Nanotechnology starts to ramp up in Africa

John Etkind at writes about the Continent’s Nano Revolution. Excerpts:

According to Bethual Sehlapelo, deputy director-general of the South African department of science and technology’s Frontier Science Programme, “Nano is going to be the next technological revolution”…

Although sub-Saharan Africa is a late entrant in this new technological race, an African materials forum held at Johannesburg’s Wits University two years ago provided a kick-start. A recent South African strategy document outlines two distinct opportunities in nanotechnology for the southern region of the continent: by adding enormous value to such African minerals as gold, titanium, palladium and platinum, and by using the technology to fight poverty. Nanotechnology can lead to affordable, low cost electronics, and more efficient drug delivery…

Let’s hope this unusual view of “top down” does not catch on, however:

The team has been making semiconductor nanoparticles using the so-called “top-down” precursor approach that takes something big and breaks it down chemically to produce the desired nanoparticles. Top down is important because it is an environmentally-friendly, safer and simple route to high quality, high yield materials that avoids the use of volatile and toxic compounds employed in other organometallic processes.

If the process being used is environmentally-friendly, that’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily correlate with top-down or bottom-up nanotechnologies. In the long term, I’d say bottom-up has the potential to be cleaner. —Christine

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