Nanotech lights the way forward

The potential to harness the properties of high-tech nanotechnology to straddle the challenges facing developed and emerging economies is being explored at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Through the Research Chair in Solid State Luminescent and Advanced Materials, Professor Hendrik Swart is developing micro- and nanophosphors to help to improve flat-panel displays while simultaneously applying this technology to a new generation of solar lighting systems for use in rural areas.

The Research Chair was awarded in 2012 and builds on the previous 19 years of research Swart has undertaken into the degradation of phosphors for field emission displays and materials for nano solid-state lighting.

The main aim of his research is to push the frontiers of knowledge within or between disciplines and to ensure recognition, both nationally and internationally, of the high quality of the research.

The group’s work focuses primarily on developing processes to synthesise and deposit thin films of various types of semiconductor nano-particles to enhance the colour, luminescent intensity and lifetime of organic light emitting diode displays.

Of more immediate interest locally is the development of nanophosphors that react to and store sunlight and can be used to provide night-time lighting. This work is being done in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research nanotechnology research group.

The technology is expected to have a significant impact in helping to reduce the vulnerability of remote communities, contribute to poverty alleviation and improve the livelihoods of these community members.

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