South Africa opens nanomaterial facility

7 December 2015

A state-of-the-art facility to produce nano-structured materials for industrial testing was opened at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria on 3 December.

The Nanomaterials Industrial Development Facility was opened by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in partnership with the council. The new establishment will benefit the plastics and cosmetics industries, among others, to develop new nanotechnologies and processes. Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said it would provide the capabilities for the industrial-scale production of nano-structured materials.

“All the facilities supported under the Industry Innovation Programme, including the Nano-materials Industrial Development Facility, have the potential to play a role in the development of high-technology small, medium and micro enterprises,” she said. “This facility could enable such enterprises to take advantage of the rapidly growing international market in nano-structured materials and nano-composites.”

About nanomaterials

Nanomaterials are chemical substances or materials that are manufactured and used at a very small scale – they can be scaled down to 10 000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

They are developed to display new characteristics, such as increased strength, chemical reactivity or conductivity, compared to the same material without the nanoscale feature.

How the centre will help

The newly launched centre will assist to increase overall industry competitiveness.

The plastics industry is one sector that will reap rewards from the facility. “The addition of nanomaterials in the manufacturing of plastics can significantly enhance the mechanical properties of plastics,” said the CSIR. “Plastics can, for example, be made stronger, lighter and more fire and ultraviolet resistant.”

“Addressing the technological development of the plastics industry will enable the industry to keep up with international trends, both in the level of advanced materials used, and in the machines and processes used to produce plastic components and systems,” it added./p>

The CSIR performed research to stimulate and improve the competitiveness of industry and thereby contribute to the economy of the country, explained the council’s chief executive officer, Dr Sibusiso Sibisi.

“We need to think differently,” he said. “We need to explore new ways and mechanisms to enter areas of activities such as the beneficiation of our natural resources to create jobs, manufacture high-end components and export them.”

The facility houses infrastructure processing and testing and it will play a crucial role in developing skills and transferring technologies to industry.

Rising field

The international market in nano-structured materials and nanocomposites was growing rapidly, said the CSIR. Nanoclay composites are expected to increase from a 2011 volume of 24 million to 74 million metric tonnes and a global value of $3-billion by 2016.

In South Africa, the total plastic consumption is in the order of 1.3 million metric tonnes or R35-billion a year, and accounts for an estimated 3.2% of the manufacturing sector.

Source: CSIR