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Materials for Energy Research Group(MERG)

The Materials for Energy Research Group (MERG) was founded by Dr. Shane Durbach and Prof. Alex Quandt as a spin-off of the Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials (CoE-SM). MERG comprises researchers from Physics, Chemistry and Engineering working on materials problems related to renewable energies. Most of the MERG researchers have a strong background in nanotechnology, and their goal is to come up with novel and innovative materials as well as technological solutions, where the conventional methods either fail, or turn out to be rather inefficient. Among the current areas of research are photovoltaics, hydrogen production and storage, solar thermal energy production and storage, as well as ion storage and supercapacitors.

MERG is divided into four focus areas: 

  • Modelling & design (coordinated by Prof. Alex Quandt, Physics)
  • Synthesis & processing (coordinated by Prof. Jack Sigalas, Engineering)
  • Characterization & testing (coordinated by Prof. Dave Billing, Chemistry)
  • Real properties & applications (coordinated by Dr. Nosipho Moloto, Chemistry). 

A fifth focus area is Behaviour, which consists of collaborations with industrial partners outside of MERG.

Current speaker of the MERG group is Prof. Alex Quandt (Physics). In the near future, MERG will be headed and managed by a MERG Research Chair, with funds available for special equipment and for bursaries (Postdoc, PhD, MSc and Honors), in order to support cutting-edge energy related research within MERG. The long term goal of the Research Chair will be to gradually transform and expand MERG into a Centre of Excellence. 

Group members: (Physics only)

 Prof Mervin Naidoo

Research Interests: Ion Beam modification of materials. The enhancement of the optical, electrical and mechanical properties of materials by ion implantation.


 Dr. Daniel Wamwangi


 Dr. Phil Pherrer

Current research interests include plasma propulsion for space applications, specifically micropropulsion. My work revolves around a miniaturised plasma engine, with coupled ionisation/acceleration mechanism of the propellant plume.


Prof. Alex Quandt

Research Interests: Nanomaterials, super hard materials, materials for energy, aperiodic solids and notions of order and disorder, photonics and plasmonics, nanotechnology.