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Lack of clean water motivated graduate

- NOMONDE ZONDI Nomonde.zondi@inl.co.za

RURAL beginnings motivated graduate Lungile Hadebe to make safe drinking water a reality for everyone.

Hadebe, from the Dannhauser/ Newcastle area, received a Master’s in chemistry cum laude, following her research into reclaiming potable water from brackish water using an innovative technology together with discarded coffee grounds.

Hadebe said having grown up lacking clean water and electricit­y, she was motivated to pursue her studies and contribute to her country and the world at large.

“My biggest accomplish­ment was to show that it is possible for a rural child from a disadvanta­ged background to excel at an internatio­nal level, and receiving my Master’s cum laude is validation,” said Hadebe.

Hadebe utilised Capacitive Deionisati­on Technology (CDI) for water purificati­on, which removes salt ions or charged species from aqueous solutions using two oppositely charged electrodes. The performanc­e of CDI relies on the structural and textural characteri­stics of the electrode materials – usually expensive and involving complicate­d synthesis methods.

Hadebe said she used bio-waste in the form of easily accessible and abundant waste coffee grounds to serve as the electrode material. The prepared carbon electrode was characteri­sed using different techniques to investigat­e the properties of the material, and demonstrat­ed its potential to be

used in the CDI technology to replace expensive, non-renewable electrode materials.

In addition to addressing the scarcity of safe drinking water – Hadebe says that only 0.26% of the Earth’s 2.5% fresh-water resources are suitable for human consumptio­n, with South Africa’s rural areas particular­ly afflicted by dependence on unsuitable groundwate­r sources – she also hopes it will promote the circular economy and the use of waste as a resource.

“CDI technology is convenient to

utilise in rural areas for the reclamatio­n of drinkable water since it requires less energy,” she said.

Her interest in chemistry was sparked when she realised that the discipline could be seen in soil’s interactio­n with water, fertiliser and seed to yield a crop. “If everything has an element of chemistry, then chemistry can be used to meet basic human needs such as food, health, clean water, air and soil,” she said.

She thanked her supervisor, Dr Bhekumuzi Gumbi, not only for his supervisor­y support but also for his coffee consumptio­n that furnished her with the experiment­al materials she needed.

She also thanked her industrial supervisor, Dr Zamani Cele of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and her funders, the Water Research Commission, the National Research Foundation Thuthuka grant awards, and Greenmatte­r. She also credited her laboratory colleagues, friends, and family for their consistent support.

 ?? ?? LUNGILE Hadebe graduated with a Master’s in chemistry cum laude.
LUNGILE Hadebe graduated with a Master’s in chemistry cum laude.

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