NANOTECHNOLOGY is one area where the Philippines must focus
in order to develop its capabilities in several fields that
could help the country achieve development, Dr. Fabian Dayrit,
dean of the School of Science and Engineering of Ateneo de Manila
“As far as the Philippines is concerned, nanotechnology
can be applied in niche areas and local needs so that it will
be able to meet the objectives of the United Nations’
Millennium Development Goals,” Dayrit said at the Scientific
Meetings as part of last week’s celebration of the National
Science and Technology Week.
“Health and environmental risks, biotechnology, materials
science, and information and communications technology [ICT]
are some of the possible applications of nanotechnology in the
Philippines,” he added.
Dayrit said current and potential applications of nanotechnology,
such as environmental assessment and weather analysis, are already
on a global scale.
Contrary to popular perception, Dayrit said nanotechnology
is not mere miniaturization. It also involves the exploitation
of new phenomena which arise at the atomic and molecular levels.
“Nanotechnology is not completely new, and it’s
already with us. Let us explore its practical applications.
Nanotechnology is the new thing, just as micro during the earlier
times,” he said.
Dayrit said nanotechnology is vital because it is not a single
technology; it may become pervasive. It also “seeks to
produce new materials with specific properties.”
“Nanotechnology may introduce new efficiencies and paradigms
which may make some natural resources and current practices
uncompetitive or obsolete,” Dayrit, a balik scientist,
He added that it may be “very difficult to detect its
presence,” unless one has the special tools for nanotechnology.
Wikipedia defines nanotechnology as the “engineering
of functional systems at the molecular scale.” One nanometer
is one billionth, or 10 to the minus ninth power, of a meter.
Nanotechnology, Wikipedia added, is very diverse, ranging from
novel extensions of conventional device physics, to completely
new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, to developing
new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale, even to speculation
on whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale.
“Nanotechnology has the potential to create many new
materials and devices with wide-ranging applications, such as
in medicine, electronics, and energy production,” it said.
K. Eric Drexler popularized the term “nanotechnology”
in the 1980s.
To make Filipinos more aware of the benefits of nanotechnology,
Dayrit said there must be public-education campaigns on the
technology, including its potential benefits, risks and its
To ensure it is a propeople science, Dayrit said it must consider
the public interest and needs in the design and development
of nanotechnology products.
There must be an organization for the nanotechnology clearing
house and oversight structure to monitor its programs, he said.
“We also need to establish a parallel R&D [research
and development] efforts on the health and environmental risks
of nanotechnology products, life-cycle assessments and social
impacts. At the same time, the country must also develop its
capabilities for quick assessment and response,” said
In ICT, Dayrit said nanotechnology could help in developing
processors and chips, which can have more functionality, speed
and computing power.
At the same time, he said it could also respond to the requirements
for better integrability, portability and higher power efficiency.
Dayrit said it is also useful in the development of materials
for used on nonfossil fuel-based energy sources. In solar energy,
nanotechnology can help develop nanoceramics on photovoltaic
Other applications are nanocatalysts for combustion, nanocomposites
and hydrogen-fuel cells.
For food and agriculture, Dayrit said nanotechnology could
be useful for big corporate farms and small farms. Big farms,
he said, could apply it in smart field systems, smart delivery
systems in agriculture and food products, food packaging, nanosensors,
and plant and animal breeding.
“It may be useful even to the small farmer as an aid
for decision-making and resource conservation,” said Dayrit.
In medicine, nanomedicine has the potential to enable early
detection and prevention of illnesses, and to essentially improve
diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of diseases.
To develop nanotechnology in the country, Dayrit said the following
measures must be implemented:
• Introduce nanotechnology in all science and engineering
courses, and strengthen programs specifically for nanotechnology;
• Provide major universities with basic equipment to image
and characterize nanostructures (the basic instrument, the atomic
force microscope, is a very high-resolution type of scanning
probe microscopy that costs $120,000 each);
• Encourage interdisciplinary interaction among science
and engineering departments in nanotechnology;
• Upgrade National Metrology Institute for nanotechnology;
• Identify laboratories for nanoparticle measurements;
• Invest in new tools (high resolution TEM, XPS, SIMS);
• Accreditation of laboratories by international organizations;
• R&D in methodologies for nanotesting, including
the development of certified materials or standards for use
in calibration of equipment;
• Develop MSTQ infrastructure for nanotechnology.
Dayrit said the importance of nanotechnology could no longer
be ignored. In 2001 the US National Nanotechnology Initiative
invested about $220 million for research and discovery. The
budget for 2008 went up to $1.5 billion.
Other countries which have invested for nanotechnology include
the European Union (€1 billion in 2004), Japan ($800 million
in 2003), South Korea ($2 billion for 10 years), Taiwan ($600
million for over six years) and China ($100 million in 2003).
In 2008 Dayrit said the total worldwide investment in nanotechnology
reached more than $10 billion.
Besides Dayrit, the other scientists involved in nanotechnology
research in the country are Dr. Blessie Basilia, Dr. Christina
Binag, Dr. Carlo Mar Blanca, Dr. Erwin Enriquez, Dr. Antonio
Laurena, Dr. Jim Josephus Minglana, Dr. Guillermo Nuesca, Dr.
Milagros Peralta, Dr. Veronica Sabularse, Dr. Arnel Salvador,
Dr. Roland Sarmago, Dr. Armando Somintac, Dr. Fortunato Sevilla,
Ian Harvey Arellano, Michael Defensor, Christian Malapit, Ruby
Janet Ortiz and Dindi Tisha Samsuya.