Pinoy techies and science enthusiasts will learn to appreciate nanotechnology as they familiarize themselves with its products when NanoLab, one of the few nanotechnology research labs in the Philippines, opens its doors to the public on July 1, 2015.

Nanotechnology is the study and manipulation of matter at a scale of about 1 to 100 nanometers. It involves characterization, design and production of structures, devices, and systems with unique properties by fine-tuning the physical, chemical, mechanical, and optical properties of materials at the nanoscale.

A project of the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), NanoLab provides R&D opportunities and technical services to local industries via world-class equipment and devices.

Foremost of these is FE-TEM, a high-resolution field emission transmission electron microscope which is the only one of its kind in the Philippines. FE-TEM can magnify materials up to 1.5 million times.

NanoLab’s array of sophisticated equipment also includes an Atomic Force Microscope, Particle Surface Area Measurement, Scanning Electron Microscope, Dynamic Light Scattering Particle Size Analyzer, and others.

“Now our Juan techies can personally appreciate the look and feel of new nano products,” enthused Josefina R. Celorico, supervising science research specialist from ITDI’s materials science division.

We decided to rely on what are abundant, unexploited, and natural organic or inorganic nanomaterials,” she explained about the material type chosen by NanoLab which is housed at the Materials Science Division Building.

Materials like cassava, corn starch, nanoclay from Bicol, and zeolite from Pangasinan have taken the nanoresearch spotlight. The list of materials also includes silica or quartz from Camarines Sur, natural rubber and halloysite from Mindanao, and calcium carbonate.

After the required separation, consolidation, and re-development of materials by one atom or one molecule, several innovations were developed.

Among these are a nanofiber from zeolite for purifying methane gas in methane-running pipelines which is ideal for industries powered by biogas digesters, and a 100 percent biodegradable food cutlery.

Toxin migration tests conducted by the packaging technology division of ITDI were negative,” related Dr. Marissa A. Paglicawan, supervising science research specialist from ITDI, in reference to the biodegradable cutlery.

Another is a fiber membrane/ filter for treating heavy metal contaminated water using chitosan (chitosan is made by treating shells of shrimp and shellfishes), suitable for waste management.

Also in the list are the high-performance concrete due to silica additives, the cost-efficient nano titanium dioxide for cleaning and maintenance of glass walls and metals, and the metallic zinc nano silica composite coating for steel-based tools, parts, and components which can improve corrosion resistance.

For more about DOST’s other technologies, visit the upcoming  2015 National Science and Technology Week from July 24 to July 28, 2015 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia.  (S&T Media Service)