Heinrich BADENHORST, PhD Chemical Engineering (South Africa)

The focus of Heinrich’s research group, called Bulk Carbon Research Group, is the supply of affordable and sustainable energy and water to South African communities.

Current position: Senior Lecturer at University of Pretoria, South Africa

Research focus: Concentrated solar, thermal energy storage, desalination. Carbon and phase change materials.

On the energy front, the team is developing novel energy storage media to align solar energy supply with demand. In the water environment, the unit is looking at ways of using solar energy to desalinate water and supply clean drinking water from contaminated sources. Both of these applications are made possible through the group’s fundamental knowledge of carbon materials and the ability to tailor them to a specific solution.

Thanks to the Green Talents competition in 2013, the group’s work has gained an international reputation, which has led to several grants and other accolades. Most significantly it has resulted in collaboration with world leaders in this field. The team is now focused on commercializing some of the technologies with industrial partners to benefit the local society.

2016 Keynote address at International Carbon Conference
2015 Winner for Green Technology in Innovation Hub’s Gauteng Accelerator Program
2013 Attended 63rd Annual Nobel Laureates Meeting, Lindau Germany

CV as submitted for the Green Talents award (2013):


Research focus: Carbon and graphite materials for renewable energy capture and storage

Most people are trying to eliminate carbon footprints, whereas Heinrich Badenhorst is instead redefining them by finding new and innovative ways of using carbon and graphite materials for renewable energy capture and storage.

With an abundance of carbon and graphite materials in South Africa, Heinrich Badenhorst aims to solve two problems at once: take poor quality carbon black, recovered from recycled scrap tyres, and use it to capture solar energy.

Working as a researcher for SARChI (South African Research Chairs Initiative) in Carbon Materials and Technology at the University of Pretoria, Badenhorst is part of a larger institution-wide project which unites researchers from all science and engineering faculties to focus on a variety of energy based problems.

As South Africa is among one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, energy and infrastructure demands are rising. It is critical to have credible and knowledgeable advisors who can ensure that renewable energy makes up a significant component of this new capacity.  

“It would be a shame if developing nations have to go through the same fossil fuel to renewable cycle that the first world nations are going through now,” Badenhorst says.  

Benefitting from his international work experience, Badenhorst is creating more efficient storage media for thermal solar energy by utilising different graphite materials and low-cost static systems.  

His project focus is split into two: firstly, high-temperature, concentrated solar power for industrial use and electricity generation; secondly, low-temperature, thermal power for rural heating and warm water applications. With this research, Badenhorst aims to ensure that the locally available resources are developed and utilised to their full potential. 

The jury noted the tremendous impact of Badenhorst's research for the sustainable modernisation of the African energy supply.