When oil was discovered in Guyana, Hamant France saw many of his peers pursue a career aimed at exploiting these reserves. He, however, choose a career in green chemistry.
“For me, oil is limited in that it's a non-renewable resource, so I decided to go in the opposite direction and swim against the oil current if you will,” says Hamant, a graduate student studying in Trent’s Environmental & Life Sciences (ENLS). “That is also one of the things that attracted me to the ENLS program – it aligns with the future I wanted for myself.”
After graduating with a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Guyana, it was Hamant’s dream to further his studies. He is now making that dream a reality thanks to the Sustainable Guyana Program, a unique strategic partnership between Trent, the University of Guyana, CGX Energy Inc., and Frontera Energy Corporation aimed at training Guyana’s emerging leadership talent in sustainable development.
Developing a cost-effective solution to water pollution
Hamant is focusing on developing a low-cost, plant-based activated carbon with high-value adsorbent properties to clean up polluted water sources.
“‘Guyana’ literally means “land of many waters”. Our country has a lot of water, but quite a bit of it isn’t potable. I am using sawdust from a popular Guyanese plant species, greenheart, to demonstrate the ability of those activated carbons to soak up high levels of heavy metal ions in water,” says Hamant. “One of the fundamental themes of this research is to produce activated carbons based on cost-effectiveness, because the understanding is if the cost is prohibitive, then the process would not be sustainable.”
Potential applications of this technology include use in water purification or treatment facilities, removing ions in tailing ponds, or cleaning recreational lakes. The new technology could also be used to provide potable drinking water in rural communities.
In collaboration with Prof. Vreugdenhil, Hamant brought greenheart sawdust and water samples to Trent for analysis in the University’s state-of-the-art chemistry laboratories. His goal is to tailor the activated carbon to target specific ions found in the water samples.
Leveraging his time at Trent to pioneer research in Guyana
Hamant hopes to leverage what he learns at Trent, as well as the connections he builds, to advance similar research back in Guyana.
Since arriving on campus in September 2021, Hamant has been working alongside leading faculty, namely his research supervisor, Chemistry professor Dr. Andrew Vreugdenhil, as well as Dr. Suresh Narine and Dr. Sanela Martic, who are part of his supervisory committee.
“I don't think I could have asked for more knowledgeable and helpful colleagues to work with. They have been a source of encouragement and help for me,” says Hamant.
He is also working on publishing his research to truly leave a legacy of his time at Trent.
“Someone once said ‘your network helps to determine your net worth.’ I really like that. I look forward to building those connections here at Trent,” says Hamant. “I’m also so grateful for the support I have on this journey from my colleagues back at the University of Guyana and my family. This opportunity is truly a dream come true.”
This story is part of a series of profiles of the first cohost of students in the Sustainable Guyana Program.
Learn more about how this collaboration between Trent University, the University of Guyana, CGX Energy Inc., and Frontera Energy Corporation, is empowering the Guyana’s next generation of environmental leaders.