Research Focus Areas

The EBIT faculty is aligned with the overall 2025 research strategy of the University of Pretoria and its aim to be a research-intensive institution. To implement this strategy, the research strengths of EBIT are focused across the following six broad research themes:

  1. Water and Environmental Engineering
  2. Minerals and Materials Beneficiation
  3. 4IR
  4. Smart Cities and Transportation
  5. Big Data Science, ICT & Technology Innovation Management
  6. Energy

These broad research themes are informed by research-related activities in the 14 individual EBIT departments as well as by inter and multi-disciplinary research activities across departments and faculties. The EBIT research brochures for postgraduate studies on the departmental level can be found at:

https://www.up.ac.za/ebit-postgraduate

This document discusses each broad research theme and offers a brief narrative reflecting the key research topics within that particular research theme. This is followed by additional information demonstrating the significance of a particular research theme, which includes the SDGs supported; QS ranking (2020); number of NRF-rated researchers; number of ESI Top Papers published in 2019; Industry Chairs; Field-Weighted Citation Impact for relevant EBIT research topics; specific EBIT departments that contribute to each of the six research themes, together with the WoS H-Indexes for each department. Please note that the H-indexes apply to a department in general and they are the same across the various research themes to which that department contributes.

 

WATER & ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

This broad research theme focuses on cutting-edge research questions of the day and emphasises issues related to water quality, wastewater treatment, waste treatment, biotechnology and environmental engineering. Furthermore, the inquiry into engineered nanomaterials investigates how nanomaterials interact with environmental and in particular with water systems. Environmental engineering also focuses on sustainable building methods, building and development, bio-sensors and mining engineering. Within mining engineering, ongoing research includes rock engineering, rock breaking, environmental management and leadership. The study of mine subsidence and the collapse of abandoned coal mines fall in this category.

Main contributing departments

Department of Chemical Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

Department of Engineering and Technology Management

Department of Electrical, Electronica and Computer Engineering 

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering

Department of Mining Engineering

Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering

 

MINERALS AND MATERIALS BENEFICIATION

Research is conducted to further the frontiers of science and engineering impact on the South African minerals value chain. Optimised industrial processes for minerals processing and for the extraction of valuable metals and materials are of particular interest. Furthermore, research projects are aimed at advanced manufacturing, fabrication of polymers, and advanced alloys. There is an emphasis on nuclear accident-resistant fuel cladding materials, nanofluids, bio-nanofluids, nanocellulose, carbon nanotubes, thermal-fluid behaviour, and heat transfer.

Main contributing departments

Department of Chemical Engineering

Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering

Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering

 

4IR

Research conducted across many departments in EBIT serves as critical components for creating a highly integrated environment for the fourth industrial revolution. Studies focus on computer engineering, computer science, electronic engineering, systems engineering, bioengineering, signal processing, power electronics, control systems, optics, electromagnetism, micro-electronics, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing, condition monitoring and artificial intelligence. The SANRAL and UP Engineering 4.0 facility entails an integrated road material reference laboratory, a training laboratory and a research laboratory, combined with a live traffic research facility and an accelerated pavement-testing facility. This is combined with Civiltronics approaches where infrastructure sensor networks are integrated into buildings and other infrastructure to provide digital twin models of infrastructure.

Computer engineering is central to 4IR developments and the research interests here comprise the following: wireless communication, data and cybersecurity, embedded systems, as well as designing artificial intelligence algorithms for various applications. Advanced application areas within the context of 4IR include Intelligent logistics, Intelligent value and supply chain, Intelligent maintenance, and Asset Integrity Management. 4IR also deals with how information is generated and used in society for achieving increased international competitiveness. The mining industry in particular has been a slow adopter of 4IR developments and a promising area of research is to increase the productivity of a struggling industry through these developments.

Main contributing departments

Department of Civil Engineering

Department of Computer Science

Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Department of Engineering and Technology Management

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Department of Informatics

Department of Information Science

Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering

Department of Mining Engineering

 

SMART CITIES & TRANSPORTATION

Smart Cities in the 21st century should be resilient and connected. This can only be achieved by employing radical and innovative planning methods to facilitate radical spatial transformation. The research related to smart cities focuses on the co-creation of solutions with communities so to achieve healthy urban systems. It conducts investigations into regenerative public spaces, building-integrated urban agriculture, intelligent transportation and infrastructure. Infrastructure is developed with special reference to optimal road maintenance, while concrete and water reticulation networks receive attention through Civiltronics-based sensor networks. Furthermore, there are ongoing research projects in modular construction management, sustainable building, quantity surveying and real estate. Transportation development in this research focus area puts the spotlight on railway engineering, road pavements, vehicle dynamics, autonomous and electric vehicles, and intelligent modelling. State-of-the-art research into using systems thinking to create sustainable transport systems is complemented by research on Energy, Power and Advanced Sensor Networks.

Main contributing departments

Department of Architecture

Department of Chemical Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

Department of Construct Economics

Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Department of Engineering and Technology Management

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering

Department of Town and Regional Planning

 

BIG DATA SCIENCE, ICT & TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION MANAGEMENT

Research in this area investigates innovative machine and statistical learning approaches to unlock hidden knowledge in big data sets. It also explores the broader field of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT), including cybersecurity, digital forensics, enterprise architectures, artificial intelligence, condition monitoring, software engineering, ICT and engineering. Technology & Innovation Management focuses on the introduction of new products so as to secure an organisation’s growth and sustainability. Technology & Innovation Management and Engineering Management also focus on supply and value chain management, optimisation, ICT for development, human-computer interaction and data science management.

Main contributing departments

Department of Civil Engineering

Department of Computer Science

Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Department of Informatics

Department of Information Science

 

ENERGY

Energy provision for all citizens of South Africa is vital to support quality of life. This includes load and distributed generation balancing, as well as storage and utilisation of all energy resources. Researchers in multiple disciplines such as material science, mechanical and aeronautical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering and chemical engineering, civil engineering (hydro power) and engineering planning and management have all contributed to efficient and sustainable energy systems. Electrical engineering focuses on the generation, distribution, conversion and efficient utilisation of electrical energy. There is increased penetration of renewable energy generation such as wind or photovoltaic power into traditional grids and micro-grids. Clean energy that receives attention in the EBIT faculty includes solar energy, heat exchange, nuclear accident resistant fuel cladding materials, and nanofluids. Nuclear safety and energy systems analysis is also part of this focus. A systems-thinking approach plays an important role as catalyst for creating sustainable energy environments.

Main contributing departments

Department of Chemical Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering

Department of Engineering and Technology Management

Department of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering

Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering

 

Published by Dudu Mathe

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