Good doctor earns NMMU huge contract

Tremaine van Aardt

IAN Wedderburn’s thesis not only landed him a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mechanical Engineering, but also an R11-million research contract between the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and Eskom.

Wedderburn, 40, was awarded his degree yesterday.

The thesis, entitled A Creep Sample retrieval technique and friction weld site repair procedure, explores cost-effective and efficient procedures to monitor creep loaded high temperature and pressure components in power stations.

“In SA many power generation units have been operating well beyond their 30-year life- span. My technique allows for these units to be penetrated and small samples extracted for analysis, which allows for more accurate results and much more effective solutions can be drawn up,” Wedderburn said.

“In the past, an analysis was done by simply inspecting the surface, which led to incorrect solutions and expensive mistakes.”

The deputy director of NMMU’s eNtsa research programme, Wedderburn moved to Port Elizabeth from Kenton-on-Sea in 1996 to pursue his studies. He was awarded his diploma and BTech and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, all cum laude.

His doctoral thesis research formed the basis for NMMU winning the National Innovation Competition award in 2010 and the National Science and Technology Forum’s “Research leading to an innovation by a team” award in 2011.

Last year, he won the Eskom Chairman’s Award for Innovation which secured the R11-million contract for NMMU.

“The developed and tested methodology is already being used in the Kendal, Hendrina and Lethabo power stations,” Wedderburn said.

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