Botswana through its nanotech brainchild Botswana Institute for Research, Science and Technology and Innovation (BITRI) has established a state-of-the-art metallurgical laboratory (met lab) for material scientific research capable of transforming minerals into high value commercial products at competitive cost, Vice President Botswana Mokweetsi Eric Masisi has said.
Giving a keynote address at the official opening of the 9th African Materials Research Society (AMRS) International Conference hosted in Gaborone from December 11 ÔÇô 14, 2017 Masisi said the met lab called the Specialty Chemicals Unit’s (SCU) major task would be using coking-coal as feedstock and cost effectively processing and selectively isolating nickel and copper as well as copper-nickel matte into higher-end products.
The 2017 theme: “Addressing Africa’s Challenges through Materials Development” tallies with the objectives of Vision 2036 of:
“Achieving Prosperity for All” according the opportunity to reflect on our progress as an integral part of a globalised civilization in which scientific advances and technological changes have become key drivers of economic performance.
According to the VP, “The team of scientific experts is currently focused on projects involved in pyrolysis of coal to liquid products. Preliminary results indicate that pyrolysis of coal is a rich source of phenols and aromatics that can be used as additives for the food and petrochemical industries.”
The relevance of these Projects emanate from Botswana’s extensive known coal resources of about 202 billion tones. The current coal mine, Morupule Colliery, was expanded to produce about 3 million tonnes per annum. The demand for coal-for-energy has increased significantly nationally, regionally and internationally and there is also potential to produce coal based products from Botswana coal.
In addition BITRI has a world-class state of the art Centre for Material Science (CMS) laboratory facility for materials fabrication and characterization that will serve the research needs as well as the commercial materials analysis needs of Botswana and the region across a variety of sectors.
The mass spectrometers at the Centre are of the same calibre as those used by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to detect drugs used by athletes. One of the X-ray equipment (the X-ray photoelectron spectrometer, XPS,) can be used to analyse mineral and ore samples for the mining and mineral exploration industry in Botswana
Masisi called on promoting the inclusion of women to participate in science and technology. As the cornerstones of respective nations women hold potential to develop solutions to some of Africa’s developmental challenges as well as improve the lives of our communities. Attracting women in science also forms a major priority for the African Academy of Sciences (AAS)/ Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa-(AESA) and its grants which now require recipients to actively recruit women in science: a step in the right direction!