Monthly Archives: January 2014


Nanotechnology – making small stuff do big things

                                    –Wade Adams, TEDxHouston Image

          More than ten years ago, it was unimaginable- even impossible- for maps, calculators, telephones, dictionaries, compasses, notebooks, books, etc. to all fit inside your pocket. Now, we have all those things and so much more compressed in a pocket-sized gadget that we can just carry around wherever we go. Who would have thought that in just one screen, thousands of applications can be accessed?

          But today nanotechnology is evolving not just in designing new waves of computer chips and gadgets but also in developing the use of energy, science, medicine, environment, electronics, communications, surveillance, and many other things. Erwin Enriquez defined nanotechnology as anything that deals with materials and devices that are fabricated within the nanometer scale, and the tools and phenomena that are manifested within these scales.

          What exactly are these scales? To understand it better, let us borrow from one of our sources who asked us to imagine pulling out one strand of our hair. As we feel its thinness on our fingers, imagine separating it into 100,000 more strands. That’s about the size of a nanometer.

          Dubbed to be the new technology, nanotechnology is paving way to many more ideas that can potentially change the world. Let’s look at a few examples:

Eradicating water pollution with nanotechnology

           Water pollution poses a major threat to any country in the world. The earth, being made up of water for the most part, may be seen as having an infinite source of water; but the thing is, sources of potable water are being depleted as industrialization and modernization become full blown in the current era.

           According to the World Water Development Report in 2012, 90% of the waste water generated in developing countries flow directly to bodies of water, which is a threat to purity and safety of drinking water in these places (, 2012). The incessant advancements brought about by modernization at present continue to generate harmful waste that could pollute the world’s sources of drinking water. As such, there is a need to employ better ways of purifying water from contaminants before they are made available for people to drink.

Image   + NANOTECH =  Image


                New innovations involve the use of nanotechnology to purify ground water from pollutants. Nanoparticles are used to make contaminants harmless through a chemical reaction (


                Nanoparticles, as shown in the earlier example in water purification, can be used to eliminate harmful contaminants from water. They can be used to eradicate bacteria as well, working through a process where these nanoparticles attach themselves to pollutants. These nanoscavengers, as they are called, have synthetic cores which are coated with reactive nanoparticles which can easily be magnetized ( They are termed as such since they “feed” on harmful substances. Once these nanoscavengers are integrated into dirty water, they eliminate the bacteria by attaching to them and are brought out of the water when the force of a magnetic field is employed.

A threat to threats

                Nanotechnology’s range is not limited to bacteria. It can also be used to remove sediments, chemicals, charged particles, and other pathogens (, 2010). One example mentioned in Science Daily’s article is that of carbon nanotube membranes, which can purify water from almost any contaminant.


    Nanotech purifier filters. Photo from

         Nanotechnology brings forth new possibilities for water purification. With the help of this innovation, cleaning and purifying water is no longer limited to the use of chlorine or other chemicals which eliminate unwanted organisms and/or substances. With nanotechnology, the capability of removing any sort of contaminant improves continuously as this advancement flourishes at the present times, and as it is honed and polished as the years go by.

Nanotechnology utilized for air purification

          Natural and artificial processes and activities have caused a mass introduction of harmful materials into the planet’s atmosphere. Pollutants from various origins make their way into the ecosystem and accumulate overtime causing disease, damage and death to humans and other organisms. This problem has been persisting for quite a while, triggering various strives that are geared at mitigating the harms caused by these substances in the air. Nanotechnology, in its different shapes and forms, has been utilized in order to ensure the safety of the earth and its inhabitants from the detriments of air pollutants. Nanotechnology plays a vital role in filtering out pollution already present, reduction of pollutants produced by improving key processes, and creating more cost-efficient alternative energy sources.

Lessening of air pollutants during manufacturing

           Propylene oxide is an industrially generated liquid intended for the production of polyurethane plastics, paint, detergents, and other industry-relevant materials. Despite its glaring advantages, the production of propylene oxide yields massive amounts of harmful substances like chlorinated or peroxycarboxylic waste. This proves it inefficiency in the grander scale of things. These aforesaid substances really are a threat to the safety of people, seeing that they are actually probable carcinogens.

