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Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that uses the structure and composition of materials in the order of nanometer (a billionth of a meter). The Philippines has the potential in the area of nanotechnology due to the abundance of naturally-occurring nanomaterials such as clay, limestone, silica, and zeolite.

The establishment of the Nanolab, as implemented by the ITDI and funded by PCIEERD is a step towards attaining the goal of having a world-class nanotechnology laboratory facility in the Philippines.

It aims to develop and implement R&D initiatives on nanotechnology utilizing naturally occurring nanomaterials, as well as providing nanotechnology-related technical services for the various local industries.

The new facility is class 100k-certified and electrostatic discharge (ESD) compliant. Several equipment are now available in the said facility capable of characterizing materials at the nanolevel.

Among these are field emission transmission electron microscope, atomic force microscope, X-ray diffractometer, X-ray fluorescence, dynamic light scattering particle size analyzer, and particle surface area measurement.

Additional equipment for the production and processing of nanomaterials and nanocomposites were also installed such as programmable vacuum mixer and dispenser, nanospray dryer, twin-screw extruder with pelletizer, and electrospinning apparatus. With the establishment of this facility, several R&D using our naturally-occurring nanomaterials have been conducted to boost national competitiveness.

Nanoclay can be used as additive in various polymer systems (thermoplastic, thermoset, and rubber) to produce polymer-clay nanocomposites.

The nanocomposites that are produced using this local additive by the plastics/polymer industry can be used to make commodities and engineering products for the following industrial sectors: automotive (bumpers, interior and exterior panels, etc.), construction (wall panels), electronics and electrical (printed circuits, electric components, housings for computers, mobile phones, electrical chargers, etc.), food packaging (containers), and aviation (integrated circuit box, panel, etc.).

The technology on producing nanoclay from the local bentonite deposit involved the laboratory processing of raw bentonite by purifying the valuable mineral montmorillonite and modifying the surface of the particles to convert it into an organoclay. With the advent of nanotechnology, it is now commercially known as Nanoclay because the clay platelet of the material has a thickness of about one nanometer. Trial application of this nanoclay was conducted using polycarbonate (from recycled compact disks) to produce the recycled polycarbonate-clay nanocomposite system. The nanocomposite product showed a significant improvement in the thermal and mechanical properties with only 5 percent nanoclay loading.

Further application of nanoclay included the development of biodegradable packaging materials using nanoclay in thermoplastic starch.

Nanoclay was added to thermoplastic starch and resulting blends were processed into films. Results showed that meltintercalation of the nanoclay in the polymer matrix produced oriented nanostructures of the clay layers. The topographical and morphological structures of the starch-clay nanocomposites showed less porous surface compared with pure thermoplastic starch indicating a more impermeable membrance. The developed bio-nanocomposite films are intrinsically biodegradable and suitable for green packaging applications. Another research was conducted to synthesize nanosilica from local silica. The project aims to develop nano-size silica powder from natural resources and utilize this nanosilica for improved concrete performance.

One method to improve the performance of concrete is to add material that can increase its strength. Previous researchers have shown increased strength in concrete with the addition of micro-silica.

This project aims to develop nanosilica from natural resources that can improve concrete performance. The minera sector can benefit from the study of high-value added product that can be developed, while the construction industry will gain from the improved properties of concrete.

Eleven provinces have been identified to have silica deposits with silica content ranging from 80-90 percent, with Quezon having the highest silica content, while Camarines Norte having the highest volume of silica deposits.

Parameters for mechanical synthesis of local silica using vibratory milling are being studied such as milling time and use of different types of grinding media. Results of characterization studies on synthesized nanosilica showed an increase in surface area of nanosilica compared with raw silica.

Formulation studies using various amounts of nanosilica in concrete/cement paste from 0.2-1.0 percent were studied. Test specimens were formed and cured for 7, 14, and 21 days. Compressive strength of test specimens increases after each curing period. Processing of raw materials into nanosized particles is ongoing.

The Philippines has vast deposits of non-metallic minerals and limestone accounts, totaling 29 billion tons. Current research on limestone involves the processing and production of nano-precipitated calcium carbonate both for industrial and food grade. There is an ongoing research to produce food grade nano-precipitated calcium carbonate using limestone from Negros Oriental.

Zeolite is naturally occurring nanomaterial that has crystalline porous aluminosilicate minerals. It has widespread industrial applications such as selective absorbents, molecular sieve, ion exchangers, and catalysts.

However, the use of natural zeolite has limitation due to variations in chemical composition, properties, and impurities. This present research involved modification of natural zeolite into nanozeolite.


Written by: 
Josefina R. Celorico
Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute(DOST-ITDI)

Published by:
Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII)