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Prof Harro von Blottnitz

Director: Environmental & Process Systems Engineering (EPSE)
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Cape Town
P/Bag Rondebosch 7701

T: + 27 (0)21 650 2512
F: + 27 (0)21 650 5501



B.Sc. ENG. (Chemical), UCT; B.Sc. Hons. (Operations Research); UNISA, MSc ENG., UCT;
Doctorate in Engineering (Dr.-Ing.), RWTH Aachen, Registered as a professional engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa


Enjoying a settled academic position in a highly dynamic and successful department, I define my research and teaching interests by the multiple challenges of sustainable development in developing country settings, esp. as these pertain to resource flows. My interests span topics in the fields of Environmental Systems Analysis, Renewable Fuels Processing (biogas, biodiesel and bio-ethanol), Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption. Since joining the University of Cape Town in 1998, 42 Masters and 4 PhD students have completed their theses under my supervision, and we have published some 45 papers in peer-reviewed journals. I have taught in 7 different courses in the undergraduate curriculum and have introduced sustainability into the curriculum at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. In 2009, I led a team that hosted the 4th international Life Cycle Management conference in Cape Town. I currently chair the Voluntary Advisory Forum of South Africa’s Chemical and Allied Industries Association.

From 1995 until May 1998 I was employed at the Chair for Mineral Processing, Beneficiation and Waste Treatment at the Aachen University of Technology in Germany. There, I also completed my doctoral dissertation, in which, I developed an extension of the sampling theory of particulate solids for applications in recycling operations. The doctorate in engineering was awarded summa cum laude in 1999.

With my roots in South Africa's Eastern Cape and in Namibia, I commenced my academic career with a BSc in Chemical Engineering (first class honours) from the University of Cape Town in 1990. After two years as a process engineer on a PVC production plant, I returned to UCT in 1993, obtaining an MSc.Eng. in 1994.


2015- present Professor in Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town.
2008-2015 Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town
2000-2007 Senior lecturer in Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town
2004 Visiting researcher at the Centre d’Energetique of the Ecole des Mines de Paris
2003-2006 Convenor of the Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Programme
1998-2000 Care-taker manager, Environmental Process Engineering Research Group, UCT, and contract lecturer in Chemical Engineering, UCT
1995-1998 Scientific Officer at the Chair for Mineral Processing, Beneficiation and Waste Treatment of the Aachen University of Technology, Germany. One of the main duties was the organisation of the XX International Mineral Processing Congress, including editing and publication of the congress proceedings

Research Interests

My research interests are inspired by the multiple challenges of sustainable development in the resource industries esp. in developing country settings, and span topics in the fields of Environmental Systems Analysis, Bio-Fuels Processing, and Waste Management. Sustainability in resource processing requires: The closure of substance cycles in the economy, and the minimisation of environmental impacts by wastes and emissions: here I concentrate on the minerals beneficiation industries. The powering of such closed substance cycles by renewable energy: Here I limit myself to work on biofuels. A scientific assessment tool to enable the measurement of progress in complex industrial systems: here I work mainly with environmental Life Cycle Assessment.

Current Projects

Better Designs in the Minerals Industry: Is Eco-Efficiency the Right Tool?

Defending the Achievements of Life Cycle Assessment against Single Criterion Decision-Making:

How to Help Climate-Change Mitigation Take Off without a Backlash

Waste-Based Biofuels & Bio-Energy as a Key Sustainable Development Opportunity: Bringing the Social to the Fore

Renewable Energy beyond Biofuels: Understanding Technical and Market Innovation in Solar Energy

Selected Publications

“Occurrence of CCA-treated Timber in Caterers’ Fuel Wood Stocks in the Cape Town Region”; Niyobuhungiro,R., S.Naidoo, M.A. Dalvie and H. von Blottnitz; SA Journal of Science, 109 (1/2), pp.31-35, 2013.

“A comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Eutectic Freeze Crystallization and Evaporative Crystallisation for the Treatment of Saline Waste Water”; Fernandez-Torres, M., D. Randall, R. Melamu and H. von Blottnitz; Desalination,306, pp.17-23, 2012.

“Flows and fates of nickel-cadmium batteries in the city of Cape Town; Kyle Mason-Jones and Harro von Blottnitz, Minerals Engineering, special issue on Sustainability through Resource Conservation and Recycling, in print and available online at, 2009.

“2nd Generation Biofuels a Sure Bet? A Life Cycle Assessment of How Things Could Go Wrong”; Melamu, R. and H. von Blottnitz, Journal of Cleaner Production, 19 (2-3), pp. 138-144, 2011..

“Renewable Energy for Sustainable Urban Development: Redefining the Concept of Energisation”; Nissing, C. and H. von Blottnitz, Energy Policy, 38, pp.2179-2187; 2010.

“A review of assessments conducted on bioethanol systems from an energy balance, CO2, and environmental life-cycle perspective”; von Blottnitz, H. and M.A. Curran; Journal of Cleaner Production, 15 (7), 2007.

Contribution to Minerals to Metals initiative

Systems Analysis; Energy Management, and a profound understanding of Sustainable Development.