NRF-Nuffic Doctoral Fellowship for Theoretical Chemist Bryan P. Moloto

Bryan P Moloto has been awarded an NRF-Nuffic split-site doctoral fellowship for a joint research project between the groups of Professor Matthias Bickelhaupt of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Professor Catharine Esterhuysen on Stellenbosch University.

01/28/2019 | 1:08 PM

The NRF is the national science financier of South Africa. Together with Nuffic, the Dutch organization for internationalization in education, the NRF has awarded six PhD scholarships, one of which is for theoretical chemist Moloto. Moloto hails from a village in the Limpopo province of South Africa, and holds an MSc in Chemistry from North West University.

This scholarship allows young scientists to do doctoral research, as part of a special program between the Netherlands and South Africa, to give South African scientists the opportunity to gain international work and research experience. The SAVUSA team (South Africa - VU - Strategic Alliances) mediates between NESO South Africa, the NRF and VU promoters to use the best opportunities for doctoral scholarships for South African students.

More efficient catalysts for utilizing solar energy
Moloto will work on his doctoral research at VU University Amsterdam for four times, three months during the next four years. Moloto’s research project aims to design more efficient catalysts for utilizing solar energy for the production of hydrogen for fuel cells. This process relies on the use of catalysts to obtain optimum efficiency for the splitting of HX (where X is Cl or Br) to yield hydrogen. Moloto will study the role that varying the chemical formulation of catalytically relevant gold compounds plays in improving the efficiency of the reductive elimination of the X2 from the catalyst.

Moloto will be aided in this endeavour by Professor Bickelhaupt, whose research deals with developing chemical theories and methods for rationally designing molecules, nanostructures and materials as well as chemical processes toward these compounds, based on quantum mechanics and computer simulations. The other PhD supervisor, Professor Esterhuysen, focuses on the analysis of weak non-covalent interactions between molecules and ions in the crystalline solid state, in order to understand their origin and to eventually harness them in the design of novel materials with interesting properties.