ARUA CoE in Materials, Energy & Nanotechnology Research.

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Witwatersrand
Department Name: Research Office

Abstract

Under the theme of Energy, Materials Development and Nanotechnology, ARUA CoE-MEN will use materials and nanotechnology to develop energy solutions for Africa, as well as materials development for efficiency and sustainability, and also develop personnel. The main aim is to develop materials and new technologies to benefit Africa, in both infrastructure and human development, to enable global competition. There will be a range of projects around the technological use of materials, from fundamental to devices up to prototype level and application. The projects should help to identify, and later develop, new opportunities in an African context. This is necessary because often solutions from more temperate climates cannot withstand the harsher conditions in Africa (higher temperatures and humidity), and so are not suitable. This will facilitate the development of new opportunities in an African context (e.g. sustainable manufacturing, off-grid energy technologies, improved materials, and materials recycling - obtaining more useful materials, as well as removing waste), developing the people to do it, and to help Africa become more competitive. ARUA CoE-MEN will investigate barriers to upscaling and uptake of sustainable technologies in Africa. As well as improving materials, strategies for creating and encouraging new technological pathways to facilitate transitions to sustainability in emerging water and energy technologies will be explored. Improved energy security will help the economies develop, leading to more stability with jobs, facilite people to become entrepreneurs, and help to improve the welfare and the wealth of citizens in the different countries.
Some of projects target efficiency of materials and hence safety, e.g. by improving buildings and infrastructure (recent flood damage in southern Africa has shown that houses need to be more robust). Improved materials could have even larger long-term benefits on the environment, and help to improve other living conditions, e.g. improving water storage efficiency and cleanliness by combatting corrosion. The potential benefit to the African countries is improved development, improved environments and better education, for researchers and more widely, for the public, by outreach.
ARUA CoE-MEN will also try to support more part-time higher degree students, who struggle to balance work, family and their research. This is an untapped source of students, and is an opportunity to increase the skills and work more closely with industry, and possibly entrepreneurs. The benefit to the UK is the strengthening of ties with the different African countries involved, and the potential to enter into business relationships for manufacturing in the future. The hub will be at the University of the Witwatersrand, which has a long-term history of running very successful networks and groups in materials science, and also provides world-class equipment and infrastructure to be shared.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries?
The beneficiaries from the research are firstly the researchers and their students who will work on useful and relevant projects, and extend their expertise and experience. The students will also benefit because they will be trained to undertake cutting-edge research, so that they can publish widely and grow their careers. But the programme is much wider; it seeks solutions to many problems holding Africa back, and which affect much of its population. If successful, the projects will have a wide impact across many different levels of the populations in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.

How will they benefit from this research?
The projects have high potential of succeeding, because the researchers include many different disciplines, with environmental scientists (with ecology and sustainability expertise) to help break through the implementation barriers. Sustainable electricity and water supply is very beneficial to Africa, because these depress living conditions, and unreliable electricity is also stalling economies. Lack of potable water is a huge health hazard, and there are many waterborne diseases in Africa. Making materials more efficient will help the economies, because much time and money is wasted rectifying the problems caused by unsuitable materials, or materials which have been processed incorrectly. Developing better materials and processes will help Africa become more competitive globally, giving good, exportable products, to increase income and boost the economies. Another large benefit will be from increasing recycling, which not only removes waste (a pollutant and health hazard), but also creates revenue. Recycling can improve building materials, giving safer housing. Outreach activities can show people how to improve their lives with fairly easy habits, e.g. recycling household waste to realise income, and simultaneously improving the environment, and the improved education of (even a small number) of young people will enable them to contribute to the economy.
Providing evidence of energy consumption, use and practice in local communities to national and regional policy makers will help regulation, governance and service delivery. Understanding efficiencies will benefit many stakeholders, e.g. governments, NGOs, aid agencies, and providers of energy and energy related services. The new international network will maximise opportunities to foster and share knowledge between countries: research knowledge and best practice working with non-academic partners. Active engagement with national funders throughout the project will help to ensure a sustainable legacy.
Social impacts will arise because the researchers will actively engage communities, agencies and local leaders to promote the development of appropriate energy solutions, and ensure these solutions are responsive to local needs. This will empower communities to voice their energy needs and aspirations, provide insights into local social practices and customs, facilitating the research team and local energy champions to promote responsible energy behaviour. Careful dissemination will increase knowledge and awareness of responsible energy consumption and production, impacting social practices and promoting sustainable behavior for positive environmental outcomes.

What will be done to ensure opportunities to benefit?
To ensure that people will benefit from the activities, there will be meetings with relevant stakeholders (local community, government, scientists etc.), and one part of the project is designed around meetings and implementation. This is a large part of the programme, and is totally different from the usual academic promulgation of the results in journals and conferences, which will also occur for some projects. Outreach activities will be run in the different African countries involved, and the courses given by the U. Pretoria participants will also help promulgate the project and the underlying science.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have stronger collaborations in place than we did before, because of the successful UKRI Capacity Building proposal. We are talking more with them, and have had one visit to Coventry University to discuss future plans, but we are still waiting for ARUA to release our first tranche of funding. Thus, anything we have done to date was limited and using other funds. We also also sent 8 delegates to the ARUA Conference in Nairobi in November 2019, and ran a half-day workshop there.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education
 
Description Lecture at Sheffield University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As part of my visit to the UK, and working with Prof. Andy Watson, I was also invited to give a presentation at Sheffield University, entitled "Titanium-based alloys with copper additions for dental applications", as well as talking about ARUA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Visit to Coventry University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We had In depth discussions with academics from Coventry University on planning for the Modelling and Phase Diagram Roadshow to teach a wide range of students in Africa. We had been in e-mail contact for this for several months, but this was the first time we could bring the interested parties together. There was also discussions on degree structure and various forms of co-supervision between different universities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019