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WORLD’S FIRST DIGITAL LASER & THE TOP 5 SOUTH AFRICAN TECH INVENTIONS

andrew small Professor Andrew Forbes received his PhD (1998) from the University of Natal and subsequently spent several years working as an applied laser physicist, first for the South African Atomic Energy Corporation and then later in a private laser company where he was technical director. He is presently chief researcher at the CSIR National Laser Centre, a member of the CSIR's strategic research panel and the research group leader for mathematical optics and photonic materials.
CSIR last year announced they had developed the world's first digital laser, which the researcher described as a "disruptive technology" that could change traditional manufacturing, communications and electronic devices.

 


The computer interface is "like a television which displays the image you're watching", said Professor Forbes. "The basic idea is to digitally create the desired hologram, which acts as a spatial light modulator."


The discovery prompted ENCA's Tech Report to look at the Top 5 South African first's in the area of Science and Technology:


1. WORLD'S FIRST HEART TRANSPLANT
The world's first heart transplant was performed by Dr Chris Barnard in Cape Town on 3 December 1967. The patient Louis Washkansky was suffering heart failure at the time and Dr Barnard took the chance to operate him. After that, Barnard became an international celebrity. He went on to perform more than 10 other heart transplants, with one of the recipients surviving a further 23 years.


2. CAT SCAN
The Computed Axial Tomography Scan or CAT was developed by Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsfield. He provided the mathematical technique for the CAT scan, in which an X-ray source and electronic detectors are rotated about the body and the resulting data is analysed by a computer to produce a sharp map of the tissues within a cross-section of the body. This resulted in a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.


3. SMARTLOCK SAFETY SYRINGES
Smartlock safety syringes provide improved protection against needlestick injury and contamination by Ebola virus, Hepatitis and HIV. This invention has saved countless lives. It was developed by South African scientists in 1992.


4. Q20
Q20 was invented in 1950 in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal by a Mr Robertson, as a product to displace water from the distributor caps on the old VW Beetle, which was notorious for stalling in wet weather. It was an effective water repellent, kept rust at bay, eased squeaky door hinges, and made it easy to release rusted or seized nuts and bolts.


5. KREEPY KRAULY
A vacuum cleaner for your pool seemed like a crazy idea until an innovative South African came up with the Kreepy Krawly in 1951. The swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier from Springs. Chauvier tried to figure out a way to take the hassle out of pool cleaning. The result was the Kreepy Krauly and the first one was created in 1974.


Pic: CSIR
Additional reporting from Mail & Guardian and thesouthafrican.com

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