Centres & Units

Centre for Algal Biotechnology

The Centre for Algal Biotechnology (CAB) – a first for South Africa and one of a few internationally that focuses on integrating microalgal research with commercial industries – is responsible for providing research infrastructure and supervision for Postgraduate students from UKZN and DUT.

The aims of the Centre are:

  • To identify indigenous species of microalgae that producers a commercially valuable product.
  • To optimise the cellular production of the value added biological compound.
  • To determine the economic feasibility of commercialising the value added product.
  • To collaborate with biotechnology industries to setup commercial incubators.
  • To collaborate with national and international researchers in the area of algal biotechnology and ecology.
  • To produce DOE recognised research outputs.

The Centre is currently the laboratory for one Doctoral student registered for a Chemical Engineering at UKZN; and one Masters student registered for Environmental Engineering at UKZN. A student from NMMU visits CAB to undertake experimental work on algae for an MSc degree.

Previous students at the Centre completed both Masters and Doctoral degrees from DUT and UKZN, respectively. All research projects were based on algae biofuels. The Centre has been successful in producing biodiesel that may be best suited as aviation fuel (jet fuel). Papers published under the Centre for Algal Biotechnology since 2011 has been widely cited (over 382) and it’s h-index =9 (Google Scholar).

Partnerships of CAB

  • International: Prof. Fedrick Coulon. Cranfield University (UK)
  • National: Prof. Cristina Trois (Dean /HOD Engineering) Derek Stretch (Professor of Hydraulics & Environmental Fluid Mechanics School of Engineering, UKZN)
  • Prof Faizal Bux (Director: Centre for Water and Wastewater, DUT)
  • Dr Raj Laloo (Snr Scientist CSIR Biosciences)
  • Renzo Perissinotto (NRF Chair: Shallow water ecosystems) NMMU.

Future Perspectives

  • New Post Grad students (MSc Nature Conservation) MUT.
  • Third stream income for CAB/MUT is to produce algal biomass at pilot scale for commercialisation.
  • Two Post Doc positions per year would be required to keep the research and papers ongoing.
  • DST through TIA has committed funds to build an algae biofuel plant in KZN. A proposal from CAB was submitted to TIA in 2015.
  • CAB would be testing algal jet fuel on a RC model airplane in 2016.

Conclusion

MUT has great potential to improve its standing by improving its research outputs, and in turn sustaining the university. This will only happen if MUT invests in research and innovation.

We have engaged with Science Councils such as the South African Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Council to support our efforts. Our engagement with the ARC has resulted in MUT being able to use the experimental farm in Cedara, and the Department of Agriculture can now introduce undergraduate programmes. This is a big contribution by a research portfolio to a teaching portfolio.

RIE also has met with the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development and has produced a draft document as to how MUT will work together with DARD. DARD will be funding the initiatives and MUT will be providing expertise.

RIE is currently designing an agenda to meet with the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. The delegation will include MRC CEO and ARC Group Executive for Research and Innovation system to co-ordinate the MUT Research and Innovation support.

We will soon be embarking an approach to business to support Research and Innovation with the building a state of the art building for Research, Innovation, Technology Transfer, Commercialisation and Community Engagements. We are positive that with the support of our engagement departments, science councils, and industry, we can raise funds to further the education of our nation in the spheres of research and innovation.