Prof Sampson Mamphweli

UNIVEN Alumnus Professor Sampson Mamphweli has been appointed to the position of Head of the Energy Secretariat in the office of the Chief Executive Officer at the South African National Energy Development Institute under the Department of Science and Innovation(DSI) with effect from 01 January 2023. The Department of Science and Innovation created an Energy Secretariat as an administrative office that carries out substantive and administrative work for the South African National Energy Development Institute(SANEDI).

SANEDI, as an institute drives, monitors, conducts and promotes energy research and development, and also focuses on developing clean energy and resource‐efficient solutions. Prof. Mamphweli, as the administrative head of the Energy Secretariat, will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of energy policy and four flagship programmes: Energy Storage, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Hub and Spokes Programme, Coal CO2 to X programme (carbon capture and utilization), and Hydrogen South Africa, popularly known as HySA. Moreover, Prof. Mamphweli, in his capacity as the Head of the Energy Secretariat, will in partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Energy‐Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA), coordinate the training of graduates from TVET colleges and universities of technology with a focus on fuel cells, batteries and renewable energy technologies.

“It has been a long research journey since I joined SANPARKS as a Research Field Assistant after graduating with a Bachelor of Environmental Sciences degree when I was completing my Hours degree from the University of Venda. Later I joined University of Cape Town(UCT) briefly as a Research Technician while conducting my Masters at the University of Venda, from which I graduated with distinction in 2004. Then I joined the University of Fort Hare (UFH) as an Eskom Research Fellow while conducting my PhD in Physics focusing on biomass gasification. I was promoted to Senior Researcher and later Associate Professor at UFH before being head‐hunted by Stellenbosch University(SU) for the position of Professor in Process Engineering and Director at the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies. I have since held three positions at SU: Professor, Director of CRSES and Co‐Director of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence (CoE) which was started with my assistance in 2018. Under my leadership and with the support from CRSES staff, the Deputy Vice‐Chancellor, Prof Eugene Cloete, the Dean and the Vice Dean as well as other colleagues within the Faculty of Engineering at the University, CRSES has grown in terms of cash flow, Human Resources, Innovation, students and engineering projects. I bow my head to our collaborators in the DSI Renewable and Sustainable Energy Hub and spokes programme that I was leading, the Eskom chair in Power System studies, ARUA CoE, Scatec Chair, Solar Thermal Research Group, the Bioenergy Research Group, Faunhofer Innovation platform and individual researchers who worked so well with me for the past six years.”

Prof. Mamphweli was born in Tshivhulana village under the Tshimbupfe Traditional Council where he attended Tshivhulana Primary and Mugoidwa Secondary schools. He later moved to Lwenzhe High school where he matriculated in 1997. Due to his poor socio‐economic family background, he failed to enrol for the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery(MBCHB) at MEDUNSA, where he was first admitted to study after matriculation. It was not a dream shattered for Mamphweli despite his passion for Physics that he turned to his second choice of Bachelor of Environmental Science which he studied at the University of Venda.He completed his Bachelor of Environmental Sciences in the year 2000. In the same institution, Mamphweli completed Honours and Masters in Environmental Sciences‐Cum Laude in 2001 and 2003 respectively.

UNIVEN Alumni News had an extensive interview about his greatest achievements, current occupation and interest in the field.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements‐personal, academic and professional?

I have several personal achievements in the academic and Energy fields in general. During my PhD studies, I developed a low‐cost online gas analyzer system for analyzing syngas coming from biomass gasifiers. This system was later adopted by many researchers in the field around the world because it was a cheaper but
reliable system. I also produced a pysclone dust collector system that was very efficient in fine particles and dust collection in biomass gasifiers. This system relied on electrostatics to make additional forces inside the psyclone and improved collection efficiency. As part of supervising Masters and PhD students, I produced a Psyclone heat Exchanger system that captured waste heat from the bosy of the Psyclone dust collector. I have supervised and co‐supervised more than 28 Masters and PhD students to completion. I have published and presented nearly 100 research articles in the field of bioenergy, solar energy and energy policy which also include four book chapters. This resulted in me securing more than 2000 citations (google scholar). In addition to the latter, I have managed national and international research programmes that resulted in the graduation of more than 200 Masters and PhD Students in the field of Science and Engineering. I have led the coordination of research activities in the energy field that led to the growth of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies to the extent that we ended up hosting various Centres of Excellence. My other impact is on community projects. I have implemented several community projects using research products such as biogas digesters and solar energy systems in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Provinces. These projects included the training of TVET College graduates, Masters and PhD Students in Science, Engineering and Technology while benefitting communities directly.

What is your current occupation and how did you become interested in the field?

I am currently a Professor in the Department of Process Engineering and Director at the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies. I also sit on various advisory committees, including the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Energy centre’s Advisory Committee, the SASOL Advisory Council on
Energy, and the Centre for Sustainability Transition at Stellenbosch University. As a Director, I also sit in the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies. I am also part of the team involved in data modelling under the Presidential Energy Crisis committee, responsible for coordinating various data modelling
research to establish the impact of the intervention measures announced by the President to deal with the current load‐shedding crisis. I am also part of the team dealing with the operationalization of South Africa’s Hydrogen Society Roadmap under the National Department of Science and Innovation, as appointed by the Minister.

I developed an interest in energy and renewable energy in particular way back in the year 2000 when I conducted a mini‐project on the impact of fuelwood collection along the Luvuvhu river in the Vuwani area. I joined the University of Fort Hare to conduct research on bioenergy after coming across their
advertisement about the Research fellow in bioenergy. I had to read a lot on the energy side of things, especially the Physics parts that had to do with thermodynamics and electrostatics, for me to make a valuable contribution in the field. These are fields that I have loved since they were introduced to me at high school level. I will be taking up the role of the Head of Energy Secretariat at SANEDI from 01 January 2023. Stellenbosch University will still appoint me as an Extraordinary Professor. I also have an appointment with the Durban University of Technology as an Honorary Research Professor.

Issued by: Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication

University of Venda
Tel: 015 962 8338
Date: 12 January 2023

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