Monday, 16 November 2009

Industry funding helps rheology project develop safer mining explosives


Rheology researchers at CPUT were recently awarded a million rand to extend a project that focuses on emulsion technology and the development of a safer and more accurate blasting practice for the mining industry.

For the past nine years, the Material Science and Technology group, which is based at the Cape Town campus, has been conducting research in collaboration with African Explosive Limited (AEL), a world leading innovator in explosives technology and manufacturer of bulk emulsion explosives.

The emulsion research project lead by Prof Irina Masalova has proved to be such a success that AEL has committed to fund CPUT for an additional three years.

The research has allowed AEL to develop an eco-friendly version of their repump, doped and blend emulsion bulk explosives, using waste fuel oil generated by mining machinery.

“We have managed to successfully apply rheology, which is the study of the flow of complex and multi-phase liquid, as a tool for predicting the stability and pumpability of AEL’s bulk emulsion explosives,” said Prof Masalova.

“Methods for investigation surfactant characteristics have been developed as well, which allows the company to do quick optimisation of the quality and quantity of the right surfactant in order to manufacture cost effective emulsion with optimal stability.”

Prof Masalova said funding from AEL and the National Research Foundation’s Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP), has also resulted in CPUT establishing a world class rheology laboratory, at a cost of R8.5 million. The centre is the only of its kind in South Africa.

Recently the centre’s achievements and projects with AEL were highlighted at the Department of Trade and Industry’s award ceremony, which celebrated successful research projects that received THRIP funding.

THRIP’s mission is to improve the competitiveness of South African industry, by supporting research and technology development activities and enhancing the quantity of skilled people.

It does this through a partnership programme which challenges companies such as AEL to match government funding for innovative research and development in South Africa.

The emulsion research project clinched the runner up prize from the Department of Trade and Industry in the Advanced Higher Technologies Category at the awards ceremony which was held in Somerset West on 22 October 2009.

Prof Masalova said: “The DTI evaluated projects in terms of the outcomes and how it impacts industry. They have seen this project to be efficient and beneficial for industry.”

She said the collaboration would not have been possible without the buy-in of AEL, a South African company.

“The Research and Development Department at AEL is lead by Dr Piet Halliday, who believes that investment in research will allow the company to produce a new generation of products and technology,” said Prof Masalova.

The nine years of support from AEL and THRIP has resulted in the institute producing the following:

  • 3 Post Doctorals
  • 2 PhD Projects
  • 5 Masters Projects (All Cum Laude)
  • 4 BTech Projects
  • 20 Journal Publications, and
  • 15 Conference Papers/presentations

By Candes Keating

Photograph: (left) Prof Irina Masalova with the Department of Trade and Industry Award that her mining explosives project recently received (top right) The Material Science and Technology group (bottom right) Prof Irina Masalova stands with members of African Explosive Limited (AEL). On her right is Dr Piet Halliday, who is the head of Research and Development at AEL.

Written by CPUT News