Environmental Monitoring and Sensing

This research group, led by Prof Patricia Forbes, involves the development of novel sampling and analytical methods for environmental pollutants, primarily in water and air. We use our chemistry knowledge to assist in understanding and solving environmental problems as part of multi-disciplinary teams. We focus on improving existing analytical methods for target pollutants in terms of making them more affordable, faster, simpler, more accessible and portable compared to traditional methods, whilst ensuring they are fit for purpose in terms of selectivity and sensitivity.

Ongoing research includes the development and deployment of denuder based sampling techniques to simultaneously monitor gas and particle phase semi-volatile organic compounds, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in homes and underground mines, in order to assess potential human health effects thereof. Research involving passive samplers by the group includes lichen biomonitors and the development of novel sorbents. We conduct research to develop screening methods for emerging chemical pollutants in water, such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides, using quantum dot based fluorescence sensors. We also develop novel, greener sample preparation approaches for these compounds prior to comprehensive analysis thereof using chromatography and mass spectrometry.


Current postgraduate students

PhD students

Adedapo Adeola is conducting research on the use of graphene wool as a novel adsorbent for emerging chemical pollutants in water, particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and antiretroviral drugs.

Genna-Leigh Geldenhuys is developing monitoring methods for semi-volatile organic air pollutants with application in underground mines, the transport sector and the sugar industry.

Kapambwe Kabwe is working on the synthesis and characterisation of fluorescent probes for the detection of antibodies and diagnosis of tuberculosis.


MSc students

Geyan Kempkes is developing a novel passive sampler for total gaseous mercury monitoring.

Ané Kritzinger’s research deals with the development of an optical trap for ultra-sensitive fluorescence sensing applications.

Amanda Mahlangu is conducting research on the characterisation of semi-volatile hydrocarbon emissions from diesel engines.

Aritondaho Makhari is investigating alternative characterisation techniques for accelerated stability testing of cosmetic emulsions.

Wilmé Putter is working on the development of a portable fluorescence sensor for detection of pesticides in water systems.

Marilize Steyn is working on the use of secondary abatement for addressing domestic fuel burning emissions.

Akhona Tyhali is developing analytical methods to assess levels of disinfection byproducts in South African water systems.

Alexander Wrbka is developing selective analytical methods for the detection of trace antibiotic contaminants in South African water supplies.


Recently graduated postgraduates

PhD graduates

Dr Eve Kroukamp, 2019, Optimisation of analytical methods for metal(loid)s in a lichen biomonitor.

Dr Hanieh Montaseri, 2019, Quantum dot - molecularly imprinted polymer nanomaterials for the fluorescence sensing of selected pharmaceutical and personal care products.

Dr Sifiso Nsibande, 2020, Development of quantum dot fluorescence sensors for detection of targeted pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Dr Chiedza Munyeza, 2020, Monitoring of atmospheric polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons through optimization of analytical techniques.

Dr Geoff Brown, 2020, Determination of the influence of calcium levels in the hatching rate of captive Nile crocodiles.


MSc graduates

Miss G.-L. Geldenhuys, 2014, Characterisation of diesel particulate matter in underground platinum mines of South Africa.

Mrs B Castleman, 2014, Impact of pesticide usage on the Letsitele River.

Miss L van der Wat, 2015, Lichens as biomonitors of trace organic air pollutants, With Distinction.

Mr S Nsibande, 2015, Comparative pesticide air monitoring in the validation of air dispersion models, With Distinction.

Mr Fritz Petersen, 2016, Prioritisation of emerging chemical pollutants in South African water systems.

Miss Kedibone Mashale, 2019, Monitoring of selected pesticide concentrations in South African aquatic systems using the Chemcatcher® passive sampler.

Mr Basil Munjanja, 2019, Comparison of pesticide deposition sampling methods for spray drift of atrazine, With Distinction.

Miss Yvonne Mason (nee Wjono), 2020, Investigations into the use of a novel graphene wool sampler for organic air pollutants.

Mr Paul Myburgh, 2021, Development of solid phase extractants for pesticide analysis, With Distinction.

Miss Loreley Cairns, 2021, Fluorescence studies of binders used in paintings: ageing and pigment effects, With Distinction.


Recent and current postdoctoral fellows

Dr Oluwasesan Adegoke, Development of novel quantum dot sensors for organic pollutants.

Dr Gugu Kubheka, Synthesis of new nanomaterials and organic molecules as fluorescent chemosensors for detecting anionic pollutants in water.

Dr Khethobole Sekgota, Synthesis and characterisation of polymeric coagulants for drinking water treatment.


For more information contact: Prof Patricia Forbes
- Author Prof Patricia Forbes
Published by Anita Botha

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