           In order to lessen the threat of propylene oxide by-products, nanotechnology frontrunners have developed silver nanoclusters as catalysts. They use this technology to produce the same liquid but yield far less pollutants overall when used in low temperatures. This makes the entire process more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Filtering out carbon dioxide in power plants

         A third of the world’s carbon dioxide (C02) emissions come from energy production. Plants that opt to be more environmentally friendly do so by separating the CO2 from the waste gasses and depositing them in the ground. This process however is very expensive and requires the use of many chemicals, making it less popular in the energy production industry.

          Since there is a need for a more efficient way to filter out CO2, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology has developed a new membrane technology that helps make this process a lot easier. This membrane is fashioned by means of nanotechnology and is made out of a plastic material that proves to be quite inexpensive and highly effective. When used, it allows the other gases to pass through freely while locking in the CO2 emissions. This can actually be used for nearly all CO2 removal processes, making it easier for various industries to subscribe to this particular kind of activity. More avenues for CO2 storage has been created, causing for less emissions in the atmosphere.


         Life was easier ever since the discovery of nanotechnology.Many improvements in the computer has been made, like increasing memory and in speed, more storage capacity and less power consumption. The nanoscale transistors are faster, powerful, energy-efficient and in the future, the computer’s entire memory can fit in a very tiny chip. Even for altering one’s body, there are hip implants that are said to be “friendlier” because of nanoscale topography that encourages cells to accept them.

           Automobiles have also improved. The materials used in them are now lighter and stronger. Also, according to National Nanotechnology Initiative, cars can now have rechargeable batteries, thermoelectric materials for temperature control, lower-rolling-resistance tires; high-efficiency/low-cost sensors and electronics; thin-film smart solar panels; and fuel additives and improved catalytic converters for cleaner exhaust and extended range. Right now, they are trying to look for fuel cells that are cleaner and better for the environment.

           Nanotechnology can also be found in people’s everyday life. Example is watching in 3D, that is nanotechnology working. High-definition (HD) watching uses nanotechnology as well. Nano sized polymers in displays allow brighter images, less power consumption and more viewing angles. Nanotechnology also helps with the accelerometer and rotation of people’s smartphone screens. Even their clothes nowadays are being improved by nanotechnology. New fabrics are made to be resistant to liquid by having little hairs or whiskers to help repel them. The liquid simply falls off without leaving marks of stains or dampness. Fabrics are coated with a thin layer of zinc oxide nanoparticles that resists wrinkling, bacterial growth and even gives better protection against ultraviolet rays. Now, it is easier to repel dirt and lessen the use of harmful cleaning agents. As said in the National Nanotechnology Initiative, even eyeglasses, windows, camera displays, computer and other surfaces can have water-repellant, anti-reflective, self-cleaning, resistant to ultraviolet or infrared light, anti-fog, antimicrobial, scratch-resistant or electrically conductive. It is scratch resistant and resistant to chipping because of the aluminum silicate nanoparticles applied to polymer coatings. Also, polymer composite materials for sports equipment like baseball bats and tennis rackets, motorcycle helmets, car bumpers, suitcase and tools for housing can be lightweight, stiff, durable and  resilient due to nanotechnology.

          The idea of self-cleaning glass may seem impossible, but Pilkington offers it already, calling it Activ Glass. It uses nanoparticles to make the glass hydrophilic and photocatalytic. It being hydrophilic spreads the water once it makes contact with the glass, which washes it clean. They photocatalytic breaks down the dirt by being energized once hit by ultraviolet radiation.

          There is a bright future for nanotechnology. Many countries are now investing on the technology of this century. According to Tanishq Abraham, a 10 year-old college student, the future of nanotechnology can lead to making a real invisibility cloak. Nanoparticles have negative refractive index, that makes light bend in a different way. The photons would go around the object; people would see not the object because they will see the image behind it. There are many things nanotechnology holds for us, we just have to explore more in this very tiny world.

