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Environmental Analytical Chemistry

The Environmental Analytical Chemistry group focuses on chemical analysis and modelling the transport of pollutants in the environment, including the use of artificial intelligence tools in understanding water and environment issues. Chemical analysis typically involves the development and optimisation of analytical methods for metal speciation and organic pollutants; the use of membranes for removal and recovery of heavy metals from water, soils, and industrial wastewaters.

  • Environmental research: using routine analytical techniques to obtain data to solve environmental problems, combining artificial intelligence tools, chemometric data validation, solution equilibria modelling, and development of predictive models.
  • Chemical analytical research: developing and optimising the new procedures for environmental analysis; routine sample analysis. Study of metals, organic chemicals and their speciation in environmental samples is a specific area of expertise with approaches such as using smart polymers (molecular imprinted polymers, passive samplers and others).
  • Environmental remediation: using various membranes and processes such as polymer inclusion membranes, membrane distillation crystallization for analytical and remediation applications.
  • Application of novel synthesised nanocomposite and biocatalytic materials for the remediation of various organic pollutants and pesticides in water, which includes graphene oxide thin film composites and metal organic frameworks.

The Environmental Analytical Chemistry group is continually involved in the development of new projects as new research frontiers open and analytical needs change.

Recent projects include:

  • Water-sediments-soil equilibria in permanent and seasonal water systems.
  • Speciation of mercury, chromium, arsenic, selenium, uranium, cyanide.
  • Transport and fate of heavy metals in the environment.
  • Studies on antibiotic resistance in Vaal River catchment water and possible compounds causing it by combining environmental DNA with passive sampling approach.
  • Study of the ecosystem health of Lake Kariba by looking at pollutants in water, sediments and fish and linking to land use changes.
  • Studies of the toxicity of nanomaterials in simulated solutions and environmental solution including studies on chemical ligands species attached to nanomaterials using electrochemical approaches.
  • Combining ecotoxicity and passive sampler approaches to study coastal pollution from Durban harbour
  • Studying the use of extract from pressurised hotwater system as bio stimulant.
  • Microplastics in water and related systems
  • Valorisation of waste: development of advanced materials for recovering valuable minerals from wastewater
  • The use of membrane distillation for the recovery of fresh water and minerals from high salt effluents.
  • Biocatalytic metal organic frameworks for the remediation of organic pollutants in environmental water.
  • Geochemical modelling of aqueous environments: mineral-rock interactions, evolution of groundwater, secondary mineral formation, mixing of different types of water systems, natural titrations and design of water treatment systems.
  • Applications of artificial intelligence to environmental chemistry: imputation of missing water data, sensitivity analysis, pattern recognition, text mining of water data from online platforms and optimisation of experiments.

Research team

Recent publications

EJ Singini, Y Nuapia, L Chimuka, IM Risenga, 2023. The effect of elevated temperatures on trichomes, essential oil composition and yield of Lippia javanica: A chemometric approach South African Journal of Science 119 (1-2), 1-6

SL Muiambo, EFC Chaúque, NJ Gulamussen, L Chimuka, E Morifi, I Nyambe, 2023. Modified QuEChERS method for the extraction and quantification of persistent organic compounds in vegetables from Mozambican local markets. Journal of Hazardous Materials Advances 10, 100262

E Morifi, L Chimuka, H Richards, L Senyolo, K Pillay, 2022. Modified macadamia nutshell nanocomposite for selective removal of hexavalent chromium from wastewater. South African Journal of Chemical Engineering 42, 176-187

K Maiphetlho, K Netshiongolwe, H Tutu, L Chimuka, H Richards, 2022. Optimisation of semi-upscaled polymer inclusion membrane (PIMs) based device for passive remediation of metal ions in acid mine drainage (AMD). Journal of Water Process Engineering 49, 103061