Research

IAM performs applied research for industry. It pursues research and development targets in Carbon materials and Chemical Product Design. The activities in the latter category include modelling multicomponent mixture properties, layered solids as functional additives for polymers, green pyrotechnics, and combating malaria transmission.

SARChI Research Chair in Carbon Materials and Technology

The SARChI Chair in Carbon Materials and Technology was established in 2006 within the Institute. Under the guidance of Prof. Brian Rand, a world leader in carbon materials research and NRF A-rated scientist, the Chair has grown and expanded its focus from mainly nuclear materials into new and exciting areas.

The current Chair holder is Prof. Ncholu Manyala who is directing his research efforts towards graphene and other nano-material applications. To this end he has established a graphene synthesis laboratory in the Department of Physics.


In-House Needle Coke


Industrial Needle Coke

Malaria

IAM received funding support from Sasol towards the development of a long life mosquito net (LLIN) and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for an insecticidal paint approach for indoor residual spray (IRS). We also have a Mozambique-South Africa research grant to explore the use of local clays as controlled release devices for IRS insecticides. The long-term hope is to replace DDT currently used in IRS practice with more benign alternatives. Current results indicate that this may indeed be possible. The IAM also forms part of the soon-to-be-established Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control. Research funding for future LLIN and IRS work will be sought from various sources. The current plan foresees three product offerings: A multifilament knitted polypropylene-based LLIN, a non-DDT IRS, and a low-cost Netlon type net for indoor wall use. We are currently meeting and negotiating with the IDC, Sasol ChemCity and Moznet, a local company interested in local production of LLIN’s. We plan to submit a further proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together with Prof Jeff Bloomquist (University of Florida) and Prof Paul Carlier (Virginia Tech). The proposed project will focus on the use of Terbam as a possible replacement for current insecticides.

Pyrotechnics

IAM performs classified research on behalf of the South African Defence Force that entails the use of pyrotechnics in specialized applications. However, the main client is AEL Mining Services. In this regard the research effort is focussed on the removal of all lead and toxic heavy metal compounds from mining detonators. IAM had reasonable technical success in this regard but further development work is required at AEL before industrialization can commence. In short, IAM has developed fast, medium and slow burning time delay compositions that are lead-free. It also succeeded in the development of a thermite system capable of initiating high explosives via a ultra-high temperature shock. This is significant as this makes it possible to eliminate the lead-containing primary explosives from the detonator train.

Clay Technology

Current research projects at UP consider the use of both synthetic and natural clays for use as functional materials. Benign polymer additives are a particular focus. The following projects are active:

  • Nanoclays as controlled release vehicles for insecticides
  • Layered double hydroxides as heat stabilizers for PVC
  • Intercalated clays and graphites to enhance fire resistance, thermal and electrical conductivity or mechanical properties of polyolefins

To date the research has led to novel procedures for intercalation of clays and a degradable polymer technology. Such degradable polymer technology has been put forward as a possible litter reduction strategy. IAM developed degradation enhancing additives based on nanostructured anionic clays. The idea is to accelerate the natural sunlight mediated degradation pathways of a littered plastic object, e.g. shopping bags. The technology was patented locally and licensed to Evergreen.

Commercialization of this new nanotechnology route for controlled lifetime plastics is being investigated.

Fluoro-chemical Research 

The SARChI Chair for Fluoro-materials and Process Integration was set up to service the needs of the nuclear industry based at Pelindaba, the Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI), and the Fluorochemical Expansion initiative (FEI). Both AMI and FEI are sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology. Research within the remit of the Chair falls broadly in three strands, viz. fluoride-based mineral processing (AMI), fluoropolymer synthesis and engineering (FEI), and industrial fluoro-chemical processes with a nuclear flavour.

Polymer Technology 

Research efforts in polymer technology fall into three categories: The first and most important is control of material oxidation behaviour. The second is the control of permeation through- and controlled release of active ingredients from polymers. The third and newest research area involves heat stabilisation of PVC using modified layered double hydroxides.

Controlled oxidation

The ageing observed in polymers during their normal service life is a manifestation of slow oxidation by atmospheric oxygen. We have shown that LDH nanoparticles are effective light mediated pro-oxidants that can be used to control the life time of one-way packaging in order to reduce the visual impact of plastic litter. This technology was licensed to Evergreen Environmental. Read more

Mixture Modules

Mixture models are everywhere. They are commonly applied in fields such as chemical engineering, material science, and food science. A mixture experiment is defined as an experiment where the physical property of interest is not dependent on the total amount of the mixture but on the relative amounts of the mixture components. The component proportions can be expressed by weight, volume, mole, etc., as long as the values are greater than zero and sum to one. Mixture experiments are employed to predict a response variable; to screen the components of a mixture to simplify the problem; to measure the effects of the components on the response variable or to optimise the response variable over the experimental region. Three key areas form the foundation of a successful mixture experiment. First an accurate mixture model needs to be developed that describes the dependence of the response variable on the mixture components. Once a mixture model is identified, a proper experimental design ensures informative data is collected and finally, statistical analysis is applied for model validation and parameter estimation.


 
Published by Johan Labuschagne

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