UJ scientist Prof Kaushik Mallick explores nanotechnology and the potential to harvest pollution-free energy

​As the human civilisation is growing the process of industrialisation and urbanisation is taking place very rapidly. With this rapid growth of civilisation, the use of fossil fuels exponentially increase, causing environmental pollution and thereby global warming. Global warming is a threat to human existence and the growth of a civilisation, and we will continue along this fate as the energy demand globally is not going to reduce. Thus, there is a need to find a clean, sustainable and green energy/power system to deal with this increasing energy demand according to Kaushik Mallick, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Prof Mallick highlighted that hybrid functional materials, consisting of both inorganic and organic components, are considered potential platforms for applications in extremely diverse fields such as optics, micro-electronics, transportation, health, energy, energy storage, diagnosis, housing, environment and the highly relevant 4IR area of the Internet of Things (IoT). The properties of these hybrid materials can be tuned by modification of the composition on the molecular scale to produce smart materials.

He argued that the subject is multidisciplinary in nature and closely linked with the fourth industrial revolution, where the knowledge of chemistry, physics and electrical engineering is essential for successful operation when he delivered his inaugural address entitled ‘Organic-inorganic hybrid nanomaterial for piezo-actuator in energy harvesting, storage and digitalized micro-robotic application’ in the Council Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Tuesday, 25 June 2019.

  • Read Prof Mallick’s Professorial Inaugural speech here.

Prof Mallick’s address focused on hybrid inorganic–organic materials as a promising system for a variety of applications due to their properties based on the combination of different building blocks. “The organic-inorganic hybrid system has potential advantages in the area of ‘Synthetic Material Science’, because both the polymer and the nanoparticles are produced simultaneously which causes an intimate contact between the particles and the polymers through functionalization,” he explained.

Prof Mallick pointed out that an organic molecule and conjugated polymer stabilized low dimensional inorganic system is an alternative energy source that is capable of capturing ambient vibrational energy and convert it into usable electrical energy and also help to reduce the rigidity and increase the flexibility of the device made by these kind of materials. “This flexible nature has significance for scavenging the self-power energy harvesting and electro-mechanical properties. The main advantages of these materials are their high energy densities, high breakdown voltage, a moderate dielectric constant and may contain ferroelectric/piezoelectric properties. In addition, these composite materials can be easily fabricated in macro-to-nano scale with high elasticity and biocompatibility,” he said.

In addition, presently the majority of electronic devices like laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, use a lithium ion battery for the power storage. It has been observed that devices having short switching times are still suffering a problem of low battery lifetime and slow charging. The lithium ion battery is a highly significant part in portable electronic devices and the latest hybrid electric vehicles. Lots of endeavors are being done to investigate nanostructured electrode materials to improve energy density and the rate capabilities, because the nano-materials possess a large surface area and faster diffusion times. This is one of the biggest hurdles in development of essential future artificially intelligent electronic devices leading to the 4IR.

In conclusion, the lecture emphasised that 4IR is incomplete without proper clean energy system supplies for the demand. “In the last few years there has been growing interest, worldwide, in investigating the impact of piezo- and / or ferroelectric materials for energy harvesting process. The basic and applied research based on ferroelectrics and piezoelectric materials for renewable energy harvesting and micro-electric application is neglected by the entire Africa continent. This will be pioneering research in the field of self-powered micro-electronic devices that will explore new application and scientific as well as industrial benefit for the nation,” said Prof Mallick.

Prof Mallick teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses on Physical chemistry and material sciences. Professor Mallick is a rated researcher in the category of C, evaluated by National Research Foundation, South Africa. His research is in the interdisciplinary field of materials science, such as organic catalysis, electrochemical sensors and various aspects of energy storage and harvesting systems. Professor Mallick recently also initiated a research programme on Materials Science in Computer Applications with special emphasis on resistive switching for random access memory and neuromorphic systems.

He has published more than 100 research articles in various peer reviewed journals and book chapters with total citations of 2775 and an H-index of 28. Prof. Mallick also act as an Editorial Board Member for Cogent Physics (Taylor & Francis), Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group) and Material Sciences (DE GRUYTER)

Prof Kaushik Mallick
Prof Kaushik Mallick
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