Scientists discuss green energy and medicine at UFS

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Discussing progress in green energy and nuclear medicine during the recent ReMec2, were from the left Dr Dumisani Kama (UFS), Prof Roger Alberto (University of Zurich), Prof Andreas Roodt (UFS), and Dr Orbett Alexander (UFS). Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

A group of 22 speakers from 5 different countries were hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) this week as part of a conference on green energy and nuclear medicine. The meeting of minds on reaction mechanisms, also known as ReMec2 focused on an R8 million project for green energy use.

The multimillion rand project is aimed at providing more environmentally-friendly industrial processes with hydrogen.

“This is a sunlight-driven project in search of new catalysts, which are chemical compounds that make the reactions faster and more effective, but which are not consumed during the reaction. The aim is to provide greener industrial processes with hydrogen as energy source, and to reduce carbon dioxide in the environment,” said Prof Andreas Roodt of the UFS Department of Chemistry.

This research, if applied, has the probability of preventing the release of more than 100 kg of harmful carbon dioxide for every one kg of hydrogen produced. “Together with the Swiss group, we are at that stage of the research where these compounds, with just one molecule of the catalyst, can make 80 000 hydrogen molecules,” said Prof Roodt.

“This is very clean energy, as hydrogen in a car’s engine burns to clean water; not like gasoline that burns to harmful carbon dioxide,” he explained.

The talks took place over five days at four different sites in South Africa including Bloemfontein. The UFS and the research group from Prof Robert Alberto at the University of Zurich have been working together on this research for the past 20 years.

The work of this group of scientists is set to make great strides in medicine after they were granted an international patent on nuclear medicine model compounds earlier this year. During ReMec2, a lecture was presented on this patent, according to which a compound with an imaging isotope that has its own ‘X-rays’.

This can shed light on an affected organ in the human body for doctors to see where medicine should be administered. The same compound also contains the medicine to treat the disease. –

Nomaqhawe Mtebele

nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za