The Chemistry Department has been active in community engagement over the last year – at least 25 events have taken place. These activities include lab visits, talks, demonstrations, chemistry shows etc. As evidence above it can be said that the Chemistry Department (including InnoVenton) has had a pretty engaged year and hope that the department can grow community engagement further during 2023. Activities are briefly outlined below.

Term 1 

  1. Pearson High School Science Club: Dr G. Rubidge performed two science shows and demonstrations for Pearson Science Club in conjunction with Dr Marilyn Gibbs who guides the science club as part of her teaching at Pearson High.
  2. Dr Rubidge presented a talk and demonstration of esters at Collegiate Girls High for grade 12 scholars.

 Term 2 

  1. Dr Rubidge presented a Chemistry talk and demonstration for the STEMI in action group at Missionvale Campus for grades 10, 11 and 12.
  2. Fanus Gerber – STEMI polymer talk & demonstrations on South Campus.
  3. Fanus Gerber – Alexander Road high polymer chemistry demonstrations and talk on chemistry courses offered at NMU 


Dr Rubidge demonstrated the principle of an internal combustion engine.

Term 3 

1. Prof Z Tshentu presented his Inaugural lecture: “Towards mineral beneficiation: from basic chemistry to applications”. The abstract is given below.


The role of mineral beneficiation in the survival, growth, development and sustainability of a developing economy cannot be overstated. Our development as a human species has always been involvedly linked with the use of mineral resources from the stone, bronze and iron ages through the early modern eras to the present. In the current modern era, characterized by highly technological equipment, fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and new energy technologies, the role of mineral beneficiation has been elevated. Precious metals find use in the fine chemicals and petrochemicals industry, fuel cells, electrical and electronic products, medical and dentistry applications, jewellery, autocatalysts, and glass and ceramics. The markets for precious metals keep growing and the supply does not meet demand. The development of methods for recovery of metal value from feeds of mineral ore solutions, solutions of spent secondary resources and from mining wastewaters remains of great importance. Further beneficiation strategies for utilization of mineral products in other “value-added” applications are also important for the growth of the mineral markets. The usage of platinum, palladium and rhodium in the autocatalyst industry has grown significantly and this has further elevated the importance of platinum group metals (PGMs), but other areas of application of the strategic metals need to be harnessed. The four stages of beneficiation, namely, primary, secondary, tertiary and final stage, provide an opportunity to beneficiate to greater value for domestic or export use. Our own research work is engaged in several of these stages, from hydrometallurgical recovery of base metals and platinum group metals from feeds of primary mining and solutions of waste secondary resources such as spent catalytic converters and e-waste to the use of metals in “value added” products such as metal-based catalysts for the fuel industry. Examples of “value added” products include rhodium as a promoter in molybdenum sulfide as a catalyst for hydrodesulfurization of fuel oil, vanadium as a catalyst in oxidative desulfurization of fuel oil, vanadium and palladium as therapeutic agents for diabetes and cancer, respectively. Current and future work involves (i) the development of metal-selective scavengers to recover lost metal value in mining wastewaters, and (ii) the design of metal-based catalytic materials for refinement of bio-based oils to biofuel as well as for production of green LPG through hydroprocessing. Our work centres around both basic and applied chemistry towards mineral beneficiation and with a bias towards greener production.

Prof Tshentu discussing mineral beneficiation during his inaugural lecture


2. National Science Week (Theme: Application of basic sciences for sustainable development) – four chemistry lab tours were conducted in August in building 13 on South Campus:

Prof Ferg Ernst arranged a lab visit for scholars to uYilo.

Scholars learned about electric vehicles on their uYilo visit


Scholars being informed about uYilo charging stations.


Prof Ferg briefs scholars about their vist to uYilo.


Chemistry Demonstrations at Ocean Sciences Campus:

Dr Rubidge performed chemistry demonstrations with an environmental chemistry and protection theme and Prof Mhlanga performed green flocculation of wastewaters. The reach at this specific event was limited to about 25 scholars likely due to the rather late advertisement of the event.

Dr Rubidge giving a pre-demonstration talk


Prof Mhlanga explains to learners how wastewater treatment plants operate


During the National Science Week the South Africa Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) organised visitors for three demonstrations run by Dr Rubidge and Prof Mhlanga which took place on the Ocean Science Campus. A big thanks to SAEON emplyees Nozopiwo Hambaze and Tarryn Swartbooi for assisting and organising laboratory tours on the Ocean Science Campus. Dr Rubidge performed Chemistry demonstrations focussed on environmental issues and protection to show how basic sciences are used in environmental studies and for environmental protection and Prof Mhlanga performed green flocculation of wastewaters using plant-based flocculants. The reach on these events was approximately ~120 scholars per event.


Eskom Expo at Grey Junior School

At this event two environmental chemistry shows were presented by Dr Rubidge with smaller than pre-covid attendance. Attendance was 50-80 scholars per event. It is anticipated that this year numbers will rise again.

The Juniors set up their projects for evaluation in the Grey Junior Hall. Dr Rubidge’s science demo awaits presentation in the foreground


Aspiring scientists carry out the test for lead using iodide with a positive yellow result


Scholars testing for carbon dioxide after combining citric acid and sodium bicarbonate


Junior scholars prepare to test for polyphenols in water


National Career & Science Expo for grade 11 and 12 learners in May at Graaff-Reinet Postdoc, Dr M.  Phiri & Analytical Chemistry Diploma student, Ms A Kuluta, joined the Science Faculty on this outreach where they ran a chemistry stall and performed chemistry demonstrations.

National Career & Science Expo in May at Ngcobo. Dr M. Phiri  and in-service trainee Miss A. Kuluta reached about 150 - 200 learners with this outreach event.


Dr Phiri performs a flame test to show learners how to identify elements


Mandela School of Science and Technology A career expo for grade 11 and 12 learners held at Mveso. The event reached about 400-500 learners over two days.

Grade 11 and 12 learners scholars awaiting a talk before visiting stalls for specific career related activities including Chemistry at Mveso


Dr Phiri discussing the blue bottle experiment


3. Dr G Rubidge presented a chemistry show at SCIFEST in Makanda(Grahamstown)

Term 4:

1. Formal videoing of chemistry activities/reactions on 20 September – first trial filming of Science for Society in the North Campus laboratory in conjunction with Public Relations student, Amy Howley and Ryan Pillay, the Deputy Director of Arts and Culture. The final product is not yet complete, we hope to see it in the next few months.


2. M & M Tutoring Academy visit – Former Analytical Chemistry student, Mr Mzukisi Mdingi brought a group scholars to visit the North Campus lab for a series of experiments with Dr Rubidge. A presenter from Madibaz Radio interviewed Dr Rubidge on the visit.  Click here to access the interview (11 minutes).


A few selected videos(with links) from chemistry teaser event at the Eskom Expo for Juniors 2022:

Fluorescence for the young ones

Atomic emission – introducing the flame test

A video from chemistry teaser event at the Eskom Expo for Juniors 2022:

Combustion of cellulose nitrate


Dr Nemiah Latolla won the International FameLab Science Communication competition in November. He had research ways to treat diabetes using natural remedies. Click here and scroll down to page 10 to read more on the competition.

Dr Nemiah Latolla ready for his talk at the International FameLab Science Communication Competition


One could safely say that in 2022 the Chemistry Department made a strong comeback in engagement. This was strongly evident at the departmental strategic breakaway held in early December of 2022. Next let us turn to 2023.