NMMU centre to enhance rubber and polymer science

2015-12-10 06:00

In an effort to further develop research efforts, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has launched a Centre for Rubber Science and Technology at its South Campus.

REDISA (Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa) partnered in 2013 with NMMU to establish an environmental rating centre, and the newly launched Centre for Rubber Science and Technology is the first phase of the Centre’s development.

The REDISA/NMMU partnership not only makes relevant research within the Department of Chemistry at NMMU possible, but extends to other departments. For instance, the Department of Botany is involved in the development of Life Cycle Assessments/Analyses (LCAs), whilst the Computer Science Department is involved in the development of a model that will assist in tyre identification and harvesting. The Centre will be key in growing the NMMU’s already strong expertise in rubber and polymer science through the addition of advanced laboratory test equipment and funding for research students.

Drawing on NMMU’s historic experience in rubber science and technology, the Centre will focus on providing analytical and technical services, as well as training for the needs of rubber and tyre manufacturing industries within South Africa.

“Rubber and rubber-derived products are key to many sectors of the economy, and having local expertise on par with world standards will lessen our dependence on imported expertise, and will help to support our own manufacturing base,” says Stacey Davidson, REDISA director.

“The work that the Centre for Rubber Science and Technology will do needs to be seen as not only important in helping to deal with the problem of waste tyres, but also as a part of the bigger picture, which is the need to start driving towards a circular economy. The rate at which natural resources are being consumed means that many will run out within years, or decades at most. In all spheres we need to look at how we can change the way we design, use, re-use, recover and recycle,” says Davidson.

According to Dr Percy Hlangothi, supervisor in the research department, “The Centre will not only house research projects that are relevant to the industry and community needs, but will also offer learning programmes and support services to benefit the industry, while growing the national skills base.”

To date, over 50 masters and doctoral students have graduated from NMMU, having completed their research projects in the Physical and Polymer Chemistry Research Group. Many of these graduates are employed in the local tyre and rubber industry with a number having gone on to establish rubber-related companies.

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