The Applied Chemistry Department focus on the development of chemical production processes. This work is funded under government programmes, external clients or government departments such as DOE, DST and DTI. These projects are taken internally up to TRL4 (Integrated process demonstration on a laboratory scale) and AC personnel assists and consults on the higher technology readiness levels to take it through to production. Technical support is provided to existing plants. Management and research within the department is ISO 9001:2015 accredited.
Research within the department centres around uranium, plasma and fluorine technology. A number of programmes supporting these and related focus areas are managed. Uranium chemistry forms an important base for various research products in the nuclear fuel cycle from ore extraction to post reactor waste. Plasma technology is used in a range of processes from chemical modification, material spheroidization to waste reduction. As part of plasma technology development, several application areas have been researched. These include mineral beneficiation (Zircon sand and CaF2), pigment manufacturing (Titanium and Zirconium pigments), nanoparticle manufacturing (SiO2, Al2O3, TiO2 and B4C), specialized chemical production (Fluorocarbons such as CF4, C2F4, C3F6), plasma spheroidisation (Ti, Fe, precious metals) and nuclear and non-nuclear waste gasification and waste-to-energy. Several plasma and high temperature setups are available for experimental and prototyping research and development.
Fluorine chemistry expertise is applied to develop novel fluorochemical production processes and in the field of energy storage. The research programs is supported by various material characterisation capabilities which include a Light Microscopy and Electron Microscopy facility as well as various powder characterization capabilities which include surface area and pore structure by gas adsorption (BET), pore structure by Mercury Intrusion Porosimetry (MIP), density determination by He-gas pycnometry and particle size distribution (PSD).
Support is given to Necsa subsidiaries Pelchem (fluorochemicals) and NTP (radioisotopes). The plasma group does contract research for external clients on various fronts. This includes research on spheroidisation, gasification of different types of waste, feasibility studies, concept-designs and specification development.
The department hosts postgraduate students under various programs, e.g. the Professional Development program (PDP) of the NRF. Support is also given to postgraduate training at universities as the Human Capital Development component of various DST sponsored programmes (e.g. AMI). Additionally in-service training is provided to new staff in highly specialised technologies such as fluorine chemistry, nuclear waste treatment and plasma technology. On several occasions members of the plasma team lectured students at post graduate and conference workshops
We have different laboratories licensed under the NNR to be used for various radiation related projects. A number of plasma systems are available in-house. Within the department we have laboratories capable of handling up to 100% high pressure fluorine gas and different concentration of hydrogen fluoride acid.
A large number of in-house analytical instrumentation is used for research purposes. These include various thermal analysis, spectroscopy, chromatography, radionuclide measurement and physical characterization equipment.
Applied Chemistry actively participates in a number of DST sponsored development programmes like: AMI, FEI, Energy Storage, etc., and also perform contract research for international organizations such as the National Nuclear Security Administration of the USA. The plasma group also developed the first of a kind in SA Plasma Waste to Energy system able to convert wood chip waste into electricity.