Research Project: Nanomaterials Industrial Development Programme
The Nanomaterial Industrial Development Programme (NIDP) is a research group that focuses on the development of new and advanced materials through the incorporation of nanotechnology. The main objectives are to establish infrastructure and skills in polymer nanocomposites as well as nanoclay development, to stimulate the growth of the polymer industry and to create a nanostructure production industry.
There are five sub-projects in the NIDP, three research projects and two Scale-up facilities (Nanomaterial Industrial Development Facilities).
The three research projects are:
Polymer Nanocomposites (PNC):
Focus on the design of nanostructure based polymer composites with desired properties and applications. The team conducts fundamental and applied research and develops products based on polymer nanocomposite technology. Recent research activities cover the following aspects:
- Development of PNC for structural application
- Nucleating polyolefin
- Grafting and crosslinking of polymers via reactive processing
- Multi-layered barrier film based on polymer nanocomposites for packaging application
- Oxygen scavenging film for packaging application
- Polymer degradation and stability
- Development of cellulose nanofibers based composites
- Fundamental research on structure property relationship on polymer blend and composites
The focus of the project is on the synthesis, modification, characterisation and subsequent production of small batches of Nanoadditives including nanoclays and nano precipitated calcium carbonates. Nanoadditives of various structures and geometry are used to produce new materials (nanocomposites or nanohybrids) with higher performance and/or multi-functionality at a reduced cost compared to materials prepared by macroscale additives.
Cosmetics and Functional Polymers:
Cosmetics: In support of the cosmetic industry in addressing new consumer demand for greener, skin friendly and safe products, our research focuses on developing alternative strategies such as; inorganic hybrids, bioavailable ingredients and highly efficient delivery systems for personal care formulations.
Functional polymers: Concerns over safety of chemical treatment have motivated us to develop active polymer packaging materials containing natural antimicrobials to prevent post-harvest diseases in perishable fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, polymer composites containing environmental friendly fire retardant additive are investigated to replace widely used harmful organohalogenated and organophosphorus compounds.
The two NIDF Scale-up facilities are:
Polymer Processing (NIDF-PNC):
The polymer processing facility within the DST-funded Nanomaterials Industry Development Facility (NIDF), seeks to enhance the local polymer industry competitiveness by providing a pilot scale platform for new polymeric materials development. It supports polymer materials development by offering:
- 40 L/D co-rotating Twin Screw Extruder; 5-layer blown film extrusion line (25 & 20 mm diameter screws); 5-layer cast sheet extrusion line; 500kN Injection moulding machine
- Access to skilled researchers, technical expertise and a world-class characterisation facility
Clay Production (NIDF-Clay):
The South African manufacturing industry is currently facing challenges with global competition. In order to correct this, there is a need to develop efficient processes to create better and cheaper products. Accordingly, the NIDF was established to provide commercially viable solutions to this challenge. Such a facility has been the key missing link between the bench scale development and high volume manufacturing of new products. The NIDF enables clients and partners to develop and scale up chemicals and nano-based processes and products; and bring products to market faster. Our partners and clients include SMMEs, universities and the industry. We have successfully developed different types of nanoclays for cosmetic and plastic industry. Our implementation platform includes;
- Flexible and multi-purpose scale up plant equipped with autoclave reactors, filter press, wet mill, process tanks, rotary dryer, bag house etc.
- Access to skilled workforce with the right technological expertise (scientists and engineers trained and experienced in process development and scale up).
- Technical support (well-equipped workshop)
- State of the art equipment to characterise products during scale up for rapid process optimisation and quality assurance analysis
Research Project Teams according to projects:
Research Interests and Projects: Product development specialist; market and business development specialist, Technical and Strategic Project Management.
PNC & NIDF-PNC
Research Interests and Projects: Designing nano-structured polymer composites with desired properties and their applications.
Research Interests and Projects: Polymer nanocomposite material and process development
Research Interests and Projects: AMD treatment using synthetic, natural, acid activated and organic modified clays, characterization of various types of clays.
Cosmetics and Functional Polymers
Research interests and projects: Development of inorganic nanohybrids as functional additives for skin care and hair care applications. Development of polymer based active food packaging materials for post-harvest disease control and shelf life improvement of perishable fruits and vegetables.
Research Interests and Projects: Development and Commercialization of chemical and nano-based technologies