22 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 100, No. 8 Africa—A wealth of resources and aspirations Celebrating 100 years 6 “Chinese, African science academies ink deal to strengthen collaboration,” September 3, 2019. Accessed August 2021. http://english.cas.cn/newsroom/news/201909/ t20190903_216187.shtml 7 “SAJOREC assesses remediation efficiency of heavy metals and health risk assessment in Kenya,” January 19, 2019. Accessed August 2021. http://www.sinafrica.cas.cn/ English/Research/Research/201902/t20190220_475955. html 8 United States Geological Survey, “International Programs: Africa.” Accessed August 2021. https://www. usgs.gov/about/organization/science-support/international- programs/africa 9 Kenya Vision 2030. Accessed August 2021. https://vision2030.go.ke 10 Kenya Vision 2030, “Nano-Sciences, Material Science and New Production Technologies Programme.” Accessed August 2021. https://vision2030.go.ke/project/establishment-of- kenya-institute-of-nanotechnology-kion 11 Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. Accessed August 2021. https://scienceandtech.gov.ng/science-and- technology-promotion 12 National Board for Technology Incubation, Federal Government of Nigeria. Accessed August 2021. https://nbti.gov.ng 13 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Accessed August 2021. https://www.csir.co.za 14 Cermalab Materials Testing Laboratory. Accessed August 2021. https://cermalab.co.za 100 If you express surprise that her native South Africa has a space program that inspired a young woman to become a materials engineer working on aerospace composite materials, Phylis Makurunje does not hesi- tate in her response. “South Africa is one ambitious country,” she says. “Ambitious in that it’s serious about research and development and how it plays in the ecosystem of the economy and industry.” Her own ambitions led her to pursue a Ph.D. in materials engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, working with ceramics for aerospace appli- cations. After completion, she moved to Wales to join the Nuclear Futures Institute at Bangor University as a post-doctoral research officer, where she explores how aerospace materials and nuclear energy can converge. Although her research at Bangor has its genesis in a request from a commer- cial entity in the military and security industry, that company ultimately opted out of the collaboration. Makurunje continued the research in collabora- tion with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Pretoria, South Africa),13 which has “a department that specifically looks at commercializing aerospace materials composites efficiently.” “I focus on ultrahigh-temperature ceramics that have an unusually high melting point. We’re talking about above 2,000°C, but especially above 3,000°C,” she says. “Few materials can withstand those temperatures without melting or even without vaporizing. So, that’s the leading quality that we look for, but also related to that quality is the robustness.” Those characteristics are priorities because they help to identify which materials may be candidates for reuse in aerospace vehicles. Increasing the number of reusable materials and components furthers progress toward com- mercializing space travel. That awareness of commercial potential hints at Makurunje’s dual ambitions for her future work. “I see myself in an indus- trial kind of setting more than an academic one. I’ve always loved the real engineering side of things,” she says. “In the academic field, you get the opportunity to really try out new things—anything that you can think of most of the time—and that is an amazing opportunity and something that I love. But I also love seeing the ideas going commercial. That’s what really drives me to, at some point be in industry again.” That career shift may entail a return to South Africa. “We have a lot of new space players coming from the African continent, and already South Africa is a leading player in for a number of decades in the space arena,” she says. “A lot of changes are happening. A lot of developments are happening globally from countries that were not there. That means that anything can happen, really.” 100 Phylis Makurunje, researcher inspired by South Africa space program Phylis Makurunje Mining is the single biggest component of South Africa’s GDP. With mining/metal- lurgical operations and refractories in such a prominent position, quality assurance for those sectors plays an important role in the country’s continued development. Cermalab Materials Testing Laboratory14 is engaged in materials testing, improving process technology, and evaluating final products. Its focus within the sphere of ceramics is cement and concrete. “There are a lot of refractories being used in South Africa—some made locally and some imported,” says Aron Shonhiwa. “We assist our clients in testing their materials, researching new products, and ensuring that their materials are conforming to the required standards and specifications.” One of the challenges the company faces is a shortage of professionals in ceram- ics. “Not many colleges or universities around us offer ceramics as a discipline,” Shonhiwa says. “Companies like ours have been sourcing some young profes- sionals with chemical, metallurgical, materials science, or engineering training, and then we groom them. At the end of the day, it’s a question of training them into the real testing of ceramics.” Cermalab’s affiliated Institute of Ceramic Educa- tion offers a 16-week brick-making course and a three-day quality control course. Some of South Africa’s refractories are subsidiaries of companies based abroad. Although that sets the stage for Cermalab to engage in cross-border collaboration, those opportunities go untapped when the companies send samples overseas for testing. “This is both time consuming and a financial con- straint,” Shonhiwa says. “It would be ideal if we collabo- rate with the mother company overseas, so that we do the product development in testing for their subsidiaries in Africa, instead of shipping raw materials all the way to Europe or America.” He notes that Cermalab’s equipment conforms to global standards and that the company conducts most of its tests in accordance with ASTM and European standards. With that in mind, he sees the company as offering com- panies in the U.S. and Europe a locally based resource that will allow them to attain their testing and quality assurance standards without having to set up a testing facility on the continent. The company uses proficiency testing to promote that strategy. “You compare results and do statistical analysis to see if there is any discrepancy. That is the only way you can be in a position to say there’s no compromising quality if the testing is done in Africa or in the States,” Shonhiwa says. “There won’t be any compromise as far as procedures are concerned.” See Cermalab’s accreditations page for further details, https://cermalab.co.za/Pages/Accreditation.asp. 100 Aron Shonhiwa, business development manager, Cermalab Materials Testing Laboratory Aron Shonhiwa ACerS International Chapters —Serving members in their local communities Nearly 40% of ACerS members are located outside the United States. To better serve members around the world, ACerS sup- ports the formation of International Chapters where concentrations of ACerS members reside outside the U.S. Learn more about ACerS International Chapters at https://ceramics.org/ international-chapters. 100
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