Feb 06, 2009
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Modise: South African scientists are playing a role in what is probably the greatest, biggest and most expensive scientific experiment on earth. Tell us a bit more about that.
Creamer: We are talking about the large Hadron collider. This is being built beneath the boarders of France and Switzerland and is costing $9-billion plus.
The good news is that South Africans are also going to be involved in this massive experiment. It is the greatest biggest most expensive scientific experiment. It is the biggest physics experiment going on in the world and it wants to solve some of the mysteries of the world.
We are talking about them analysing whether there are just the dimensions of length, breadth, height and time or whether there is some more to it. They will also look at the very particles that make up everything and anything in the world and seeing whether it goes beyond the neutrons, protons and electrons.
Of course, they already know it goes beyond the protons and neutrons and what they will be doing with this massive big collider, a mighty machine, they will be accelerating protons and allowing them to crash into one another and then they will observe what happens when these collisions take place.
When they do collide, they generate a heat 100 000 time greater then the heat in heart of the sun. So, you can imagine how much cooling needs to be done in this massive experiment. The good news is that South Africans will be playing a role.
The University of Johannesburg will be taking part in one of the segments known as Atlas of this big experiment. Then, the University of Cape Town will also be taking part in another segment known as Alice.
They can do this because of massive grid computings where tens of thousands of computers are interlinked and instantaneously they can get data out of these.
It is almost like a web robot that goes in and finds data and analyses it for the scientists. The hope is that we will solve some of the big mysteries of the world with this experiment. It is put together by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, but it is better know by its French acronym, Cern.
Modise: When is this taking place, I know that it was postponed some time last year.
Creamer: They had a hitch last year, and it will have to wait for the summer, because they need so much electricity that they can’t actually tap into that electricity. So when the European summer begins, this will begin.
Modise: Coming back home, Johannesburg has been selected as the venue for what will be one of the world’s biggest new-energy get-togethers of 2009.
Creamer: That’s right. The International Solar Energy Society has selected Johannesburg as the venue for the World Congress 2009 in solar energy and fittingly so, because we have got a lot of sunshine. We have also got the technology.
We know that Vivian Alberts of Johannesburg University has been studying. He has come up with some very good solutions to bring down the costs. We know that the Europeans are helping to finance this thin-film solar panel factory that is going up in Paarl.
So, renewable energy very much in the news and Johannesburg fittingly selected for what is called the Solar World Congress 2009, which will deal with renewable energy, shaping our future, and looking particularly at sustainable development for rural and poor communities in Africa and how to get the “sleeping giant,” Africa involved.
This will take place from October 11 to October 14 in Johannesburg and submissions of abstracts need to be in already by February 28.
Modise: Of course, talking about renewable energy, the Danish government are also a bit involved here in South Africa, giving the country R60-million for renewable energy projects.
Creamer: The Danish government coming in. They are an example of how to use renewable energy; 27% of the energy that goes into their grid is renewable, most of it from wind power. They have come to see our Minister of Minerals and Energy Buyelwa Sonjica.
They have chatted to her and offered their help, but they also put their money where their mouth is by giving us R60-million for projects. They said that it is not only for wind, South Africa can use this money for all projects that relate to renewable energy even if it is harnessing the gas that comes out of rubbish dumps.
Now, the game is on, because we see our own regulator sitting as we speak to try and formulate what the feed-in tariffs are, the price that will be paid for this renewable energy that comes into the system. We know the way the feed-in tariffs were designed in both Denmark and Germany resulted in a surge of activity around renewable energy, Germany getting about 14% of its energy from renewable sources.
As I said, Denmark doing even better. So, a lot is going to depend on the outcome on March 9, when our regulators decide what the feed-in tariff is going to be.
Modise: Thanks very much for sharing with us those exiting stories, especially on the energy front. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.
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