AFRICANGLOBE – South Africa has been no slouch when it comes to contributing to science and technology, below we list thirteen scientific innovations that you probably did not know was invented in South Africa.
World’s first digital laser
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) announced the development of the world’s first digital laser.
The innovation is expected to spur numerous applications to improve the communication and health sectors, said Professor Andrew Forbes of the CSIR National Laser Centre.
The experimental work in the laser project was done by doctoral candidate and CSIR researcher Sandile Nqcobo.
“This groundbreaking development is further evidence of the great potential we have in scientific innovation. That the world’s first digital laser should come from our country is testimony to the calibre of scientists that South Africa has,” said former minister of science and technology, Derek Hanekom.
The Full-body X-ray scanner
Lodox is also safer, emitting up to 10 times less harmful dose than regular X-ray systems.
The Lodox Critical Imaging Technology was initially developed for use on diamond mines to prevent the smuggling and theft of diamonds by mineworkers.
Cheaper solar power: University of Johannesburg
An innovation in solar power which uses a micro-thin metallic film was created by Professor Vivian Alberts at the University of Johannesburg. The discovery has made solar electricity five times less expensive than solar photovoltaic cells.
Alberts’ solar panels consist of a layer of a unique metal alloy, five microns thick. The photo-responsive alloy can operate on most flexible surfaces.
In February 2014 a semi-commercial plant for the production of thin-film solar module technology was opened in Stellenbosch.
The bollard, an implantable expanding rivet, was developed by a group of CSIR scientists in 1982, comprising Peter Mundell, Dr Michael Hunt and Dr Angus Strover. Thirty years later it is still on the market and over 60 000 of the medical devices have been used.
The rivet is used in conjunction with a prosthetic ligament for repair of knee ligament injuries. The device is made from carbon fibre and reinforced polysulfone.
In 1984 it received the Chairman’s award for Excellence from the SABS Design Institute.
It was the first carbon fibre reinforced composite implant to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for human surgery.
The company that now manufactures the product is Fibretek Developments.
Biomedical stem cell technology
The CSIR’s Gene Expression and Biophysics group generated the first induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in Africa. The ability to grow these stem cells has revolutionised the way researchers can investigate and understand disease.
The medical possibilities of iPSCs are huge. They could be used for restoring sight by replacing defective tissue, transplanting new cells to treat heart disease or give people with anaemia new healthy blood cells.
CSIR collaborated with the University of Cape Town Medical School to develop the models.
These large concrete blocks, known as dolosse, were invented by South African Eric Mowbray Merrifield in 1963. They are used around the world to protect harbour walls from the erosive force of ocean waves.
Anybody who has visited harbours around the world would have seen large concrete blocks with a complex geometric shape.