Cyril O'Connor is a chemical engineer with a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town and a Senior Doctorate (D.Eng.) in Metallurgical Engineering from Stellenbosch University.
He is a registered professional engineer with the Engineering Council of South Africa. He is the founder Director of the Centre for Minerals Research and of the Centre for Catalysis Research both of which are in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town.
He has been the President of the International Mineral Processing Council since 2006, held the Anglo American Platinum Chair in Minerals Processing from 2008-2012, was Vice-President of the International Zeolite Association, is a member of the Executive of the Academy of Engineering of South Africa and is CEO of the South African Minerals to Metals Research Institute.
He has served from time to time on international scientific committees and review panels and has chaired the Organizing Committees of many major international conferences. He recently chaired a study by the Academy of Science of South Africa and South African Academy of Engineering on South Africa’s technical readiness to support a shale gas industry. He has published over 250 papers in international journals and international refereed conference proceedings, has supervised more than 70 PhD and MSc graduates and at his retirement was a National Research Foundation A rated researcher.
He is a Hon. Fellow of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, a Fellow of, respectively, the Royal Society of South Africa, the University of Cape Town, the South African Academy of Engineering, the South African Institution of Chemical Engineering, IUPAC, is a founder member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and is an International Member of the United States National Academy of Engineering.
My research interests are focused on catalysis and flotation. The Centre for Catalysis Research of which I am a member focuses on the synthesis, characterisation and testing of catalysts. The catalyst classes on which most emphasis is currently placed are zeolites, supported metal catalysts and metal oxide catalysts. The reactions currently enjoying my interest are alkylation reactions especially of phenol. In many cases modifying zeolites by silanisation of the external surface can lead to higher yields of specific products. Much research has been invested in the Centre into optimising the method whereby the external surface is coated and currently exciting results are coming out of this work. Modification of zeolites by acid washing and steaming are also important post-synthesis modifications which are being studied. I am a former Vice-President of the International Zeolite Association and Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 14th International Zeolite Conference which was held in Cape Town in 2004.
The Centre for Minerals Research of which I am the Director focuses on research in Flotation and Comminution. My own personal interests are in the area of flotation and particularly in flotation reagent evaluation. In this I collaborate with Associate Professor Dee Bradshaw. I am also collaborating with Mr Martin Harris in the study of froth phase behaviour. The research is carried out in collaboration with many mining, reagent, manufacturing and flotation research groups and companies both in South Africa and overseas and in particular with the JK Mineral Research Centre at the University of Queensland. I was Chair of the Organising Committee of the XXII IMPC which was held in Cape Town in 2003.