Nanotechnology — the burgeoning science of super-small construction — has so far eluded Africa. But this looks set to change. An African Materials Forum, to be held next month at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, could kickstart the continent straight into the nanotech race.
Many believe that Southern Africa has great potential in the field, as a team of researchers at the University of Zululand (UniZul) in South Africa is already showing. The team is currently investigating applications for nanomaterials in water treatment and energy storage. Then there is the continent’s mineral riches — including gold, titanium and platinum — which will also provide the raw material for the manufacture of high-quality semiconductor nanoparticles.
The team at UniZul offers a level of nanotech expertise that is hard to find in the continent. But some say that unless South Africa establishes itself fast in the field, it will miss the chance to compete globally as nanotechnology gathers pace.