Rand Water Chair in Water Utilisation
Primary discipline: Chemical Engineering (2016 - 2018)
Prof Maurice Onyango is the Rand Water Research Chair in Water Utilisation at the Department of Chemical Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment. The Chair was awarded to the university by the Rand Water. This is an impressive achievement, not only for Prof Onyango, but for TUT as well, being the University of Technology awarded with this Research Chair. He is an NRF C1 rated researcher.
Prof Maurice Onyango, originally from Kenya, always had a personal, and later, a professional interest in water; clearly reflecting in his research over the last 17 years.
In 2000, Prof Onyango started with research to improve the quality of water which at the end contributes towards improving the lives of people. One of the first projects was to reengineer the properties of zeolite to enhance its ability to remove health hazardous contaminants from water. For the first time he showed that charge-reversed zeolite is effective adsorbent for anions in water. Following this research, Prof Onyango mainly focused on the improvement and development of new adsorption media (surface-tailored, superparamagnetic and nanostructured) with tailored properties for treating drinking water and industrial waste streams. This involved developing facile synthesis routes that are environmentally friendly, and applying newly developed materials in bench scale water/wastewater treatment systems.
His current work deals with process development for nanomaterials production, design and fabrication of nanodevices for water treatment, developing integrated systems for managing “difficult-to- treat” wastes such as acid mine drainage, producing membranes from biomaterials, and heavy metals and emerging contaminants removal from water.
Prof Onyango obtained his Honours (first class) degree in Chemical and Process Engineering from Moi University in Kenya, Master of Science (with distinction) degree in Environmental Science and Technology from Unesco-IHE-Delft in the Netherlands and Doctor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering in 2006 from Nagoya University, Japan. He thereafter spent one year as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Process Engineering, University of Stellenbosch.
His work has been published in several leading national and international journals. So far, 78 peer refereed journal publications have been obtained, up to 60 papers have been read at national and international conferences and 1 patent has been granted. Furthermore three book chapters have been written.
Numerous awards, bursaries, fellowships and scholarships are frequently bestowed upon him in recognition for the work he is doing. He was the recipient of Vice Chancellor Researcher of the Year 2015 award (male category).
His field of expertise and research specialisation is Natural Sciences and Engineering with a focus on:
The challenges the water industry faces as a result of population growth, climate change, deterioration of water quality and quantity and competing demands require novel innovative highly advanced technologies. It is for this reason that his research has mainly focused on nanotechnology for water treatment. Nanotechnology is expected to completely change the water treatment as it is known today and to reach new frontiers through accelerated technology development.