DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials



The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials (CoE-SM) is a major South African Research Network hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Stellenbosch University, the Universities of Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, the Council for Minerals Technology (MINTEK) and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA). There are more than 30 researchers over 80 postgraduate students active in the Centre from a number of disciplines including physics, chemistry, ceramics, metallurgy, chemical and mechanical engineering.

Strong materials are those that retain their distinctive scientific and applied properties under extreme conditions and have established or potential commercial applications.

Extreme conditions include some or all of the following:

  • High stress
  • High wear conditions
  • Extreme temperatures (high and/or low)
  • Harsh chemical or corrosive environments
  • Strong fluxes of damaging radiation.

Distinctive properties retained would typically include one or more of the following:

  • Hardness and toughness
  • High mechanical strength and stiffness
  • Wear, corrosion or radiation resistance

Research programmes of the Centre involve the prediction, design, synthesis, evaluation, development and exploitation of strong materials.

The Centre has an overall Director and is organized into 6 Focus Areas.

University of Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
University of Stellenbosch
University of KwaZulu-Natal
University of Limpopo

Director of the Centre of Excellence:
Prof. L.A. Cornish

Focus Area Co-ordinators

Carbides and Cermets: Prof. N. Sacks
Carbon Nanotubes and Strong Composites: Dr S.H. Durbach  
Ceramics: Prof. I. Sigalas
Diamond, Thin Hard Films & Related Materials: Dr S.R. Naidoo
New Ultrahard Materials: Prof. A. Quandt
Strong Metallic Alloys: Dr J. Papo

Administrative Manager: Mrs Casey Sparkes


University of the Witwatersrand (Host)
University of Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
University of Limpopo
Stellenbosch University
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Mintek (Advanced Materials Division)
National Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA)

Support From

Element Six
iThemba LABS (Gauteng)


National Research Foundation (NRF) Mintek NECSA  Element Six