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Overview: Carbon Nanotubes and Strong Composites

This focus area has two main thrusts.  The first is involved with the synthesis, functionalisation and characterisation of shaped carbon nanomaterials and metal nitrides including: carbon nanotubes, carbon nanospheres, carbon nanocoils, graphene sheets, carbon nanofibers, carbon nanohelices, as well as GaN/InN composites.  This is achieved by classical procedures such as the chemical vapour deposition, laser ablation, hydrothermal as well as arc-discharge methodologies.  A large part of this work focuses upon optimising reaction conditions to selectively produce high yields of shaped carbon nanomaterials and selected metal nitrides with the desired dimensions or properties.  These nanomaterials have been used in various research programmes in the focus area including: water purification, as catalyst supports, in solar cells, as biosensors and as fillers in composites.   

The second thrust is involved with the modelling and synthesis of composite and hybrid composite systems.  In the former case, computational techniques (FE, MATLAB, etc.) are being developed to determine the extent of stress concentration due to dynamic loads in composites and to apply these techniques in identifying the optimum properties of an inter-phase layer to reduce dynamic stress concentrations in a matrix, as well as to consider the size effects when the reinforcements are in the form of nanoparticles.  In the latter case, synthetic procedures are being developed to produce composites from polymers as well as a variety of fillers (natural fibres, glass fiber and shaped carbon nanomaterials).  These composites are then being tested for their strength properties and potential use in automotive and aerospace applications.

Other activities that the focus area members have participated in include:

  • Involvement with IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) projects
  • Communication of nano activities in the popular media (radio interviews, school talks, articles in magazines e.g. SA Journal of Science, etc.)

Focus Area Co-ordinator
Dr Z. Tetana

Prof. S. Bhattacharyya
Prof. D. Comins
Prof. N.J. Coville 
Prof. R. Reid
Dr J. Keartland
Dr X. Mbianda
Dr S. Mhlanga
Dr M. Mamo
Dr J. Muthu
Dr K. Pillay