Shining some light on Solar Panel Nanotechnology

          According to the National Academy of Engineering, the Earth receives power from the sun that is 10,000 times more energy than what all the commercial power plants produce but harvesting it is the problem because it can be costly and limiting when it comes to capturing the energy (

           What scientists found as a solution is to use black metals with a nanostructured surface for solar panels, to trap more light. The surface of these metals are treated by “roughening them at the nanoscale level to create dips and ridges just billionths of a metre apart. It actually makes them blacker. This gives them lower reflectivity and makes them able to absorb more wavelengths of light” (

          To add, Rockefeller Foundation states that “nanotechnology-built panels have a smooth surface that prevents water, dust and dirt accumulation, making them self-cleaning, anti-fading, anti-fogging and anti-bacterial.” These Self-Cleaning Solar Panels which avoids build-up results to 6% improved solar energy absorption, 35% more efficiency over a 20-year period, decreased need for yearly cleaning and three to five year decrease in cost payback time (

          Nanotechnology also made it possible for the Dye-Enhanced Solar Cells which mimics nature’s process of photosynthesis. Northwestern University researchers last 2012 made a new type of “dye-sensitized” solar cell “which uses an organic dye monolayer to help absorb sunlight, much as plants do for photosynthesis.” It uses nanomaterials like titanium dioxide nanoparticles and caesium tin iodide thin films, as high-performance p-type and n-type semiconductors. (

         New technologies are on the way, says National Geographic. University of Connecticut and Penn State researchers are using a new approach through nanoscale antenna arrays. These would “take in a wider range of frequencies and collect about 70 percent of the available energy in sunlight.” Also, even without additional gear, these arrays can convert that energy to direct current. (



Enriquez, Erwin. Stellar Origins of Human Ways: Nanotechnology for the Philippines

Soutter, Will. “Nanotechnology in Solar Power.” Nanotechnology in Solar Power. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2014. <>.

Cave, Holly. “Mother Nature Talks Nanotech: The Ultimate Solar Panel.” Guardian News and Media, 17 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2014. <>.

“100 Innovators.” Nanotechnology to Improve Solar Panel Efficiency. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2014. <>.

Kiger, Patrick J. “Sun Plus Nanotechnology: Can Solar Energy Get Bigger by Thinking Small?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 28 Apr. 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2014. <;.

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Nanotechnology: Yay or Nay?

When people speak of nanotechnology, they usually think of scientists in labs creating little robots to do their bidding. Popular science fiction movies like, I, Robot, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra have helped propagate this mentality with their use of miniature robots as destructive forces. Thus, nanotechnology has been much misunderstood in its relatively short life. No one outside of the scientific community knows what it really is.

Fig. 1 Nanomites in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra


In this blog, we plan to shed some light on nanotechnology. By getting to know it better, we will see if it is beneficial or detrimental to society. In this way, we gain a better appreciation for nanotechnology, its applications, and its impact on our world.

We begin by defining what nanotechnology is. Nanotechnology can be broken down to 2 key concepts: “nano” and “technology”. Nano is defined as the one-billionth or 1×10-9 of a quantity. Technology is the practical application of scientific knowledge. Taken together, nanotechnology is thus the application of scientific concepts at the one-billionth level. This refers usually to manipulation at the molecular level. In doing so, new properties of matter are being explored and this opens up a new aperture in technological applications.

In order to better illustrate such technology, we have chosen to explore a specific system developed by scientists at the Institute of the Institute of Energy Technology (INTE) which is affiliated to the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya: BarcelonaTech (UPC), the University of Auckland (New Zealand), and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia). According to the article, they have found a way “to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight in a way that is clean, renewable and more cost-effective than other methods.”

