The achievement habit: a wise approach

By Gofaone Motswagole

Achievement can be learned. It is a muscle, and once you learn how to flex it, you’ll be able to meet life’s challenges and fulfil y our goals. The brain is complex and is always working with our egos to sabotage our best intentions. But we can be mindful; we can create habits that make our lives better.

Disah Mpadi has currently completed his PhD in the cross-disciplinary field of Functional Nano-materials. His PhD research was titled, “Nano-structured LaFeO3 Based Photocathodes” done at the University of Bristol, UK. The research project was focused on the development, synthesis, and modification of p-type nano-structured  L a F e O 3 t h i n film photocathodes. This entails the harnessing of solar energy to generate solar/molecular fuels such as hydrogen. The nano-material was investigated using electrochemical (EC), photo electrochemical (PEC), and physical characterisation techniques. The effects of doping agents and preparation methods on the properties of LaF eO3 and their influence on the PEC water reduction performance were studied.

The research objective was to investigate light-induced water reduction reaction and the production of solar hydrogen on the nano-structured p-type semiconductor metal oxide photo electrode surface, as a renewable source of energy. However, similar research approaches and principles can be easily extended to other nano-materials with possible application in solar cells or photo catalysis. Another part of his PhD research work was concerned with the hydrothermal synthesis of p-type nano-structured transparent conducting oxide (TCO) materials (i.e. CuAlO2) featuring suitable band gap for solar energy conversion and its possible application as transparent contact in solar cells. Generally, the aim was to synthesise transparent conducting oxides in the Na no scale, which can then be the solution-processed to prepare thin films. The p-type conductivity or the electronic behaviour of these TCO thin films could be studied using electrochemical and photo electrochemical techniques.

Moreover, the development and research on renewable, low-cost, abundant, non-toxic, efficient, stable nano-material’s and renewable energy technologies is a crucial scientific challenge for the 21st century. Particularly this must meet the ever-increasing global energy demand with the aim to minimised detrimental effects on the environment due to other energy sources such as fossil fuels. This kind of research and development will contribute towards a clean and sustainable environment.

Dr Mpadi is currently working under the Department of Forensic & Chemical Sciences and as a Lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry. According to the visionary, the power of design thinking helps one to achieve goals they never thought possible.

Dr Mpadi received both his BSc. and MSc. degrees in Chemistry at the University of Botswana. He spent most of his time studying natural products chemistry, synthesis of small molecules, and carrying out susceptibility tests of these secondary metabolites and small molecules on human pathogens, primarily bacteria and fungi. He was also involved in collaborative research with Prof G. S. Singh from the University of Botswana, focusing on the development of new synthetic methods and strategies for beta-lactams, which exhibit significant antimicrobial activities against human pathogens. Some publications are stemming from this research work.

He joined BIUST in 2012 as an academic staff member before going abroad for the study of Functional Nano-material and Electrochemistry Group in 2015 and 2017, respectively. He rejoined the BIUST community at the beginning of this year and continued with his commitment. ‘‘Believe you are a doer and achiever and you’ll become one,’’ he said on an inspirational note. Currently, his research interests are on solar fuels (solar hydrogen production from water splitting), studies on photo electrochemical and photochemical solar energy conversion, photo catalysis; fabrication, characterisation, and development of new nano-structured semiconductor materials for solar energy conversion with possible applications for solar hydrogen production, photovoltaic, and photocatalysis.