Change the world


The National Intellectual Property Management Office of the Department of Science and Technology has named Professor Russell Phillips of Mechanical Engineering and the late Prof Ben Zeelie of InnoVenton (posthumously) as the Top Intellectual Property Creators for Nelson Mandela University from 2011 to 2018.

This national award is in recognition of their passion for research with practical applications resulting in innovation to the benefit of society.

In addition, the University’s Office of Technology Transfer will receive a monetary contribution of R605 000 to assist in driving the technologies from IP creation to innovation as a product, process or service with impact.

Science and Technology Minister Ms Mmakoloko Kubyi-Ngubane handed over the award at a function in Pretoria on 28 March.

Prof Phillips’ research and innovation focuses on unique ways of harvesting and storing renewable energy.

These include storage of concentrated solar heat in rocks and the subsequent conversion of that heat to electricity when required, as well as various novel small wind turbine innovations aimed at improved viability of such devices.

The “Twerly” off-grid street light, WI-FI hotspot and surveillance camera was also invented by Prof Phillips.

Prof Ben Zeelie was the primary founder of InnoVenton, the Institute for Chemical Technology and the Downstream Chemical Technology station which hosts the Mini-Scale Technology Demonstration Facility for the DST sponsored Microalgae to Energy project.

A total of 5.5 tonnes of Coalgae® has been manufactured from algae cultivated in the photo-bioreactors housed in a greenhouse. Coalgae is made from coal fines from coalmine dumps and processed with microalgae to produce a new super solid fuel.

This is believed to be the longest, uninterrupted cultivation campaign in the world.

The facility continues to produce microalgae to make, in addition to Coalgae, algae-based biofertilizers, soil conditioners, protein aquafeeds and low smoke household fuel.

Small scale pyrolysis/gasification of the Coalgae to produce bio-crude oil, has been distilled into various fractions for analysis and testing.

Close to 45 patents on coal fine purification, microalgae cultivation, process equipment and Coalgae were either granted, filed or registered between 2010 and 2016 in numerous countries around the world – all work that Prof Zeelie initiated.

Since his untimely passing in 2017, InnoVenton continues to build on his work, focusing on beneficiation of coal, renewable and sustainable energy, leveraging microalgae as a bioresource for sustainable energy and an alternative protein source. 

DST continues to support InnoVenton with a focus on the development of transport fuels from microalgae composites.

Contact information
Prof Russell Phillips
Tel: 27 41 504 3609