 A new photocatalyst has been developed by researchers that produces hydrogen from water and sunlight. The catalyst consists of gold nanoparticles and titanium oxide crystals. This kind of process would somehow be the same with the regular solar panels of today, the main difference is that with the catalyst of nanoparticles it would be able to maximize the use of natural sunlight compared to only the ultraviolet rays. They do this with the use of a 3D photonic crystal that captures the visible light when the gold nanoparticles resonate. This kind of process that produces hydrogen from the photochemical process would eventually become a more productive and efficient way of collecting power from hydrogen since it would only require water and solar energy.

Fig. 2 Diagram of how the system works

This research is just one of the many ways of producing clean and renewable sources of energy.  With the depletion of our natural resources like fossil fuels, eventually we would require more ways to answer the increasing consumption of energy in the world. Furthermore, alternative energy sources are deemed to be cleaner than fossil fuels as they do not release emissions that are currently known to be detrimental to the environment. Nanotechnology has created opportunities to alternative sources of energy.

This breakthrough provides new hope in the field of renewable energy. While previous technologies proved too inefficient to truly challenge the gas-guzzling giants, this system could be the first step to feasible large-scale application of renewable energy. The researchers have already breached the 5% mark of conversion rate of solar energy into hydrogen. This is the entry point at which the goal of sustainable energy is deemed attainable.

All in all, nanotechnology is still a new frontier that needs to be explored further in order to be understood. While we see many opportunities for growth, we also need to be cautious as not to be blindsided by unforeseen consequences. Nanotechnology is still a fledgling discipline and as such, its after-effects, especially on our environment, will not be felt until some time in the future. However, we believe that proper risk management can abate whatever potential crises nanotechnology brings. With proper attention to detail, discoveries such as this have the potential to change life as we know it. The future of nanotechnology is as bright as we want it to be.


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Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC). “Researchers design new catalyst to produce

hydrogen from water, sunlight.” ScienceDaily, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2014. <>

Fig. 1 <>

All the Small Things

All the Small Things:

Pitting Paint Against Air Pollutants

By: Ablaza, Lopez, Ng, Tan, Tejada, Teng, and Zarza (SCI 10 M)

The momentous events that transpired along EDSA will always be overshadowed by the one word that defines EDSA in the minds of most Filipino citizens: traffic. The words EDSA and traffic seem to be inseparable in traffic updates, news reports, and of course, late excuses. Any citizen of Metro Manila would agree that EDSA traffic is headache-inducing with the seemingly unending influx of cars, impatient drivers honking their horns, and numerous traffic violators. However, our discomfort while traveling through EDSA is just one of the many negative effects of EDSA traffic. The roughly 2 million vehicles that pass through EDSA every day account for much of the pollution that is plaguing the air we breathe. Statistics show that there are nearly 5000 deaths due to air pollution each year (Zafra, 2012), and if the trend continues to persist, we can expect worse figures in the coming years.

To address this problem, one of the recent initiatives presented an unorthodox answer to the growing pollution problem. For the Boysen KNOxOUT Project: EDSA (Everyone Deserves Safe Air) initiative, one way to help clean the air is through art, street art to be exact. The term “street art” often has a negative connotation because it is associated with graffiti and vandalism or vibrant artworks spray-painted across public property. However, for this project, eleven artists were commissioned to make a total of 8,000 square meters of street art in 8 different locations  using a special kind of paint called Boysen KNOxOUT (Zafra, 2012). The artists include Asuncion Imperial, Damien Anne, Tapio Snellman, Erika Tan, Jose Tence Ruiz, and artists from the TBWA Art Department.

Artwork that depicts the EDSA Revolution in 1986 done by Asuncion Imperial and Damien Anne of B+C Design, located below the EDSA-Ortigas Flyover

Artwork that depicts the EDSA Revolution in 1986 done by Asuncion Imperial and Damien Anne of B+C Design, located below the EDSA-Ortigas Flyover

The core of this initiative is the Boysen KNOxOUT paint and the special technology behind it.

