College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Tackling Water Contamination

Mr Mthokozisi Mnguni has entered his research project entitled: Preparation of Hollow Carbon Nanospheres: Controlling the Internal Diameter and Porosity, for the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021) to be hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) from 9 to 10 December.

The theme of PRIS 2021, Using Science to Solve Everyday Problems motivated Mnguni to sign up for the symposium. ‘I felt the need to share this fascinating research which uses nanotechnology to solve the problem of emerging contaminants in our water systems,’ he said.

Currently enrolled for a PhD at UKZN, Mnguni is working in the field of material science and analytical chemistry. He graduated with his MSc cum laude and completed a PhD Teacher Training Programme Levels 1 and 2 hosted by the CAES. Mnguni participated in the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) Postgraduate Colloquium 2021 and won first prize for his poster presentation.

His research focuses on the synthesis of hollow carbon nanospheres as a novel solid-phase extraction (SPE) packing material for the preconcentration of emerging contaminants from water. It is inspired by his awareness of the effects of pharmaceuticals and compounds derived from personal care products. These compounds contaminate water systems, with negative effects on human health, including endocrine disruptors and reproductive problems.

Mnguni’s research involves determining their concentration by preconcentration by SPE. ‘Some of the commercially available SPE packing materials have low performance levels. I saw an opportunity to help eradicate some of the drawbacks by synthesising hollow carbon nanospheres and utilising them as novel SPE packing material to improve extraction efficiency and the detection of emerging contaminants in our water systems.’

He draws his strength and motivation from his late mother. ‘She was the epitome of perseverance. I dedicate all my projects to her so that in challenging times I can regain strength by reflecting on her life.’

He looks forward to engaging with the audience, sharing his research and ‘learning what my colleagues are doing and how their work will help in solving problems in our community.’

To find out more about Mnguni’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied