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Prof Sue Harrison

Director, Future Water.

Sue Harrison is director of both Future Water, UCT’s interdisciplinary water institute and of the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research at UCT.  She holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Cambridge University and undergraduate degrees from UCT.  Following a short period in industry (AECI Ltd), Sue has been on the academic staff of UCT’s Chemical Engineering department for over 25 years.  She is a Fellow of the South African Academy of Engineers and holds the national SARChI chair in Bioprocess Engineering.

Sue’s research experience is centred on bioprocess, hydrometallurgical and environmental engineering, gained in the industrial and academic arenas and frequently focussed on water treatment, water re-use and valorisation of wastewater.  Her research focuses on grounding bioprocesses within integrated sustainable process approaches. This builds on resource efficiency principles with a strong focus on valorizing waste resources and bio-remediating degraded resources. Through an integrative research approach, new levels of understanding of the (bio)process potential are found. These research objectives are integrated through application across a number of bioprocesses, including mesophilic and thermophilic mineral bioleaching, biological treatment of wastewaters including organic and minewaters with focus on valorisation of waste, prevention of AMD formation, algal biotechnology, (plant) microbial fuel cell technology and the waste biorefinery concept.  Many of these focus on water as a key resource and are centred in an interdisciplinary framework, centred on integrative technical innovation while addressing environmental and societal challenges.

Current research related to Future Water

  • Wastewater biorefineries, focussed on recovering products of value from wastewater with clean or ‘fit-for-purpose’ water as key product. We engage with both organic and inorganic wastewaters, including sanitation-based, sugar-based and lignocellulosic wastewaters (with Bernelle Verster, Shilpa Rumjeet, Charlotte Wessels (PhD), Sisanda Rini (MSc), Rony Azagele (MSc), Rory Stott (MSc), Edith Mshoperi (PhD)) as well as acid mine drainage through sulphur recovery (with Tynan Marais (PhD))
  • Remediation of mine waters for re-purposing: biological sulphate reduction and biodegradation of thiocyanate and cyanide (with Dr Rob Huddy, Tom Hessler (PhD), Tynan Marais (PhD), Sarah Fernandes (MSc) and Fadzai Kadzinga (PhD))
  • Integrating competing water needs in mining and mineral processing with the environment, community and economic activity in mining-dominated catchments: with Lee Mudenda (PhD candidate), A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst and Kerry Slatter-Christie
  • Algal processes for wastewater remediation (with Yonela Mkono (PhD), Gordon Dodge (PhD) and Dr Mariette Smart)
  • The SALGA project, integrating water scarcity, water availability and use with behaviour and perceptions with the Future Water team
  • Extended water management for transition of mining regions to resilient futures post-mine succession through the CoP Resilient Futures project and associated projects being developed with the mining industry

 Potential Future Water collaborative research

  • Extended nutrient and water re-purposing – moving towards co-created solutions
  • Integrating water re-purposing with small scale agriculture
  • A role in water sensitive design in SA cities