Change the world


Nelson Mandela University student, Ettienne Minnaar, recently took first prize - twice - at a meeting of the Microscopy Society of America, Microscopy and Microanalysis 2017, held in St Louis, Missouri.

Minnaar had been invited to attend the conference by renowned physicist, Dr Nester Zaluzec, from Argonne National Laboratory in the USA. Dr Zaluzec, a friend of the Centre for High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy (HRTEM), is best known as the inventor of the Scanning Confocal Electron Microscope.

The Centre for HRTEM, situated at the Nelson Mandela University, is the leading facility for advanced microscopy on the African continent. Research at the Centre is multi-disciplinary and focuses on the application of high resolution and analytical electron microscopy techniques for the characterisation of strategic materials for the benefit of the South African nation.

Minnaar, supervised by Dr Johan Westraadt, is a final year PhD student at the Centre for HRTEM working in the field of polycrystalline diamond for oil drilling applications. His invited poster entitled “Microstructural Characterisation of Polycrystalline Diamond Sintered at Ultrahigh Pressures” took first prize at the pre-conference “Congress for Students and Early-Career Professionals in Microscopy and Microanalysis” held on 5 August. Minnaar also received the Microscopy Society of America Student Poster Award on 8 August.

Minnaar said he was honoured to have showcased the level of research ability at the University.

“Science is one of the international languages that’s understood worldwide. It is a great honour for me to receive this award as it shows that the research we, at the Nelson Mandela University, conduct can and does compete with the leading institutions around the globe,” he said.

“’Study physics, and you’ll see the World’. This is a very important phrase to me. One of my  first physics lecturers, Prof Japie Engelbrecht, uttered these words during my first lecture at the Nelson Mandela University in 2006.”

By combining state-of-the-art facilities with extensive local and international networks with leading industrial partners and universities, the Centre for HRTEM supports research in strategic areas such as power plant materials (including steels and ceramics used in nuclear power plants, and steels used in coal-fired power plants), nanoparticle catalysts, polycrystalline diamond compacts and other ultra-hard materials used in cutting and drilling tools, and platinum and titanium alloys for minerals beneficiation.

Current collaborators include Hulamin; Sasol; Eskom; the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials at the University of the Witwatersrand; the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Catalysis at the University of Cape Town; the Mechanical Engineering Departments at the Nelson Mandela University, Stellenbosch and UCT; the Russian Joint Institute for Nuclear Research; Element Six in the UK and in South Africa; The Ohio State University, Idaho National Laboratory and Westinghouse in the USA; Oxford University, the University of Manchester and King’s College London in the UK; the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany; the University of Link√∂ping in Sweden; and Kyoto University, Japan.

Research on the nanoscale characterisation of poly- and nanocrystalline diamond products (PCD and NCD) used as drill bit inserts for oil and gas drilling is headed by senior research fellow, Dr Johan Westraadt, and is carried out in collaboration with Element Six in the UK. The properties of hard materials and hard metal alloys used as drilling, cutting and machining tools (e.g. in the mining and automotive industries) depends on their micro and nanostructures, and TEM and HRTEM at the Nelson Mandela University are used for the nano and atomic scale analyses of these materials.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777