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Thursday, 13 May 2021

Master’s student achieves publication in top electrochemistry journal

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ENGINEERING: Chemical Engineering Master’s student, Ariel Ndala’s research work earns him a publication space in one of the top electrochemistry journals. MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ENGINEERING: Chemical Engineering Master’s student, Ariel Ndala’s research work earns him a publication space in one of the top electrochemistry journals.

Chemical Engineering Master’s student, Ariel Ndala’s research work on Nitrogen doping has been accepted and is very close to publication online in one of the top electrochemistry journals, Electrochimica Acta.

Electrochimica Acta is an official peer-reviewed scientific journal of the International Society of Electrochemistry, covering all aspects of electrochemistry. The Democratic Republic of Congo national’s research topic was: Amperometric detection of nitrite using cobalt oxide thin film. The primary focus was to develop a new soft chemical route for the simultaneous nitrogen doping and surface chemical functionalisation of thin films. The second-born of five children, Ariel explains that Nitrogen doping in metal oxides has been proven by several researchers to improve electronic properties via various doping techniques, such as thermal treatment, hard chemical route and plasma treatment.

Apart from Nitrogen doping, surface chemical functionalisation of metal oxides has also been reported to tune their electronic properties, he says. “To achieve this, I treated a cobalt oxide thin film with an amino acid and showed that the amino acid partially dissociates to provide necessary nitrogen for doping in the metal oxide lattice structure while the undissociated amino acid molecules chemically functionalise the metal oxide surface.”

Ariel enrolled for a National Diploma in Chemical Engineering at CPUT in 2015 and in 2017 he graduated cum laude. He further enrolled for a BTech in Chemical Engineering which he completed in the same year, and this qualified him to do a full-research Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering in 2019.  The calm and patient student is poised to graduate in the December graduation ceremony.

His supervisor, Dr Mahabubur Chowdhury says: “The potential application is huge as one can develop films and treat it by various amino acids to engineer the material for a specific application. He showed that the amino acid-treated thin film had ultrafast nitrite sensing capability and very wide linear range.”

Chowdhury adds that it was also very selective towards nitrite even in the presence of five times higher counter interference. “He is a brilliant chap who is disciplined and can think out of the box, which is an essential skill in postgraduate students.”

Reflecting on his journey which comprises of hard work, discipline, and consistency, Ariel says: “I feel very excited and motivated about this achievement as I am waiting for it to be published within a week or two in Electrochimica Acta.”

Ariel, adds that he is “just a human being striving to become a better version of himself”. He is also pursuing music as his hobby, learning music theory, and practicing it on a trumpet. The young man who appreciates the support from his parents aspires to make a positive impact on his community. “I would say their [parents] support has been invaluable and unfailing. My achievement is also theirs... All the rewards will mean nothing if I am not able to contribute to the well-being of the community I am [coming] from. All I can give as advice is ‘the sky is the limit’. Everything is possible here on earth. It might not be easy, but it is possible. Hard work works.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce