MANILA, January 19, 2004 (MANILA TIMES) By Melvin G. Calimag - Technologies with commercial promise bagged the top awards in the 2003 Search for Outstanding R&D Awards organized by the science depart­ment’s Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (pcastrd).

The winners among 18 entries were a coating technology that makes metals more durable, an analysis on the fat components of local seeds and nuts and their possible uses, and an advanced technique to detect failure sites in integrated circuits.

Sec. Estrella F. Alabastro of the Department of Science and Technology (dost) and pcastrd director Ida Dalmacio conferred the awards at the Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, in Pasig City to coincide with the Council’s 16th anniversary.

Coating technology

The top prize of P200,000 went to Dr. Henry Ramos of the National Institute of Physics (NIP), University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman for his sheet plasma negative ion.

This device uses micro-thin layers of sheet plasma to coat metals with titanium nitride (TiN), a compound that gives a golden glow when hit by light. But beyond the distinct aesthetic value, the real beauty of TiN coating lies on its capacity to extend the metal’s cutting life three to five times longer.

Industries using cutting, drilling, and molding tools spend as much as $300,000 per company in a given year just for tool coating. In 1999 alone, coating was an $850 million market with growth rate that doubles annually.

With this new technology, industries can reduce to a mere fraction the high cost of coating their tools.

Local nut and seed oils

Second prize of P150,000 went to “lipid molecular species and fractions of the oil from local seeds and nuts and their potential applications,” a team project led by Dr. Laura Pham of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (biotech) of UP Los Baños.

Exploring the structure and components of oils delivered from our local seeds and nuts, the researchers were able to identify the components’ possible nutraceutical, medical and pharmaceutical uses.

This pioneering project practically laid the ground for increasing the productivity of local pili, lumbang, bunga de tsina, MacArthur Palm, cashew, okra and talisay, all abundant and readily available in most parts of the country.

Detecting failures

Third prize of P100,000 was given to “Multidimensional microscopy of defects in integrated circuits,” a project of Dr. Caesar Saloma, and his team from NIP-UPD. They developed a new method that produces high-quality images of damaged semiconductor sites by combining two imaging techniques with the use of a cheaper laser light source.

With comparable accuracy at a lower price, the technique could lead to lower production cost of integrated circuits and prevent losses in semiconductor industries.

Recognizing excellence

“The search has led us to appreciate efforts invested in each entry. It proves that we do have a competitive S&T human resource available in the country,” Alabastro remarked on the R&D competition.

As country’s lead agency tasked to develop the national research systems for advanced S&T and related field, pcastrd established the biennial awards to recognize excellence in high-end R&D among local scientists.

Now on its 6th year, the Outstanding R&D Awards has yielded a number of interesting and valuable R&D projects, such as PC-based switch with features designed for small and medium-sized corporations, mannanase-treated and energy-packed copra meal for broilers, advanced high critical temperature fabrication techniques, and lipase-catalyzed specialty fats, among others.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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