UFS involved in project to light up the townships
2006-06-06

The parties involved with the project are from the left: Prof Hendrik Swart (Departmental Chairperson of the UFS Department of Physics), Dr Thembela Hillie (CSIR), Prof Neerich Revaprasadu (Department of Chemistry at the University of Zululand) and Dr Wynand Steyn (CSIR).

UFS involved in project that could light up the townships   

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) Department of Physics is involved with a project that could make life easier in the townships through the use of artificial light.

“The project is based on the use of sunlight to activate nano material in for example cement and paint during the day. At night the cement or paint can then radiate light,” said Prof Hendrik Swart, Departmental Chairperson of the UFS Department of Physics.

According to Prof Swart an amount of R3,9 million has been made available by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for the further development of the project.   

Prof Swart visited the University of Florida in America in 1995 for a year where he researched luminescent phosphor material that is suitable for flat panel television screens.  The red, green and blue spots on the television screens originate from these kinds of phosphor materials.  “At that stage plasma television screens were only a dream.  Today it is sold everywhere,” said Prof Swart. 

“Upon my return I started a research group at the UFS which investigated the degrading of phosphor material.  We also started to concentrate on the effectiveness of nano phosphors.  In the mean time our cooperation with the Americans was strengthened with follow-up visits to America of my colleagues, Prof Koos Terblans and Mr Martin Ntwaeaborwa,” said Prof Swart.

“Nano phosphors are basically luminescent powders that consist of particles that are 1 millionth of a millimetre.  These particles can provide light as soon as they are illuminated with, for instance, sunlight.  The amount of time these particles can provide light, is determined by the impurities in the material,” said Prof Swart.

According to Prof Swart nano particles are developed and linked to infrastructure materials in order for these materials to be excited during the day by sunlight and then it emits light during night time.

“The nano material is of such a nature that it can be mixed with materials, such as paint or cement. The yellow lines of roads can for example emit light in a natural way during night time,” said Prof Swart.

About a year ago Prof Swart and Dr Thembela Hillie, a former Ph D-student of the UFS Department of Physics, had discussions with Prof Neerich Revaprasadu from the University of Zululand and the CSIR about the possibility of mixing these nano phosphor particles with other materials that can be used as light sources in the building of roads and houses.

“Prof Revaprasadu is also actively involved in the research of nano materials.  Our efforts resulted in the CSIR approving the further extension of the project,” said Prof Swart.   

“The UFS and the University of Zululand are currently busy investigating ways to extend the light emitting time,” said Prof Swart.  

“There are eight M Sc and Ph D-students from the UFS and about five students from the University of Zululand working on this research project.  The Department of Physics at the Qwaqwa Campus of the UFS, with Francis Dejene as subject head, is also involved with the project,” said Prof Swart.

According to Prof Swart the further applications of nano materials are unlimited.  “Children whose parents cannot afford electricity can for instance leave any object such as a lamp, that is covered with these phosphor particles, in the sun during the day and use it at night as a light for study purposes,” said Prof Swart.

According to Prof Swart the further extension of the project will take about two years.  “During this time we want to determine how the effectiveness of the phosphors can be increased.  Discussions with the government and other role players for the possible implementation of the project are also part of our planning,” said Prof Swart.


Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
6 June 2006


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