Two teenagers discover everyday application of nanotechnology

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Alicia Chan and Aileen Bachtiar conduct extensive nanotechnology research. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO, Jakarta – Although still relatively little-known in Indonesia, nanotech­nology can provide many interesting benefits that can help make every­day life easier for people living today and in the future. Nanotechnology is a technology that is measured in na­noscale—with nano meaning ‘one bil­lionth’ smaller—as well as possessing nano or atom-sized material proper­ties. A nanosized material will allow it to be imbued with extraordinary new properties.

Nanotechnology’s low awareness in Indonesia did not stop two teenagers, Alicia Chan (15) and Aileen Bachtiar (16), both grade 11 students at Jakar­ta Intercultural School, from making an exciting new breakthrough. Alicia and Aileen conducted extensive nan­otechnology research while attending a 21-day summer school program in July 2019 at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. Saturday (8/2) at @America, Pacific Place Mall, South Jakarta, they presented their find­ings on nanotechnology that can be applied to property and food.

“Ever since I was a child, I was always interested in science and re­searching new things. Indonesia is a country rich in natural resources, but the fact remains that many of its citizens are living in poverty. In ad­dition, technological developments in Indonesia are still far behind those of neighboring countries. I really felt this huge gap in technology usage during my stay at Columbia University, even though we know that the use of tech­nology can really help people’s lives,” said Alicia.

While studying at Columbia Uni­versity, one research subject caught Alicia’s attention: Superhydropho­bicity, or the process of creating a waterproof surface on an object. Her research on superhydrophobicity has successfully produced the superhy­drophobicity coating spray, which, if sprayed on an object, will cause it to have nano-texture similar to a lotus leaf. This technique is known as Bio­mimicry, where the characteristics of the organism (in this case, the lotus) are imitated to improve everyday life. The superhydrophobicity coating spray can be applied to any surface, such as a roof, to make it leak-proof.

“I picked the ‘self-assembling monolayer’ concept during my re­search with the goal of making a sur­face so waterproof that not even a tiny drop of water can penetrate, just like the surface of Teflon. Through exper­imenting with this concept, I hope to provide an easy and convenient solu­tion for people with leaking roofs in their homes. Aside from being prac­tical and effective, this technology can last for a very long time,” added Alicia.

Meanwhile, Aileen Bachtiar—who has a lifelong interest in food and beverages—has found an alternative option to wine preservatives, called Silver Nanoparticles. While studying nanotechnology at the University of Pennsylvania, Aileen was amazed by the potential application of nanotech­nology to the food industry.

“I did a lot of research and final­ly started my own wine fermenta­tion research. I learned that Sulfite, which is commonly used as a wine preservative, has long-term harmful effects on health such as hypoten­sion and bronchospasm. The aim of my research is to find an alternative wine preservative that can serve as an effective substitute for sulfite, with none of its harmful health effects. What’s great about Silver Nanopar­ticles is that they possess antibacte­rial properties that can kill harmful germs during the wine fermentation process,” said Aileen.

The Silver Nanoparticles solution (made from silver ions) has other food and beverage-related uses, such as in food packaging to increase the shelf life of food. If used medically, the nanoparticles also allow for easi­er absorption of drugs by the human body. Research has also determined that Silver Nanoparticles are safe for consumption. From Alicia and Ai­leen’s research, it has been proven that nanotechnology is very beneficial for everyday life, due to its various qualities. Application of this technol­ogy will certainly add more value to human life. (*/est)