South Africa unveils new world-class photonics prototyping facility

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DURBAN, South Africa – South Africa’s photonics industry will benefit from a new state-of-the-art Photonics Prototyping Facility (PPF) that was launched at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Friday.

The PPF, which is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is aimed at fast-tracking the product development of photonics technologies and devices in line with market needs to stimulate growth and competitiveness of the South African photonics industry.

The facility offers 1000 clean rooms, technical and optical equipment, ranging from electronic, mechanical and diagnostic equipment, for a variety of wave lengths.

Dr. Thulani Dlamini, the Chief Executive Officer of the CSIR said the facility has a huge role to play in developing and supporting new and existing enterprises in the field of photonics, in order to improve their competitiveness.

“This initiative is an important platform for the accelerated development of innovative products and technologies in photonics. This PPF will help to develop South Africa’s expertise in the area of photonics product innovation and development, thus stimulating the growth of the country’s photonics industry by forming small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) and sustainable jobs.”

Dr. Dlamini called on South African scientists, researchers, engineers, industries, SMMEs, entrepreneurs and investors to make use of this facility to develop photonic-related products.

Photonics applications are pervasive in all branches of 21st century science and engineering and everyday life, including fibre optic information and communication networks and systems, cameras, sensors and imaging systems, illumination systems and displays, applications in the energy sector such as photovoltaic materials and systems, and applications in manufacturing where photonics plays an increasing important part as a tool that support advanced manufacturing technology such as 3D printing.

Director-General of the DSI, Dr. Phil Mjwara said the establishment of the Photonics Prototyping Facility is without doubt a significant milestone for the CSIR industry and the national system of innovation as a whole.

“These initiatives are also key components of our contribution to national development imperatives as set out in the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation and the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. Most importantly, they are a fulfilment of our obligation as government to develop interventions in support of the creation and utilisation of knowledge and innovation for industrial and economic development,” said Mjwara.

By Zakithi Dlamini
Photo credit: CSIR