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Govt procures nanotechnology equipment for analysis, forensics

Makerere University has acquired of a VP [vapour pressure] Sigma 300 high-resolution scanning electron microscope and other state-of-the-art equipment that will greatly improve the testing, analysis and characterization of materials in the country and beyond. 

The equipment is now housed at the Africa Center of Excellence in Materials, Product Development and Nanotechnology (MAPRONANO ACE) in Makerere University’s college of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT).

The commissioning was on July 21, 2021. Said to be the fourth in sub-Saharan Africa (two in South Africa and one in Ghana), this state-of-the-art Sigma 300 scanning electron microscope will be used by other colleges of Makerere and many institutions, ministries, agencies and industries in the country.

Many institutions and agencies will no longer be sending samples to Europe, America or South Africa for testing. Vice chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe said this high-resolution microscope alone cost it $800,000 (about Shs 2.9 billion).

He added that all the equipment is manufactured by German manufacturer of optical systems and optoelectronics Carl Zeiss, and was supplied by Beautiful Engineering & Equipment Ltd (of Uganda).

All the cost of purchase, freight, installation and training was met by Uganda Government, through the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE). Beautiful Engineering has been contracted for professional repairs and maintenance of the equipment.

TRAINING STUDENTS, INDUSTRY STAFF

Prof John Baptist Kirabira of the school of Engineering and director of MAPRONANO ACE said already PhD students have been trained to use the new equipment and others are on training.

“With this equipment in our hands, training opportunities in advanced microscopy techniques and nano-materials characterization will also be offered to graduate, industry professionals and regional students,” he said.

Dr David S. Sseruga, representing Dr Monica Musenero, the guest of honour and minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, said the equipment constitutes a ‘central facility’ that will serve even institutions and industries across East and Central Africa.

The high-resolution scanning electron microscope will serve many purposes such as drug discovery and identification of new pathogens, minerals identification, size measurements of micron and nano-sized materials, determining morphology of biological specimens (structural biology), tissue imaging, device testing and characterisation, toxins identification, pharmaceutical quality control and forensic tests.

SPECIFIC INSTITUTIONS, INDUSTRIES

Prof Kirabira pointed out 11 Ugandan institutions and industries that will make use of the high-resolution electron microscope for various purposes. These include: Cipla Pharmaceuticals, for drug discovery and drug quality control and testing, and genomics.

Others are Steel and Tube Industries Ltd, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Luwero Industries (NEC) and Roofing’s Uganda Limited all for materials testing and characterization; Uganda Virus Research Institute, for discovery of new viruses, drug discoveries, tissue imaging and diagnostics; and Uganda Cancer Institute, for cancer tissue imaging, therapeutics and diagnostics research.

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