Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is set to officially open the Centre for Nanotechnology Innovation at Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, on November 14, placing the institution at the forefront of international nanotechnology research.
The centre will house new nanotechnology equipment called time of flight-secondary-ion-mass-spectrometer (TOF-SIMS) bought through a R17-million investment from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation.
The DST said in a statement on Monday that the centre would become one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in a university environment in South Africa.
The department explained that the TOF-SIMS was used to examine thin films and provide surface composition of these films. It was also used for the study of surface characteristics of nanoparticles.
According to the DST, the examination of surfaces using TOF-SIMS impacted not only on layer interactions in the development of sensors and drug delivery agents, but in a wide range of disciplines where thin films were employed and where the immobilisation thereof was critical to the success of the technologies being examined or developed.
The equipment could be used in the fields of pollution treatment, green chemistry, forensic sciences and biotechnology, and could be geared towards energy and sustainable development.
TOF-SIMS could benefit industries such as aerospace, automotive, biomedical, biotechnology, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, data storage and defence.
The centre was a national facility that would be used by Eastern Cape universities the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU); Walter Sisulu University; the University of Fort Hare; as well as other South African institutions, such as the University of Johannesburg; the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research; the University of the Western Cape; Mintek, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the North West University.
It would also aid international researchers from countries such as Kuwait, Turkey and China.
A second major investment in nanoscience in the Eastern Cape would see the NMMU, in Port Elizabeth, receive an ultra high-resolution transmission electron microscopy facility, making the Eastern Cape a significant nanotechnology hub.