SAASTA will showcase advances in nanotechnology, and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies


The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) is a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF) with the mandate to advance public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, engi­neering and technology in South Africa.

SAASTA has a critical role to play in contributing to the creation of a society that is knowledgeable on issues of science and technology, as well as to grow the pool of learners today who will become the scientists and innovators of tomorrow.


Nanotechnology, the science of the extremely small, has the potential to have an extremely large impact on many aspects of society. It is a field that has potential applications in almost all areas of human life, including health and medicine, energy, information technology, material and manufacturing, and the environment. This cross-cutting nature gives nanotechnology its potential to impact greatly on the quality and sustainability of our natural resources.

What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating material at an atomic and molecular scale. At this level, the normal rules of physics and chemistry no longer apply, and materials often display unique and surprising properties.

The ability of scientists to create and manipulate matter at the nanoscale offers previously unenvisaged possibilities for research and applications. Nanotechnology has been hailed as the ‘leading technology of the 21st century’ and is recognised as an important tool for both innova­tive development and improving the lives of ordinary people.

Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

Co-ordinator of Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme (NPEP) and Hydrogen South Africa Public Awareness, Demonstration and Education Platform (HySA PADEP) at SAASTA, Dr Mthuthuzeli Zamxaka, at the previous skills summit motivated a shift towards hydrogen fuel cell technology and the use of nanotechnology especially in improving the platinum catalyst.

“We know that we have a crisis of electricity in our country. Many rural areas or communities are still without electricity because the current electricity set-up is unable to supply them.

“Our country is really running out of energy re­sources. We depend on non-renewable resources like coal for electricity, so Eskom is continually burning coal in order for us to maintain our cur­rent lifestyles. These power stations are causing global warming. Then there is oil to consider. Our dependency on oil is escalating. To prevent this, the aim is to convert the chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity.

“Hydrogen is the simplest element and the most abundant gas in the Universe and it can be used as the energy carrier that stores and delivers energy in a usable format,” he said.

Emerging skills breakaway session during the 2018 Skills Development Summit

This year SAASTA aims to tackle some of the big issues at the Skills Development Summit by focussing on nanotechnology, and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

The engagement programmes are both initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), implemented by SAASTA. The main objectives of these pro­grammes are to promote public understanding of these emerging technologies and facilitate engagement with the new emerging scientific disciplines. These pro­grammes also assist in the translation of academic research for the public, industry and the policy makers.

Through a science exhibition, presentations and breakaway sessions at the summit, SAASTA (aligned to its mandate as an educational organisation) will pro­vide insight and information about the advantages, benefits and challenges of new technologies for the betterment of South Africa. SAASTA aims to communicate with the public through this event by creating awareness of cutting edge research both locally and internationally.

Through participation in these types of events, SAASTA encourages engagement on the big issues of the day and promotes knowledge transfer both within academic and professional circles.

Creating conversations with the aim of solving South African and African skills challenges is the goal of Skills Development Summit and SAASTA is proud to be affiliated with the event.

SAASTA will be exhibiting at the CSIR International Convention Centre on 15 and 16 February 2018 as part of the Skills Summit. We wish to invite the public to par­ticipate in this event and to contribute to the conversations around sustainable and emerging technologies for the future. To provide scope of the discussions, SAASTA will be presenting during its break away session at the Skills Summit, Nanotechnology, and Hydrogen Fuel Cell technologies.


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