Sasol’s partnership saves UCT water

24 May 2019 - 09:15

Chantal Le Roux, Senior Technical Officer in the Catalysis Institute

In 2008, a partnership between Sasol and the University of Cape Town's Catalysis Institute yielded the invention of the Magnetometer, a device that adds significant value to research in a variety of fields including nano-technology.

The device is fully computer controlled and was the first of its kind in the world and was invented by Professors Michael Claeys and Eric van Steen of UCT and Jan van de Loosdrecht and Kobus Visagie of Sasol Technology.  Sasol and the Catalysis Institute have a longstanding collaboration in the field of catalysis research. In addition to the first Magnetometer which is used for the collaboration with Sasol, a second such device for student projects, funded mostly via a grant under the National Research Fund's National Nanotechnology Equipment Programme, was constructed and commissioned in 2013.

The Magnetometers can analyse ferromagnetic materials under actual operating conditions, including high temperature and pressure (900°C, 50 bar) with the ability to control gas and liquid flows through the material. This makes it an indispensable tool for advanced research and industrial catalytic process optimisation. It comes with a price – that it requires a lot of water daily to cool it down, and during the drought in Cape Town, this was very problematic.

Sasol came to the rescue and made a contribution of R450 000 towards the installation of a chiller, with Professor Claey's research income paying the balance. It has been well worth the investment as now instead of water been used from the City of Cape Town, the water is continually recycled through the chiller, saving the university a lot of water daily.