Scanning Electron Microscope. Photo courtesy of Dr Lucky Sikhwivhilu.
Dr Lucky Sikhwivhilu is the Principal Scientist and director of Nanominerals Nanotechnology Unit that operates within the DST/Mintek Nanotechnology Innovation Centre (NIC) in the Advanced Materials Division at Mintek. He is arguably a mastermind in the development of new nanomaterials.
At Mintek Dr Sikhiwivhilu oversees research aimed at developing novel ways of producing nanomaterials. The research done on nanomaterials in Dr Sikhwivhilu’s group focuses on ways of improving the physical and chemical characteristics of nano-structured materials for eventual application in new technologies.
Various methods are employed in the development of new nanomaterials, and access to a state-of–the-art supercomputer is routinely used to aid in the design of new nanomaterials by modelling, visualising and simulating experimental procedures.
Materials produced at the NIC focus on mineral beneficiation for the mining sector, and may provide new environmentally friendly ways of extracting economically important resources.
Various techniques are used at the NIC to characterise newly developed nanomaterials. The unit has access to a range of electron microscopes as well as sophisticated spectroscopy equipment. By characterising and understanding the physical and chemical properties of newly synthesised nanomaterials, they can be manipulated and chemically changed to be made suitable for a multitude of new technologies.
Nanotechnology has huge potential, and Mintek’s Nanotechnology Innovation Centre is making sure that South Africa becomes a world leader in nanomaterial development.
Writer: Adam Kramer