PCASTRD REPORT: FILIPINO  PHYSICISTS  SHARE  EINSTEIN'S  DRIVE

(PHOTO AT LEFT - NIP’s Future: The National Institute of Physics proposed building plan at UP Diliman)

INTERNET NEWS, January 10, 2006 (DOST-RP) SPECIAL REPORT December 2005 For further inquiries, please contact Dr. VIRGINIA G. NOVENARIO-ENRIQUEZ 837-2071 to 82, local 2102, 2109.

As 2005 ends, the 1st International Year of Physics, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Miraculous Year culminates. Remembering Einstein, it was indeed mere curiosity, that led to his deep and deliberate thinking resulting in great scientific discoveries.

Although Einstein did have a formal education in teaching physics and mathematics, he did not get the chance to do physics research. He first taught mathematics at technical private schools as temporary teacher and later, worked in the Swiss patent office at Bern as a technical expert. Surprisingly, he completed a range of theoretical physics publications by working during his spare time, without close contact with any scientific literature or colleagues.

A century ago, the way of teaching and studying science was different. There were quite a few science books, no laboratories and no experienced teachers to give advice and guidance. Discovering new things entailed a lot of time, mental effort and resources, not to mention personal interest--perhaps out of curiosity, and vigor on the part of the scientist himself or herself. Science education has evolved into a more institutionalized way.

Nowadays, learning about science concepts through science books and literature as well as from a skillful teacher is more like it. Equipped with scientific instruments, students also experience hands-on work at laboratories. As a matter of fact, the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines Diliman (NIP-UPD) is one physics institutions in the country that is run by well-trained professors and equipped with state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. For years, researchers who are also students and faculty members of NIP, have been conducting research in many different fields of physics such as condensed matter, instrumentation, structure and dynamics, theoretical physics, photonics, and plasma technology. The Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD), an agency of DOST, provides funds to support many of NIP-UPD’s major research projects and laboratories.

Filipino physicists in action

Proficient scientists from NIP-UPD have made outstanding research contributions in terms of physics applications in industry. Dr. Caesar A. Saloma is one of the most prolific scientists in the country as acknowledged by his colleagues. In fact, he is the first from ASEAN to be awarded the Galileo Galilei Award from the International Commission for Optics in 2004. His research has resulted in a device to detect failures in manufacturing electronics and semiconductors in the country. By using combined capabilities of laser confocal microscope with single-photon optical beam induced current (1P-OBIC) imaging, Dr. Saloma’s team of researchers was able to produce high-contrast layer-by-layer images of semiconductor sites in the integrated circuits at microscopic resolution. A semiconductor is a very tiny material essential in today’s computerized machine systems such as ATMs, airplanes, cars, etc. It has electrical elements that work together to do specific tasks. With Dr. Saloma’s technique, it is easier to detect which part of the semiconductor failed to do its task because direct observations of the deeper structures and access to hard-to-reach surfaces can be made. Semiconductor device makers can then save themselves from substantial wastage and further revenue loss.

Another notable physicist is Dr. Arnel Salvador, deputy director for research and extension service at NIP. He led a team of scientists at NIP who won 1st Prize in the recently concluded Most Outstanding Research and Development Award given by PCASTRD-DOST, bagging P200,000 cash prize and a trophy. His team produced unique semiconductor compounds such as gallium arsenide (GaAs) and aluminum–gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) applicable in fiber optic communication. The semiconductor materials allow faster data transmission over long distances. They made use of a thermally controlled evaporation process in an ultra-high vacuum environment known as Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE). According to Dr. Salvador, MBE is considerably essential in creating new structures and crystal materials such as semiconductor laser and light emitting diodes, photodetectors and quantum dots. All these are useful in today’s fiber optic communication where light is used as major carrier of information through a fiber medium. Fiber optic communication enables the replacement of the conventional copper cable wires in telephone networks to wireless optical networking for a borderless and global undertaking. With fiber optic technology, people can enjoy the fun and convenience of video conferencing, the internet, and a wide array of wireless electronic gadgets.

Dr. Henry Ramos is another multi-awarded physicist. Through his research, Dr. Ramos developed a state-of-the-art but cheaper coating technology for cutting tools. Cutting tools are useful in metal, wood, and plastic fabrications for producing construction supplies, car and computer parts, and many others. Dr. Ramos’ low-temperature coating technology can deposit either a gold luster titanium nitride or a diamond-like thin film on metal substrates like knives, scissors, and drill bits that extend their usability three to five times longer.

Basically, Dr. Ramos made use of plasma, which is a high-energy state of gases. Instead of going to Singapore or Sweden to avail of technical services, manufacturing firms can now save hundreds of thousands dollars by using these alternative tools available at NIP.

In the field of superconductors, Dr. Roland V. Sarmago leads a team to develop a low-cost material that exhibits superconductivity at higher temperatures or anywhere close to room temperature with the use of crystal oxides. Superconductors are materials that lose all resistance to the flow of current at low temperatures. They operate extremely fast and produce almost no heat. They are useful in manufacturing various materials in electronics, glass and ceramics, and construction supplies among others. In 1994, Dr. Sarmago and his group also received the Most Outstanding Research and Development Award given by PCASTRD. Dr. Sarmago’s team has prepared and characterized high-critical-temperature superconductors.

This significant superconductor research gives way to further and cheaper studies of the applications of crystal oxides. A sectoral agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), PCASTRD is tasked to develop and strengthen national capability for research and/or training in basic sciences and advanced sciences which include physics, materials science, photonics, and other related sciences. PCASTRD has been providing incessant support to NIP and its research programs. (Liza Aleria)

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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