Technological advancement and population growth has brought about a huge demand for energy globally. Renewable sources of energy are seen as viable alternatives in an effort to meet the growing energy demand, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful environmental effects which occur from using fossil fuels.
According to Patrick Ndungu, Professor and Deputy HOD: Research and Postgraduate within the Department of Chemical Sciences at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), solar energy is considered as an inexhaustible and relatively clean source of energy. “Considerable and continual efforts to utilise this sustainable energy supply has been a global focus for the last few decades. This includes the development of complimentary modified energy storage and conversion devices such as batteries, super capacitors, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and solar cells.”
Professor Ndungu highlighted the applied aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology looking at how he started his research interests into energy and water while doing a post-doctoral fellowship in Cape Town. This descriptive journey on nanoscience and nanotechnology delved into the beginnings and the evolution on how energy and water became his thematic areas of research, as he moved from Cape Town to Durban, and finally Johannesburg. Some perspectives on how his work has made an impact nationally and internationally as well as the importance of post-graduates in giving life to whimsical research notions and ideas. Prof Ndungu’s professorial inauguration took place in the University’s Council Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Wednesday, 11 September 2019.
Prof Ndungu sketched out some of the interesting developments that have lit up his dynamic journey from research in hydrogen storage and production, to fuel cells, and eventually to water treatment using carbon nanotubes and various nano-composites. The how and why his research diversified into solar cells and electrochemical energy storage provided an interesting backdrop to the scope and depth of his research work. Continually emphasising the surprises in his research journey and the seemingly paradoxical and puzzling results provided by various post-graduate students he has mentored over the years. Besides the exiting world of nanoscience and nanotechnology and its application to energy and water, Professor Ndungu gave the audience a glimpse into some critical work in environmental monitoring of various organic pollutants, and that such fundamental studies take time.
Prof Ndungu stressed that there will always be that push and pull between basic or applied research and innovation, and as a researcher you should always go back to the ‘lost files’ i.e. the work that never got published or patented.
Prof Ndungu concluded there are still a myriad of research areas he wishes to pursue, and several innovative solutions he wishes to implement. Through nanoscience and nanotechnology, he hopes to continue mentoring post-graduate students from South Africa, and the rest of the continent in energy and water research.