South Africa's Department of Science and Technology is to partner with Impala Platinum (Implats) to use and build local skills in the development of hydrogen and fuel cell products, the department announced on Wednesday.
The collaboration with the world's second-largest platinum producer is intended to attain some of the objectives of the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Strategy (HySA Strategy), which was established in 2008.
Implats will initially co-fund a niche project in the portfolio of HySA Systems to the value of R6-million, over a three-year cycle.
The project involves using South African raw materials to explore novel on-board hydrogen storage devices to be used for utility vehicles such as forklifts that will be tested in the Implats environment.
Stimulating job creation and economic growth
Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said the department hoped its partnership with Implats would eventually lead to job creation and stimulate economic growth.
With the necessary steps being taken to build up hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure, it was essential to begin developing a supply chain of businesses which could generate jobs and growth in these new technologies, said lead investigator and Director of HySA Systems, Bruno Pollet.
"Hydrogen-powered utility vehicles will help to create new working partnerships and bring about a sense of cohesion among those already working in the industry," Pollet said.
Implats chief executive officer Terence Goodlace said that long-term global growth could be sustained only on the foundations of resource availability and technological evolution, and that precious metals would be particularly valuable as growth patterns shifted.
Implats recognised that beneficiation as a mechanism for generating additional value from a national resource would be increasingly important, Goodlace added.
Penetrating the global fuel cell market
The Department of Science and Technology has established three centres of competence under its HySA Strategy, which are hosted by some of the country's leading universities and science councils.
These centres of competence are hosted by the University of the Western Cape, co- hosted by the University of Cape Town and analytical chemistry laboratory Mintek, and co-hosted by North West University and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The HySA centres of competence have made progress in securing partnerships with the international and local private sectors, which will enable HySA to penetrate the global fuel cell market, the department said.
HySA Systems, one of the centres of competence, is based at the University of the Western Cape, and is engaged in systems integration and technology validation.