Nokuthula Mchunu-Nxumalo

The world is desperate for cleaner energy and safer industrial processes. Nokuthula Mchunu-Nxumalo’s PhD may have found a part solution to both. During two years of research spread between the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and University Sains Malaysia, Mchunu-Nxumalo discovered how a common fungus, through the enzyme it produces, can be used to replace the dangerous chlorine used in paper production. This same harmless organism holds potential as a producer of biofuel. Moreover, as Mchunu-Nxumalo explains, “while the US and Brazil use actual food sources for energy, we are finding ways to generate energy out of agricultural waste from crops like maize so as not to sacrifice food security”. Now teaching biotechnology at DUT, Mchunu- Nxumalo is busy writing up patent documents for her new-found industrial methods. On the possibility of creating viable biofuel from corn cobs in the coming years, she combines her answer with a warning: “We have to.”

Ian Macleod