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Nanotechnology: Advantages, Disadvantages and Nano-pollutants?

by: Angeles, Ereñeta, Jeng, Litam, Montenegro, Segui, Tuason

Without first looking at textbook definitions, the term nanotechnology can be deduced by separating the prefix nano, which in the metric system refers to the factor 10-9 (something extremely small), from technology, which can refer to machines, electricity, application of science in life, etc. Combining these two, the meaning of nanotechnology can be reasoned literally as an extremely small scaled machine or product of a scientific process.

While that definition seems adequate, Dr. Ralph Merkle makes an analogy that manufacturing methods of today are very crude at the molecular level that it is like trying to make something out of Lego blocks. However, instead of using bare hands the constructor is wearing boxing gloves. For him, piles and heaps can be tried to be made out of the Lego blocks, but exact figures would be impossible to create due to the gloves. He then says that with nanotechnology, it is like removing the gloves and being able to make the exact figures wanted because it’s possible to simply snap the Lego together quickly and efficiently. In a sense, nanotechnology is delving into the basic molecular structure of anything and arranging it in the necessary form. There are definitely pros and cons to using it, but nanotechnology generally allows for the reconstruction and reengineering of nano-sized structures to create something which should benefit society.

Image 1. Some applications involving nanotechnology pursued by the Philippines

Image 1. Some applications involving nanotechnology pursued by the Philippines

Nanotechnology provides plenty of advantages in fields where it is applied. Environmentally, it is able to help expedite the cleaning up process through developments such as that of nanofabric “paper towels”, which absorb 20 times its weight in oil, and filters in airplane cabins which are better able to remove odors. In agriculture, nanotechnology-enabled sensors are being advanced in order to be able to pinpoint harmful agents present in the air and soil. This would help farmers find the best possible places to grow crops as well as be aware of the reasons for poorly grown produces. Nanotechnologies have also been applied in cosmetic and beauty products through enhancing antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, and windows and other surfaces have been modified in order to be water-proof, anti-reflective, scratch-proof and electrically conducive. Overall, nanotechnology is  aimed at helping advance the work and tools needed to provide humans with a better life.

Yet despite the benefits nanotechnologies present, disadvantages inevitably follow. Some notable disadvantages are: 1. Ethical concerns due to the potential to engineer humans to become hyper-intelligent and much stronger, leading to a discrepancy in status because of a “lower class” of humans; 2. The greater chances for unemployment to rise in the farming and manufacturing industries because of the lesser need for human labour with more efficient technology; 3. The production of atomic weapons posing as a threat to society.

Aside from those mentioned, one imminent disadvantage which easily goes unnoticed yet should not be ignored is the factor of nano-pollutants. Nano-pollutants are particles small enough to enter one’s lungs and be absorbed by the skin which becomes very dangerous not only to one’s health, but to the general environment. These nanosized contaminants cause instabilities and disorders in the environment, the same way they do to one’s body. Volcanoes and the ocean often release nanoparticles when they release ash or have waves which burst violently, respectively, and this amount of nanoparticles is not what is causing harm to the world. Rather, the man-made nano-pollutants are the ones people should be wary of. By-products from the manufacturing of nanotechnologies are where the miniscule pollutants often come from, and the fact that these are placed in landfills allows more exposure to soil and air. Nano-pollution from car exhausts and construction sites are also easily soaked up by the air, and inhaling a high amount of nano-pollution is quite toxic to both humans and other animals, thus if left unresolved could lead to a great problem in our ecosystem.

In the end, it is all a matter of being aware of the things produced in our society. Although nanotechnologies create nano-waste, they are also able to aid in reducing pollution across the globe through innovating more efficient technologies. Nanotechnologies definitely carry the hope of a better and brighter future but it is necessary not to look past negative produces as well. Nano-pollutants could be reduced through the communication between scientists because it is those who specialize in a subject that would know how to deal with it. Manufacturers could carefully identify and handle their products, but it is the knowledge and discoveries of scientists which would teach the world how to properly dispose of specific types of pollutants in the best possible manner. The very small will undeniably bring very big things, and hopefully those things will be for the best.


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