Start main page content

Catalysis and Nanocarbons

Heterogeneous catalysis for clean energy conversion and water purification

Our research interests in heterogeneous catalysis revolve around developing innovative catalytic systems and understanding fundamental principles to enable sustainable and efficient processes in these areas.

In the realm of renewable energy, our research focuses on exploring catalytic materials and reactions that can facilitate the conversion of renewable resources into valuable energy carriers. We are particularly interested in studying catalytic processes such as biomass conversion and carbon dioxide utilization. By investigating the kinetics, mechanisms, and surface interactions, we aim to design and optimize catalysts that exhibit high activity, selectivity and stability under relevant operating conditions. This includes the exploration of earth-abundant and non-precious metal catalysts and metal oxides, as well as the development of catalytic systems for photochemical applications. Additionally, we are interested in exploring catalytic systems for water splitting and hydrogen production, with a focus on developing sustainable cost-effective approaches for generating clean energy. Ultimately, our goal is to contribute to the development of sustainable and scalable technologies for renewable energy generation.

In the field of water treatment, we are dedicated to developing catalytic solutions that can address water scarcity and contamination challenges. We are particularly interested in the removal of pollutants, organic compounds, and emerging contaminants from water sources using advanced oxidation processes and photocatalysis. By investigating the design and optimization of catalysts, as well as understanding the underlying reaction mechanisms, we aim to develop efficient and selective catalytic materials that can effectively degrade pollutants and ensure clean water supplies.

Furthermore, our research interests extend to the development of multifunctional catalysts systems that can address the nexus of renewable energy and water treatment. We are enthusiastic about exploring integrated catalytic processes that can simultaneously address both energy generation and water treatment challenges. This includes investigating catalytic materials and reactor designs for combined water purification and energy recovery as well as exploring synergistic catalyst systems for co-oxidation processes. By merging these fields, we aim to contribute to the development of sustainable technologies that can address multiple environmental challenges simultaneously.

Overall, our research interests in heterogeneous catalysis for renewable energy and water treatment encompass the exploration of catalysts, reaction kinetics, surface interactions and process optimization. By conducting interdisciplinary research and collaborating with experts from various fields, we aim to contribute to the development of efficient and sustainable solutions that can mitigate the environmental impact of energy generation and ensure clean water supplies for a better future.

Nanocarbons: Synthesis, Chemical Modifications and Applications

The focus of the group is on the development of techniques for the improved production of structured carbon nanomaterials and related composites. With more than two decades of nano-carbon synthesis, the group has mastered the art of producing high quality carbon materials (nanodots, nano-onions/onion-like carbon nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanospheres and nanofibers) with reduced impurities. Synthesized carbon is chemically modified for various applications such as Energy, Water and Sensors.

Synthesis of nanocarbons: The production high quality carbon nanomaterials in high yields remain the backbone of research in carbon nanotechnology. The group employs a number of techniques for the synthesis of nanocarbons from the conversional synthesis route such as the catalytic chemical vapour deposition, hydrothermal methods and flame pyrolysis to the advanced synthesis route such as microwave assisted synthesis method.

Waste-to-value: Environmental pollution has become the major contributor to global warming and climate change, a greatest problem facing humanity. Waste oil, plastics/low density polyethylene and biomass from agricultural waste are among the most common pollutants of the environment.  While there are some measures in place to try and minimize the waste (for example plastic recycle and conversion of waste oil to biofuel), the rate of waste generation is more than its recyclability. It is thus crucial to redirect waste, and convert it into other useful materials of value. This work focus on the conversion of waste material to useful materials.

Nanocarbons in solar cells: Carbon is naturally abundant in the earth’s crust which makes nanocarbons production affordable. Carbon nanomaterials have excellent properties, which makes them ideal candidates for solar cells. The solar cell projects involve using functionalized carbons as additives in both organic photovoltaic and dye sensitized solar cells.

