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Nanoscience Summer School 2019: Small Science For Big Impact In The 4IR

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

SA NanoSchool 2019 will bring together industry experts, postgrad students and academics to explore the potential impacts and challenges of nanoscience in South Africa, from research to applications, innovation and commercialization.

(Published - 22 November 2019)

South Africa needs nanoscientists. And the five-day South African Nanoscience And Nanotechnology Summer School 2019 aims to deliver, with local and international experts set to address the event. bringing together 120 local and international industry experts, academics and postgraduates students to explore the theme, ‘From Research to Applications, Innovation and Commercialization’.

The 5th Summer School is being run by the Nanoscience Hub at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The hub houses the National Nanoscience Postgraduate Teaching and Training Platform (NNPTTP), which is fully funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). 

“Nanoscience can help us deal with many important issues: water purification, our energy and transport needs, biomedical and agriculture applications just waiting to be discovered and developed,” says Prof Dirk Knoesen, member of the SA NanoSchool 2019 organising committee and head of the NNPTTP at UWC. “That is why it is most important for our youth to take up the challenges waiting for them; they can do it.”

Nanoscience is the study and development of materials at the nanometre size level (about 1/1000th the diameter of a human hair). This knowledge is applied in nanotechnology and the development of nanomaterials – materials with at least one external dimension in the size range from approximately 1-100 nanometres. At that size, the rules are different - and the possibilities are endless.

“The famed Fourth Industrial Revolution may be a digital revolution - but it has a physical basis in the materials that make a variety of products possible,” says Prof Knoesen. “For example, the very high speed computers of today, the huge increase in data storage and the extremely small devices (just about everything inside cellphones is nano-related), the fast biosensors that take a minute amount of blood to detect a variety of bio-based properties or viruses, etc. All of this is possible because of advancements in materials science, and especially nanoscience.”

Nanoschool: A New Generation of Nano-Experts

Funded by the DSI, the South African Nano Schools are designed to equip master's and PhD students with the necessary skills for conducting research in nanoscience and nanotechnology. They complement existing human capital development programmes in the field, and form one of many platforms for the implementation of the 2005 National Nanotechnology Strategy.

South Africa has had considerable success in developing human capital in nanoscience and nanotechnology. According to a review of the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology 10-Year Research Plan of 2006, the country produced 418 master's and 398 doctoral graduates over the 10-year period, easily surpassing the targets of 400 master's and 50 PhD graduates set out in the Plan. In addition, almost 5,000 nanotechnology publications were produced, far exceeding the target of 150, while 44 new patents were reported against a target of 10, and three companies were started from the research conducted at various universities.

“If South Africa can maintain the present interest and support in nanoscience and nanotechnology, we have the people to take it to the next level in terms of materials, products and applications,” says Prof Dirk Knoesen. “NanoSchool 2019 will bring those people together to share knowledge and experience, and collaborate on new solutions.”

SA NanoSchool 2019 will feature speakers from all over South Africa, representing 5 universities, 4 research institutions and 5 industries, and covering aspects such as hydrogen technologies, biosensors, manufacturing technologies for specific nanomaterials, specific products manufactured in South Africa - and, of course, the role of intellectual property and technology transfer for researchers at universities.

The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Mr Buti Manamela, will open the 5th South African Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Summer School in Stellenbosch on Monday 25 November 2019.

To find out more about SA NanoSchool 2019, consult the programme, visit the South African Nanoscience And Nanotechnology Summer School 2019 website, or contact Valencia Jamalie on vjamalie@uwc.ac.za


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