04/20: South Africa: Think big to take advantage of the tiny
TURNING something extremely small into something very big for the South African economy is the ambitious goal of a 450 million rand (about 60.5 million euros) government investment in a rapidly evolving field of science.
Nanotechnology, or the action of separating things into submicroscopic atoms and building new materials from those particles, could become a fundamental skill for local scientists, the Department of Science and Technology believes. As Minister Derek Hanekom admitted during the launch of the National Nanotechnology Strategy that took place last week, understanding the exact nature of science requires significant effort. This is based on the fact that a small group of atoms has different properties than the piece of material from which it comes.
For example, there is no use putting a gold nugget into a test tube with dirty carbon monoxide and hoping that it will somehow make the gas clean. However, if gold is split down to its elemental group of atoms, the latter mysteriously acquires the power to do exactly that.
This is incredibly exciting for the local gold industry, as its raw material is suddenly taking on a wide range of potential new uses. The ability of gold to act as a catalyst could benefit the mining industry itself, if this technology can be incorporated into masks to detoxify the air in mines.
If an experiment on the use of gold as a catalyst in chemical reactions shows that it is commercially viable, a nanotechnology plant worth 350 million rand (about 46.5 million euros) will be built at the Rand Refinery refinery in Germiston.
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