The aim is to establish South Africa as one of the few nations that export high-value products into the growing international hydrogen and fuel cells markets. As custodian of some 80% of the world's Pt and Rh reserves, South Africa's future role is no longer exclusively as the supplier of raw materials but as a manufacturer of value-added components. This is one important step in the transformation from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy.
HySA/Catalysis, co-hosted by the University of Cape Town and Mintek, is one of three Centres of Competence tasked with the establishment of a technical and scientific base for distinctly South African contributions to the global hydrogen and fuel cell technology know-how. Its mandate includes the components in the early part of the value chain, catalysts and catalytic devices.
Whilst there has been much speculation about the emergence of a ‘Hydrogen Economy’, there is still little evidence of the supply of hydrogen being introduced commercially to any great extent (limited largely by existing technology constraints). However, hydrogen in the form of hydrocarbon fuels is widely distributed and readily available as a source for the interim acceptance and off-take of fuel cell technology. Moreover, hydrocarbon fuels and specifically LPG is tried and tested, safe, and easy to liquefy and transport. The predominate driver for the use of PGM catalysts in the various stages of a fuel processor relates to the need for durability (oxidation resistance and catalyst deactivation) and high catalytic activity. Research in this area relates to hydrogen generation from hydrocarbon fuels, both catalysts and devices (reactors) across the full fuel processor train. The development of micro-reformers and novel integrated fuel processor systems is central to advancing local know-how that can ultimately be translated into a local manufacturing capability for fuel cell systems and components.
One of HySA’s mandates is to enable South Africans to participate in the commercialization of fuel cell technologies. The goal is to manufacture PGM containing components in South Africa (SA), containing South African technology and deliver to global markets. HySA/Catalysis’ approach to enter the fuel cell space is to bring international leadership from industry to lead the business and technology development activities, and to develop the value chain in South Africa. We are also working with international partners that have fuel cell technology already developed to enable South Africa to leap-frog into the existing global state-of-the-art of fuel cells, followed by integration of SA-technology into these products. The Portable Power Systems programme (Key Programme 2) represents one of HySA’s five R&D programmes. The main goal is to deliver portable power systems in the 50 W to 5 kW power range.