Nanocarbons in fuel cells and supercapacitors: Fuel cells can produce power in different sectors and their main advantage is that they do not need recharging. On the other hand, supercapacitors are receiving much attention as due to their advantages over traditional batteries (ie. they charge faster). This project use nanocarbons and their corresponding composite materials as catalyst supports for fuel cell applications. Carbons are also used as electrode materials in supercapacitors.

Nanocarbons in sensors: Volatile organic chemicals sensors are popular in for different purposes in multi-disciplinary fields such as food industries and medical field. This research uses composites of nanocarbons/polymers/metal oxides to develop room temperature gas sensors.

Nanocarbons in water: This research uses nanocarbons as adsorbents for heavy metals in water and as composite material for photocatalytic degradation reactions.

Research Team

Recent publications

Fadojutimi, P., Masemola, C., Maubane-Nkadimeng, M., Linganiso, E., Tetana, Z., Moma, J., Moloto, N., Gqoba, S., Room temperature sensing of primary alcohols via polyaniline/zirconium disulphide, Heliyon, 9, e16216 (2023).

Fadojutimi, P., Masemola, C., Nkabinde, S.S., Maubane-Nkadimeng M., Linganiso, E.C., Tetana, Z.N., Moloto, N., Moma, J., Gqoba, S., Room temperature sensing of alcohol vapours using radially aligned nanorutile titania, Sensors and Actuators Reports, 5, 100154 (2023).

Fadojutimi, P., Tetana, Z., Moma, J., Moloto N., Gqoba, S., Colloidal synthesis of zirconium disulphide nanostructures and their stability against oxidation, ChemistrySelect, 7, e202202293 (2022).

Duma, Z.G., Moma, J., Langmi, H.W., Parkhomenko, K., Louis, B., Musyoka, N.M., Towards high CO2 conversions using Cu-ZnO catalysts supported on aluminium fumarate metal-organic framework for methanol synthesis, Journal of CO2 Utilization, JCOU-D-22-00534 (2022).

Mofokeng, L.E., Hlekelele, L., Moma, J., Tetana, Z.N., Chauke, V.P., Energy-efficient CuO/TiO2@GCN cellulose acetate-based membrane for concurrent filtration and photodegradation of Ketoprofen in drinking and groundwater, Applied Sciences, 12(3), 1649 (2022).

Mofokeng, L.E., Hlekelele, L., Tetana, Z.N., Moma, J., Chauke, V.P., CuO-doped TiO2 supported on graphitic carbon nitride for the photodegradation of Ketoprofen in drinking and groundwater: Process optimization and energy consumption evaluation, ChemistrySelect, 7(10), e202101848 (2022).

Duma, Z.G., Dyosiba, X., Moma, J., Langmi, H.W., Louis, B., Parkhomenko, K., Musyoka, N.M., Thermocatalytic hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol using Cu-ZnO bimetallic catalysts supported on metal–organic frameworks, Catalysts, 12(4) 401 (2022).

Fadojutimi, P.O., Gqoba, S.S., Tetana, Z.N., Moma, J., Transition metal dichalcogenides [MX2] in photocatalytic water splitting, Catalysts, 12(5), 468 (2022).

Dlamini, C.M., Dlamini, M.L., Mente, P., Tlhaole, B., Erasmus, R., Maubane-Nkadimeng, M.S., Moma, J.A., Photocatalytic abatement of phenol on amorphous TiO2-BiOBr-bentonite heterostructures under visible light irradiation, Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 11, 419-436 (2022).

Dlamini, C.M., Maubane-Nkadimeng, M.S., Moma, J.A., The use of TiO2/clay heterostructures in the photocatalytic remediation of water containing organic pollutants: A review, Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, 9(6), 106546 (2021).

Baloyi, S.J., Moma, J.A., Catalytic wet air oxidation of phenol by cordierite honeycomb washcoated with Al/Zr pillared bentonite in a plug flow reactor, Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, 8(5), 104186 (2020)