School of Chemistry & Physics

Securing a Quality Water Supply for the Future

Ms Pooja Phillip is a PhD candidate in the School of Chemistry and Physics and is part of the Catalysis Research Group.

She received her MSc cum laude in April 2021.

Phillip is currently in the process of publishing and has recently submitted her research papers. She has entered her research project titled, High Pressure Hydrogen Treatment of Solution Combustion Synthesised Titania for the Photocatalytic Treatment of Wastewater for the Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium (PRIS 2021) hosted by UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) from 9 – 10 December.

Driven by the water crisis in the modern world, particularly in Africa, the sustainability of clean water is a major concern for current and future generations. ‘This issue is more pronounced in South Africa due to poor rainfall conditions resulting in droughts across the country, leaving many rural areas without basic sanitation services. The 2017/2018 Cape Town water crisis made news headlines under the headline, “Day Zero”. The emergence of the novel Coronavirus in November 2019 further highlighted the need for access to clean water. I hope to make a small contribution to the greater challenge of wastewater management,’ said Phillip.

Her PhD research focuses on bandgap engineering of semiconductors for environmental remediation through photocatalytic applications. ‘It is crucial to develop a high efficiency and low-cost technique for the treatment and management of wastewater,’ said Phillip. She added that heterogeneous photocatalysis provides a replacement for energy intensive conventional treatments due to its capacity to use renewable and pollution-free solar energy.

Phillip is motivated by her desire to contribute to the greater scientific journey. ‘I am passionate about finding solutions to modern problems through scientific research and analysis. Research and the exploration of scientific ideas has always appealed to me.’ Her supervisors, Professor H B Friedrich and S Singh and Dr A S Mahomed, also motivate her to achieve her goals and produce high quality results.

Phillip presented her honours project entitled The Synthesis of Palladium Decorated Nitrogen-doped Carbon Nanotubes for the Reduction of 4-Nitrophenylferrocene to 4-Ferrocenylaniline at the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) Honours Symposium in 2018 and received 2nd place for oral presentation. She presented her MSc research titled Effect of Fuels in Solution Combustion Synthesis on Photocatalytic Activity of TiO2 at the Catalysis Society of South Africa (CATSA) annual catalysis conference in 2019 and was placed 2nd for poster presentation.

She is participating in PRIS 2021 because she believes her research on the photocatalytic treatment of wastewater will enhance collective knowledge on this subject and encourage further research. ‘Being a part of PRIS will also expose me to the work of my peers, and I hope to learn new techniques and applications as well as gain insight on various other research topics.’

To find out more about Philip’s research as well as other CAES researchers at PRIS 2021, visit

Words: Samantha Ngcongo

Photograph: Supplied