October 2015
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Global science engagement project
National Science Week activities
Science breaks barriers
Hydrogen fuel cell technology
Science that no classroom can teach
SAASTA empowers community
New CEO takes over reins at NRF
Hydrogen awareness website
Work shadowing at SAIAB
Field school for students
Meet Dr Zikhona Tetana
Improving technology education
Weather stations in schools
Street science
Space science appreciation
International Year of Light
Monitoring river health
Sasol Techno X prizes
In the news
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It's a fact!

Rural region gains hydrogen fuel cell technology education

  The Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor, with Cofimvaba learners and Mr Mandla Makupula, MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape, at the official launch of the hydrogen and fuel cell plant
  Schools in the rural Cofimvaba region have each received a set of practical demonstration kits of hydrogen fuel cell technology for ongoing education
  A learner experiments with one of the kits
The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), together with its partners, has successfully rolled out an educational programme at 26 schools in the Eastern Cape highlighting the wonders of hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

The schools, located in the rural Cofimvaba region, have each been provided with a set of practical demonstration kits of the technology for ongoing education.

'Hydrogen is the future'

Programme Co-ordinator of the Hydrogen South Africa Public Awareness, Demonstration and Education Platform (HySA PADEP), Mthuthuzeli Zamxaka, says it is imperative that learners and educators are taught about hydrogen and fuel cell technology as it is the future.

"For instance, we do not have oil in the country and the price of petrol is going up all the time – we can use hydrogen to fuel our cars, as well as generate electricity, and it all comes from various readily available hydrogen sources including water and natural gas," Zamxaka says.

"Hydrogen is an energy carrier that stores and delivers energy in a usable form. Thus using hydrogen as an energy carrier could potentially reduce the country's dependence on importation of oil from other countries and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

"Hydrogen is very powerful – it can power rockets. In fact, it is so powerful it can be used to make hydrogen bombs. That's why people are scared of it.

"In terms of generating electricity, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies (HFCT) is applied, which uses both hydrogen and fuel cells to generate electricity. A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy of fuel, hydrogen, natural gas and methanol, among others, and an oxidant (air or oxygen) into electricity.

"A fuel cell operates like a battery. But unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. It produces electricity and heat as long as fuel and an oxidiser are supplied."

Hydrogen fuel cell technology brings power to schools

Already as it were, platinum-based fuel cells have been installed at three schools in Cofimvaba. The standby electricity they produce is used to support basic energy requirements including charging stations for tablets, fax machines and computers.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), together with its private sector companies – Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), Clean Energy and Air Products – sponsored three platinum-based systems at the three schools.

Amplats paid for the installation and is responsible for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the fuel cells. Air Products supplied the hydrogen fuel requirements, while Clean Energy commissioned the fuel cells to bring standby power to the three schools.

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor has commended the Cofimvaba initiative as a demonstration that collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential for improving living conditions in society. The minister was speaking at the official launch of the hydrogen and fuel cell plant on 12 June 2015.

HySA PADEP is a Department of Science and Technology (DST) programme housed at SAASTA. "One of the key mandates of HySA PADEP is to service the three HySA centres of competence – HySA Catalysis, HySA Systems and HySA Infrastructure," Zamxaka says.

Staff Writer, SAASTA