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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

Prof Hendrik Swart richly contributes to research of phosphors
2014-12-02

Prof Hendrik Swart
Photo: Merwelene van der Merwe

Since his appointment as the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair, there has been a sharp increase in the number of papers and publications by Prof Hendrik Swart, Senior Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS). From January this year, he has already published 78 articles. Some of the journals that has published his work, includes:

• Nanotechnology (impact of 3.67)
• Dalton Transactions (impact of 4.097)
• Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical (impact 3.84)

“My biggest success, however, is the powerful group of researchers we have built over the years. Staff, postdocs and students – without them it would have been impossible. I am therefore much indebted to my groups on both the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses.

“The good apparatus we acquired via a sponsorship from the National Research Foundation and Sasol is also one of the main reasons for this. The financial support I get from the university’s research office is of course also a contributing factor,” he says.

For the past 20 years, Prof Swart has been conducting research on any substance that glows. “I only adjust the focus to fit in with current trends,” he says.

Prof Swart believes that his research will make a contribution to the fundamental knowledge about phosphors, as well as to the training of good students for the academic and industrial world on the outside. For the man on the street, his research translates into better, brighter lights that use less energy.

His more recent research focuses on the development of nano-phosphors for light-emitting diodes (LEDS) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLED).

Prof Swart has presented papers on his research not only nationally, but all over the world – including countries in Europe and the East. Some of the most recent papers presented by him and his colleagues/postgraduate students include:

• Applications of AES, XPS and TOF SIMS to phosphor materials at die 15th European Conference on Applications of Surface and Interface Analysis 2013 in Forte Village Resort, Sardinia, Italy.
• Luminescent properties of phosphor nano thin films at the first International Symposium on Nanoparticles/Nanomaterials and Applications in Caparica (Lisbon, Portugal), where he was an invited speaker.
• Role of surface and deep-level defects on the emission of nano metal oxides at the 2014 NanoAfrica international conference, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, where he delivered the keynote address.
• PHI systems and their modifications at KOVSIES at the PHI European User Meeting in Ismaning (Munich), Germany, where he was invited to speak.

Prof Swart also delivered the keynote address at the SETCOR International Conference on Smart Materials and Surfaces in Bangkok, Thailand. His lecture was titled, ‘Role of surface and deep-level defects on the emission and degradation of phosphor materials’.

 

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