The inaugural South African Water, Energy and Food Forum (SAWEF) Gala Awards, hosted at Montecasino in Fourways at the end of July, saw long-time struggle stalwart and fiercely independent academic, Professor Kader Asmal, posthumously being awarded the first SAWEF Order of Leadership by the Deputy Minister of Water Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, and SAWEF co-founder and noted environmentalist, Professor Anthony Turton. The award was received on behalf of the family by Professor Asmal’s nephew, Ebrahim Asmal.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi lauded the late Professor Asmal for his commitment to pioneering democratic South Africa’s water legislation and implored her colleagues to build on the solid foundations that had been put in place.
Professor Turton said Asmal’s legacy lived on through the National Water Act, which was the “first substantial piece of legislation to be brought to bear in the post-apartheid history, containing world-class concepts such as environmental flows and the democratisation of the process of water resource allocation through catchment management agencies”.
It is also interesting to note that during her address, Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi said: “We have seen a stop to the decanting in the Western Basin of acid mine drainage (AMD) contaminated mine water. This has been made possible by the collaboration not just of government and its entities, but also interested parties such as some of our mining houses and private sector experts. This included access to land, refurbishment of some of the equipment amongst others, but mainly a great deal of co-operation at different levels.”
Nedbank SAWEF Scholarship
SAWEF and South Africa’s leading green bank, Nedbank, collaborated to present the inaugural Nedbank SAWEF Scholarship for Water-Energy-Food Nexus Research.
This competition was open to all professionals working in the water, energy and agriculture sectors of South Africa, but restricted to South African citizens only.
Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, together with Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi, jointly handed over a cheque of R150 000 to Dr Heinrich Badenhorst, for winning the Nedbank SAWEF Scholarship for Water-Energy-Food Nexus Research.
Brown commented: “Through the provision of this scholarship we are pleased to be playing an active role in the facilitation of new learning and research, and supporting the SAWEF philosophy of dialogue leading to action.”
Dr Badenhorst works fulltime at the University of Pretoria’s Chemical Engineering Department, which he joined after completing his Ph.D. in chemical engineering, working on nuclear graphite materials.
His project, entitled Carbon & Graphite for Solar Energy Capture, uniquely captures the innovative thinking called for when confronting multifaceted challenges such as these contained in the convergence areas of the nexus.
Dr Badenhorst’s research hinges on tweaking the design and function of parabolic troughs used in concentrated solar power. These parabolic mirrors focus the solar energy onto a central receiver. Traditionally these are comprised of an oil-filled glass tube with an outer absorbent coating.
Dr Badenhorst explains: “Carbon black is an excellent absorber of electromagnetic radiation and is employed in stealth planes to avoid radar detection. However, carbon black has a very poor thermal conductivity. Our innovative solution to this is to combine carbon black and highly conductive natural graphite powder.
“This composite can be placed directly in the central receiver to collect and conduct the solar energy to a storage unit, like a molten salt container. Both carbon black and graphite are highly inert and have low thermal expansion, thus making them ideal for this application. This set-up would negate the necessity for high temperature and high pressure oils and accompanying pumps and seals,” he said.
Dr Badenhorst emerged victorious after a call-to-entry campaign launched in February this year, followed by a gruelling month-long screening process, conducted by the Water Research Commission that delivered a shortlist of three applicants.
The three research proposals were evaluated by an independent adjudication panel convened by Professor Anthony Turton, and including Dr Ana Cascao from the Stockholm International Water Institute, Mpetjane Kgole from Eskom, Dhesigen Naidoo, chief executive officer of the Water Research Commission, and Dr Marco Lotz, Nedbank’s sustainability carbon specialist. The panel’s decision, based on a points system compiled from independent adjudication sheets, a face-to-face interview with each finalist and grading of their final presentation at SAWEF 2013, delivered a unanimous verdict.
However, the other two finalists, Dr Daniela Bezuidenhout, also from the University of Pretoria, and Rudi Scheepers from the University of Cape Town, both presented research proposals indicative of a healthy well of scientific talent residing at South African universities and research institutions, and will with no doubt achieve unbridled success in their own right.