UJ scientist, Prof Pillay explores the futuristic development of Nanotechnology in 4IR

“The 4th industrial revolution is an era of cyber-physical systems powered by breakthroughs in nanotechnology providing performance boost and new functionality to Internet of Things, biotechnology, 3-D printing, materials science, energy storage, robotics, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing. The onset of nanotechnology has enabled billions of people and businesses all around the globe to connect via mobile devices that are aided by unprecedented processing power and storage capacity. This leads to unlimited access to information and knowledge thus changing the way products are being designed, manufactured, and sold to consumers.”

These were the sentiments shared at a public lecture hosted by the Faculty of Science and the Library at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) with Prof Kriveshini Pillay, Associate Professor: Department of Chemical Sciences on “Nanotechnology & the Fourth Industrial Revolution” on Friday, 10 May 2019.

“While some people are already speaking of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), others have scarcely heard of nanotechnology. This new science, if we can call it that, is a great unknown. We have been using some nanomaterials for decades and yet most of us are entirely unaware of the fact,” said Prof Pillay.

Nanotechnology is a field of science and engineering that deals with structures having at least one of their three dimensions less than 100 nanometers (nm). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. We have “living proof” of the importance of nanostructures in that living systems are complex assemblies of nanoscale components: macromolecules, protein complexes, organelles, quasi-inorganic systems (e.g. Shells, bones), etc.

“Nanotechnology can be applied in various fields, including materials, electronics, water treatment and energy. Materials of much greater hardness and resistance, much faster computers with greater capacity, more effective medical research and diagnoses, capable of responding faster to new diseases and abundant low-cost environmentally friendly methods of water treatment and the fabrication of solar powered energy storage devices are just some examples of how nanotechnology will revolutionise the potential of many common fields today,” explained Prof Pillay,

Prof Pillay tends to feel that nanotechnology will gradually emerge in the medium term, with the incorporation of many elements using nanotechnology in our lives. She believes that some of the most revolutionary changes in everyday life will come in improved water quality and communications in developing smart nanosensors for crime prevention. “Other lifestyle changes that nanotechnology has in store for us will come in the areas of effective water treatment and advanced crime investigations: for example, thanks to nanomaterials, we have developed a range of nanosorbents which can remove numerous pollutants from water and novel nanocomposites for latent fingerprint detection. With such innovations we can apply nanotechnology in 4IR by developing nanoscale water treatment plants which can alleviate the current problems associated with large water treatment plants requiring expensive chemicals and high energy input. We can even take this one step further and develop smart nanosensors to prevent a crime before this can even happen; ,” concluded Prof Pillay.

The lecture highlighted how nanotechnology can be utilized to take the Fourth Industrial Revolution forward with respect to providing solutions to South Africa’s greatest problems namely improved water quality and crime.

Prof Kriveshini Pillay
Prof Kriveshini Pillay
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