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Posted: November 26, 2007

South Africa launches first nanotechnology innovation centers

(Nanowerk News) To ensure that South Africa remains competitive with the international research community in this fast-developing field, the country’s nanoscience and nanotechnology effort is being coordinated at national level by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through its National Nanotechnology Strategy.
Science and Technology Minister, Mosibudi Mangena, launched South Africa’s first two national nanotechnology innovation centers at the CSIR in Pretoria, earlier today.
The two nanotechnology innovation centers have been established at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Mintek. Activities at these centers are strongly aligned with the DST’s National Nanotechnology Strategy.
Minister Mangena said South Africa as a developing nation has a lot to benefit from nanotechnology. “We therefore have to create an environment condusive to harnessing the potential benefits of this promising field of science,” he said.
Minister Mangena said these centers should take us closer to using nanotechnology to address some of our social and economic challenges. “Theirs will not be blue sky research but one with identified, tangible measurables. They will have to be at the forefront, the tone-setters and catalysts of the country’s research and development program in Nanotechnology,” added the Minister.
The focus of the CSIR center, the National Center for Nano-structured Materials, is on the design and modeling of novel nano-structured materials while the center at Mintek focuses on water, health, mining and minerals.
These areas have been identified in the National Nanotechnology Strategy as key in the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology in order to effect social development.
Both centers will have a strong focus on human capital development by training and developing young scientists who will stimulate growth in South Africa’s emerging nanotechnology industry.
Dr Daven Compton, Head of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at Mintek expressed his pride at Mintek’s selection to host one of these centers “We are confident that the Mintek consortium will be able to build on to its existing strengths to, ultimately, provide nanotechnology-based products that will find commercial favor in the global arena,” stated Compton.
The Mintek consortium consists of the DST, the Medical Research Council, the Water Research Commission, the Universities of Johannesburg, the Western Cape and Rhodes.
“Through the synergies achieved by means of this powerful partnership, the DST/Mintek Nanotechnology Innovation Center (NIC) will initially have three focal areas which will be represented in the fields of sensor, biolabel and water nanotechnology,” said Compton.
In its first three years, the CSIR-hosted NCNSM will have the following research focus:
  • Fabrication of selected novel nano-structured materials for application in solar cells, printed electronic devices, bio-sensors and nano-polymers;
  • Synthesis and characterization of quantum dots with application in medical sensors, solid state lighting and optical devices;
  • Synthesis of polymer nano-composites for a variety of applications;
  • Synthesis of nano-structured materials for specific energy related applications; and,
  • Materials modeling and simulation with the aim of understanding and predicting the fundamental properties of nano-materials.
  • Dr Suprakas Sinha Ray, chief researcher and leader at the NCNSM says, “We are still in the initial wave of nanotechnology, in which most of the nanotechnology-based products on the market are linked to defence and national security applications or to sporting goods and consumer-convenience items, is currently being experienced.
    Within five to ten years, sophisticated electronic devices that use nanoscale circuitry and memory could however be expected.
    After ten to fifteen years, the introduction of pharmaceutical products, drug delivery, and health-monitoring devices will begin. Beyond the scope of our current conception, perhaps thirty to forty years ahead, completely new forms of devices and processes will emerge.
    Source: South Africa Department of Science and Technology
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