A passion for physics propels UFH student to greater heights

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Yolanda Mapantsela, a University of Fort Hare (UFH) Physics masters student has been named the Best Oral Presenter at the 67th annual conference of the South African Institute of Physics – a recognition that she has attributed to a passion for physics that was sparked in high school.

“I have always been fascinated by the science of nature and properties of matter and energy. I believe it’s a discipline that can bring probable solutions to current challenges and that is what I strive to achieve.”

The SAIP conference gathers together top physics professionals, academics, and students to discuss cutting-edge technology and leading research and reward up-and-coming young scientists.

The 25-year-old from Dutywa in the Eastern Cape holds a Bachelor of Science and an honours degree from UFH.

At the conference held at the University of Zululand, she presented her research study titled: Biogas digester, upgrading and bottling.” Under the supervision of Dr Patrick Makumba (Physics Senior Lecturer and HOD) and Dr Chipo Shonhiwa (PostDoc Fellow), the objective of the study is to design a solar-powered biogas digester and a biogas purification and bottling system to address the current load shedding crisis in South Africa.

“The biogas compressing and purification systems are one of the most potent tools for climatic change by preventing black carbon emission from biomass since biogas is used as cooking fuel and methane emissions from untreated cattle dung and biomass wastes are also avoided. An extra to the energy generation, biogas systems also provide bio-manure and are helpful in tackling the issues of waste management, providing pure environment and mitigating pollution in urban, industrial and rural areas.”

Although it was her first time presenting at a conference, Yolanda said she presented with confidence because she believed in her research and its objective “to bring real-life solutions to everyday challenges.”

“When I received the news that I won the Best Oral Presenter prize, I was elated. I am grateful to my supervisors, the Physics Department, the UFH Govan Mbeki Research and Development Centre, and my funder, the Technology Innovation Agency & Department of Science and Innovation.”

In addition to a certificate and a cash prize, Yolanda’s paper is currently under review to be published in the SAIP Journal.