fuels and chemicals. These liquid fuels can be used as alternatives to burning of wood and charcoal for cooking and heating, and also as illuminating liquids.

The research will be delivered in 4 phases and the approach is to (i) use cheaper base metals (nickel, cobalt, copper, zinc and iron, produced in Southern Africa) instead of noble metals, to deliver efficient and affordable catalytic technologies and to (ii) exploit renewable biomass resources which, research shows, is widely available in Africa.

The catalyst design is such that it would be possible to (i) incorporate a second different metal into the structure of the complexes, so as to produce bi-functional hetero-bimetallic complexes as catalyst to potentially promote direct conversion of biomass to liquid fuels and (ii) heterogenise the metal complexes on a metal organic framework (MOFs) and/or on silica support to obtain more stable, robust and re-usable catalytic systems for sustainable reactions.

This research is expected to provide strategies for efficient bio-refinery and insight into how, the proposed, bio-refinery reactions work at a molecular level. Not only will this research address sustainability concerns, it will potentially also add value to biomass and mineral resources found in Africa, and lay a foundation for the stimulation, growth and formalisation of the bio-energy sector in the long-term.