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A sustainable approach to solving Ghana’s Energy Challenges: Computational and Molecular Modeling

Since February 2015, a team of researchers led by Prof. Evans Adei (KNUST) and Dr. Johannes Awudza (KNUST) are poised to address two major energy needs. The first is the development of a novel catalysts for the conversion of biomass to fuel and/or chemical feedstock; and the second is to design of an optimized conducting polymers for efficient solar energy applications. This project housed in the Chemistry Department, KNUST by the Computational and Molecular Modeling laboratory. Other collaborators for this research include Prof. Nora de Leeuw (University College London), Prof. Wendimagegn M. Deneke (Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia) and Prof. Olayinka Oyetunji (University of Botswana).

This research work worth £1,243,000 is being sponsored by the Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative Awards. The research consortia is expected to run over a span of five years. The funding covers acquiring equipment, research expenses, travels and PhD training.

Dr. Adei’s consortium are working on the theme “New materials for a sustainable energy future: linking computation with experiment”. The research focus is to develop and employ state-of-the-art computational techniques and synthesis/characterization methods to design and optimise new catalysts and organic semi-conductors for renewable energy applications.

Commenting on winning the award, Dr Adei said “This is good news for us; it is good for the research team, for the Department and the University. It’s not just about the money and the recognition of the modest work emanating from our lab with the initial set-up grant from TALIF. Our delight is in the use of these external funding from the Royal Society to continue building local physical and human resource capacity in molecular and materials modeling in a developing country that is integrated into the global scientific research community.”

According to Dr. Richard Tia, research at the molecular modeling center falls under two broad areas namely; Molecular modeling and Materials modeling. Under these studies, the mechanisms and molecular level details of industrially relevant chemical reactions that are difficult, if not impossible to obtain experimentally, are investigated with the aid of computers. Models of reactions and molecules are built using special software which can also help in calculations to obtain accurate information on mechanisms of reactions. As an example, the Center is currently working on the design of optimized conducting polymers for efficient solar energy applications. This means, they will use computer generated models to find suitable and cost effective ways to obtain such polymers. Results from this modeling may then be used by experimental scientists to do the actual design to solve energy problems.

The Center recently acquired a new server for the processing data. This will change the landscape of chemical research in KNUST and the quest to be recognized globally as a center of computational scientific research.