Doctoral Graduate Aims to Help Supply Renewable Energy to Rural Folk
Electrical Engineering graduate and fuel cell systems expert Dr Ntumba Mutombo hopes to help supply renewable energy to South Africa’s rural communities.
Mutombo’s research focused on the Development of Neuro-Fuzzy Control Strategies for the Prediction and Management of Hybrid Photovoltaic Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (pv-pemfc) Battery Systems.
He was supervised by Professor Freddie Inambao and Dr Remy Tiako.
The study investigated the design and implementation of the system with fuel cells and battery storage as a backup for household demand, especially in winter when solar irradiance is low and as result the PV out is low.
‘The system developed not only manages power flows but also prolongs battery life while taking environmental parameters, namely, solar insolation and ambient temperature into consideration,’ said Mutombo.
Mutombo, who obtained his Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree from the University of Mbujimayi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, joined UZKN to pursue his postgraduate studies.
Mutombo hopes to improve electrical energy supply to households in South Africa and especially improve the lives of people living in remote areas, ‘by developing a hybrid pv-pemfc battery system with appropriate energy management based on artificial intelligence for better performance,’ he said.
‘The supply of electrical energy for mining companies has been prioritised over domestic use, penalising families with blackouts and neglecting remote areas in South Africa,’ said Mutombo.
He described his journey towards obtaining his PhD as “amusing”. ‘It helped me discover who I am and how far I can push myself in the research field and contribute to improving people’s lives.’
Mutombo encouraged aspiring engineers to trust themselves and the education they have received. ‘If you believe you can make a change, you can improve human lives,’ he said.
His supervisor, Professor Freddie Inambao, is his role model. ‘I admire his research into renewable energy systems and his dedication to reducing the emission of green effect gases that destroy our planet and ecosystem,’ he said.
In the future, Mutombo would like to become a faculty member at a leading university. ‘I would like to investigate improvements that can be made in actual hybrid renewable energy systems, to improve their performance by using the modern theories of artificial intelligence in their design,’ said Mutombo.
Words by: Manqoba Hadebe
Photograph by: Abhi Indrarajan