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Associate Professor George Vicatos

I am a designer and hence my interests spread across the "drawing-board" concept, which due to evolution, I have adapted to the latest versions of CAD. I started my career as a designer working at a Lebanese company, based in Athens, Greece, where I designed sections of bulk-carrier ships, cement floating terminals and participating in the new ship-building section of the company.

Since 1985, I have been employed at the University of Cape Town and taught courses which spread from the 1st year of the undergraduate curriculum to Masters specialised courses.

I have an acquired interest in thermodynamics which started when I designed an absorption refrigeration plant that became the test-rig for my PhD study. My research interest on absorption refrigeration, (which is a combination of Thermodynamics and Chemical Thermodynamics concepts), has lead into designing and developing a more efficient plant for the hydrogen-ammonia-water domestic fridge. I have collaborated with scientists and product development engineers in South Africa, at WITS, SAIRAC, and GRASSO, as well as at ELECTROLUX and ADDPOWER in Sweden.

My specialisation in absorption refrigeration has introduced me to private companies in the UK and government organisations for the Rural Development in Botswana.

My engineering design together with my life-long passion for medicine has brought me to the combined discipline of Bioengineering. After studying Human Anatomy at UCT, the skeleton and the soft tissues became the foreground for my engineering development.

I work with orthopaedic surgeons and oncologists and I have designed and developed a large number of implants that are unique to each patient. My focus is on implants for limb-sparing surgery for bone tumour or trauma patients and on implants that require complex surface development. The implants are designed for anatomical reconstruction of the skeleton, which in most cases, is a better solution for the smooth transmission of forces, and also helps the patient aesthetically. I have designed and developed modular implant systems for both the upper and lower limbs, which have been used in approximately 600 operations at provincial and private hospitals in South Africa and India.

My research focuses on improving the manufacturing processes for the implants and identifying new technologies, choice of materials, treatment of articulating surfaces and oseointegration between skeletal tissue and implant. I also collaborate in research and development with major academic institutions in South Africa, such as UCT, University of Stellenbosch and Central University of Technology, Free State and also in Mumbai, India.

I consider collaboration with orthopaedic surgeons invaluable. Their request for a skeletal part or a surgical tool, or a theatre instrument, forms the basis for a new design challenge.

Major projects that he has completed show a broad range of engineering skills:

Energy related projects

  • A Survey of the Boiler Stock in South Africa: Creation of a Database containing technical information on 8000 boilers nationwide.

  • Air breathing Engines: Investigation on the performance of combined cycles on part load and alternative fuel conditions.

  • Design of the original ESKOM electricity prepayment meter: Conceptual design, control diagram, final layout and appearance.

  • Design and manufacture of a solar driven industrial absorption refrigeration machine as part of a Swedish funded project for generation of electricity.

Other projects

  • Design, part-manufacturing and commissioning of the "Time Ball" mechanism for the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Clock; (a historic monument, one of only five in the world).

  • Design and development of a Trochanteric Fixation tool and implants used in total hip replacement surgery (South African Patent).

  • Design and development of a Stem-centralisation Femoral Implant, (South African Patent).

  • Design and development of Total Proximal Femoral Prosthesis, (South African Patent and receipient of Inovation Fund Award 2003).

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