Research Projects 

A small selection of research projects currently underway within each of the research focus areas are listed below. For more detailed information about any of these projects or areas, please click on the relevant link. 

Institute of Applied Materials 

  • Carbon materials: Deciphering carbon and graphite oxidation kinetics and surface chemistry, Rotomoulded graphite / polyethylene composite, and Development of cohesive flame retardant systems containing expandable graphite for use in polyolefin matrices  
  • Clay and Polymer Additive Technology: Surfactant intercalated layered double hydroxides, Modified vermiculite-polymer composites, and Vaporisation of volatile corrosion inhibitors
  • Fluoro-chemical research: PTFE synthesis, Processing of Zimbabwean petalite, Dry fluorination of neodymium pentoxide, and The development of a fluorine laboratory­      
  • Malaria: Physical vector control, Highly volatile insect repellent 
  • Pyrotechnics: Suppressing hydrogen evolution by aqueous silicon powder dispersions, Hydrogen suppression from the aqueous milling of manganese, Measuring Time Delay Burn Rates with an Infrared Camera, and Replacement of lead based primary explosives


Bioreaction Engineering                 

Research focus 

A significant fraction of future commodity chemicals will be produced from renewable biomass. Fermentation will feature as one of the primary conversion technologies in the biorefinery where bulk processing will be the norm. Similar to the conventional refinery, the efficiency of the conversion units will govern the economic viability of the overall process. In this regard we foresee the discipline of bioreaction engineering to play a vital role. 

Our contribution lies in the development, understanding and optimisation of continuous high cell density fermentation processes. We are currently targeting the organic acid platforms, with specific focus on succinic and fumaric acid. We have a keen interest in the self- immobilization characteristics of some organisms where biofilms can be used as a cost effective retainment strategy.  Given our Chemical Engineering background we have a continuous processing focus, where steady state is highly advantageous for mass balance checks and metabolic flux analysis.   

Group Leader : Willie Nicol   

Current projects

  • Production characteristics of shear controlled bacterial biofilm reactors. Deon Brink ([email protected]
  • High titre and yield succinate production with Actinobacillus succinogenes biofilms using glucose and xylose as substrates. Michael Bradfield ([email protected])    
  • Continuous fumerate production with Rhizopus Oryzae in a novel biofilm fermenter: steady state metabolic flux analysis. Andre Naude ([email protected])  
  • Succinate production in a high cell density  membrane-recycle fermenter using genetically modified Escherichia coli KJ122. Adolf Krige ([email protected]



Process Modelling and Control 

Typical examples of projects include the following: Control of batch digesters used for the manufacturing of dissolved pulp, Development of a Model Predictive Control software package, Advanced Milling Control, Abnormal Situation Management (ASM), Modeling gas-solid reactions in rotary kilns, Fault detection in advanced control systems, Plantwide performance monitoring. Modeling of lubrication processes.


Bioprocess Engineering 

A microbrewery has recently been constructed to provide hands-on brewing technology experience for students;

Through an agreement with Sappi,  Dr Francois Wolfaardt, a researcher in the field of biotechnology and Dr Berdine Coetzee, a biochemist  in the pulp and paper industry were appointed as extraordinary lecturers in the Department. These appointments strengthen the link between the Department and Sappi and will enable development of expertise in this strongly developing area. 


Water Utilisation Engineering 

Water Utilisation Engineering at Tukkies is recognised as a national and world leader in this field.


Environmental Engineering

In order to be a world leader in the field of Environmental Engineering, the group focuses its postgraduate courses, research and industrial activities on those issues unique to the South African environment.


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