• PhD in Focus: Ghanaian creates electrical insulator

    Jon Spaull


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Electro porcelain is widely used to insulate electric cables, in homes, on the railways, in telecoms systems — pretty much anywhere that uses electricity. Without it, humans would risk electrocution. Ghana currently imports all its electro porcelain — at great expense.

Now Abu Yaya, a researcher at the University of Ghana, has become the first person to develop electro porcelain from raw materials, such as clay, found in Ghana. The process is cheap: all it needs is the raw materials, water and a furnace. In this audio interview, Yaya says he hopes his electro porcelain can be developed to meet international standards so it can be sold to the country’s electricity company.

Yaya also talks about his impoverished family background and how growing up in a slum in rural Ghana has shaped his aspirations and his decision to chair a youth support organisation. Of a family of seven, he was the first to receive any kind of formal education and has now risen to become a senior lecturer at his university.

This interview was recorded earlier this year at a Cambridge-Africa Partnership for Research Excellence event at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, at which Yaya was speaking. He won a six-month fellowship in 2015 to study at the University of Cambridge to further his research career, which involved working with a Cambridge academic.

This is part of the Africa’s PhD Renaissance series funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.