State-of-the-art nanotechnology research equipment worth R17 million – the first such equipment in South Africa – was unveiled at Rhodes University today by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor.
The Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (TOF-SIMS) is useful to researchers in the fields of pollution treatment, green chemistry, forensic sciences, biotechnology, energy and sustainable development.
The equipment is used by various departments at Rhodes University, as well as several other universities, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Mintek. It also serves countries as far afield as Kuwait, Turkey and China.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, the Minister said the TOF-SIMS would make it much easier for South African researchers to quantify nanostructured materials. Previously, they had had to rely on overseas collaborators for such studies.
"The availability of the TOF-SIMS in the country will enhance the quality of research and training. The equipment will assist in advancing requirements to address the national skills shortage in many key areas of research," said the Minister.
The Minister spoke of how the 2005 National Nanotechnology Strategy had not only advanced the technology missions identified in the 2002 National Research and Development Strategy, but also strengthened government's industrial focus.
The strategy has seen the adoption of a formal nanotechnology teaching programme, nanotechnology research chairs, the production of 170 postgraduate students and the publication of more than 1 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, more than 20 patents have been filed, and it is hoped that South African-developed nanotechnology-enhanced products will soon enter the market.
The National Nanotechnology Equipment Programme has led to the establishment of world-class nanotechnology research facilities in the country, including the Centre for High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
These facilities will contribute to putting South Africa at the forefront of nanotechnology research internationally.