The CSIR's laser User Facility is receiving increasing attention from foreign scientists and students who visit the facility to use lasers for their research.
Dr Lorinda Wu says the User Facility remains a critical asset.
Professor Andrew Forbes currently manages the facility and is the pioneer of this project. "The User Facility comprises five well-equipped laboratories with a combination of older inherited equipment, and recently-purchased new equipment after a R12 million investment from the National Research Foundation (NRF). The facility has hosted more than 100 staff and students over the past few years, covering disciplines from physics, chemistry and engineering to biology and animal health sciences," Forbes explains.
The User Facility seeks to encourage cross-disciplinary research and has invested in the fields of biophysics, biophotonics, nanophotonics and quantum information.
User Facility senior scientist, Dr Lorinda Wu, says that most members of the African Laser Centre (ALC) - including students - are forced to come to South Africa if they want to employ lasers in their research. The CSIR National Laser Centre is also a key node of the African Laser Centre; hence this facility is open to African scientists and students.
In South Africa, universities were unable to keep up with exorbitant laser and component prices. The facility's objective, notes Wu, is to also encourage research collaborations and break the proverbial silo mentality. "The facility prepares students for the real world because by the time they join the industry, they have an idea of how lasers work and for scientists, this facility opens up a whole new world of bleeding-edge laser," she says. "The CSIR's User Facility remains a critical asset."
When Wu's group loans these lasers to the universities, they do so for free. "We provide the lasers, install and maintain them," she says.