South Africa’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Summer School is as much about training a growing generation of students as it is about focusing attention on emerging nanotechnology products and processes in the country. The University of the Western Cape played host to the third such summer school at the end of November as a diverse group of national and international scientists shared insights into the “impact of nanotechnology in water treatment and management”.
Launched by the Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, the five day programme of talks, seminars and hands-on training covered SA’s pressing issues in water pollution with the demand for nanotechnology solutions forming a critical component.
This year the big buzzwords in the field are nanofibres and nanomembranes; their value resting largely on the large surface area of these materials. Applications of nanofibres in water filtration is on a rapid increase in SA’s universities.
Sabelo Mhlanga, from the University of Johannesburg detailed the state of nanomembrane technology in South Africa providing a balanced and critical look at its future prospects and direction. Dr Marelize Botes detailed work in the area at Stellenbosch University where researchers are also probing the antimicrobial and antibiofouling potential of nanofibrous membranes for possible application in filter media.
The culprits detailed in presentations fit into the broad categories of organic and inorganic pollutants. Prof Ashok Raichur from the Indian Institute of Technology provided an overall perspective on the state of the art in the treatment of organic pollutants.. UWC’s Prof Leslie Petrik followed with current research issues and approaches in the treatment of inorganic compounds.
Putting the science into practice were several presentations detailing research into the potential risk of nanomaterials. Real world applications of the nanotools were carefully evaluated alongside its ethical use (Dr Matthew Harsh from Concordia University) and nanotoxicology with presentations from SA stalwarts in the field Drs Mary Gulumian and Ndeke Musee.
The summer school is aimed at growing the next generation of nanoscience researchers and is open to postgraduate students in the field. Students at this year’s summer school were also provided with an opportunity to tour laboratories at UWC and have hands on experience with a range of equipment used to develop and characterise nanomaterials.
For more information see: http://www.sananoschool.co.za/
Writers: Bongiwe Mbatha and Janice Limson