CSIR recognises laser expert at awards ceremony

November 27th, 2018, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

Dr Sisa Pityana. The trophy in his right hand was built using laser technology.

At its annual award presentations in November 2018, the CSIR recognised Dr Sisa Pityana for his contribution for the development of industrial laser technology and presented him with the CSIR Career Achievement Excellence Award. Dr Pityana joined the National Laser Centre (NLC) in 1990. The centre was moved to the CSIR in 2005. He has a passion for teaching and is involved with UJ and TUT post graduate Master and PhD students.

NLC science and technology expertise addresses the entire value chain of the photonics spectrum, ranging from fundamental cutting-edge work on laser source development to the application of laser systems to heavy industrial engineering applications. For example, it has demonstrated the techno-economic feasibility for the application of laser-surface engineering and refurbishment processes towards extending the useable lifespan of high-value operational equipment in several industrial settings.

Dr Pityana was instrumental in the acquisition of the first additive manufacturing laser platform in South Africa (the LENS). The laser is currently being used by many in the country for student teaching. “Over the years, we have developed very exciting technology but unless we share this expertise with the younger generation, South Africa will in the long term not benefit from the technology developed at the CSIR. We need to develop people with skills who can go out and build our industrial capacity”, he said.

Dr Pityana started his tertiary education at Fort Hare which, at the time, was a college offshoot of the Rhodes University in Grahamstown.  The political turmoil necessitated him to find another university to complete his studies and he moved to the United Kingdom where he qualified with a PhD in Physics and Laser waveguide technology.

In 1996 he returned to South Africa for post-doctoral studies at University of Cape Town. Two years later he joined the South African Nuclear Energy corporation (NECSA) where he worked on laser technology.

Other main awardees are Dr Dalu Mancama, responsible for employing highly innovative high-throughput technologies in molecular cell biology to develop solutions for key health challenges; Zamaswazi Tshabalala, who is working on a key challenge within the gas-sensing community for her PhD; and Dr Philip Labuschagne for the role he played in the development of a new and novel encapsulation process for probiotics, vitamins and other sensitive active ingredients to improve the stability and efficacy of the active ingredient.