College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

MSc Graduate’s Novel Battery Development Assists Search for Alternate Energy Sources

Mr Ndumiso Memela enjoys soccer as it keeps him grounded, motivated and gives him a fresh perspective on life. Memela’s other passion is science, which as a young schoolboy, he far preferred. ‘I would always question the scientific process behind how things appeared.’

Now he has graduated with an MSc degree and has produced a novel battery!

He was in Grade 11 when he decided he wanted to attend UKZN after visiting Howard College campus in Durban for a Science Expo. ‘The visit and the expo helped me make up my mind about which university to attend and what course to follow. I remember they gave us a project to make a small wind turbine operate with boiling water. I still have that project in my room – and it is still running well!’

After matriculating at the Dingeka Technical High School, Memela registered for a degree in Chemistry and Chemical Technology at UKZN which he completed, going on to do his honours and now his masters.

Memela said 2020 was his most challenging year of study as he had to get through it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Memela’s MSc thesis was based on formulating compatible battery elements (cathode/anode) using a computer programme to produce a battery model with a prolonged life span. ‘It will charge quicker, and take longer to discharge without any loss of efficiency. This will reduce pollution as the material will last longer. So now you will only have to buy a new wall clock battery once in two years or replace your car battery once in five to eight years,’ he said.

‘This battery model will also open up a new industry and create job opportunities for the manufacturing of the new material.’

He thanked his family for their support; his supervisor, Professor Naven Chetty; and his funders, the Indabuko Institute and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Memela says he plans to continue with his studies and do a PhD.

‘Ndumiso has paved the way for a novel battery development that will aid our search for alternate energy sources,’ said Chetty. ‘The low cost of his design will also appeal to poor communities we most need to assist.’

Words: Ntokozo Dladla

Photograph: Supplied