Every Sunday, my 10 year-old brother and I tune in to Pinoy Scientist, a radio program hosted by active scientists Dr. Custer, Dr. Guido, and Dr. JD wherein health and environmental issues are discussed and scientific news are tailored for public consumption. I myself love breaking down science for curious little kids, so we usually have a short discussion after the program. Today’s episode especially contained a lot of scientific jargon but I was able to make my brother understand the main topic because… it was exactly the kind of research I worked on in my final year of high school!
Basically, my S&T research groupmates and I made filters out of the nanocomposite of Montmorillonite (MMT), a highly absorptive clay mineral which happens to be abundant in the Philippines, and a biodegradable plastic called Polycaprolactone (PCL). The idea was that adding MMT would make a better heavy metal filter in terms of absorptive power and durability, and of course we had to test that. Here’s our methodology in a nutshell:
- Varying concentrations of MMT (0%, 5%, 10%) were mixed with PCL, dissolved in dichloromethane, and sonicated.
- Fibers were made through electrospinning, a process in which both the polymer solution and a spinning metal collector are charged using high voltage electricity so that the solution evenly collects on the surface due to the electric field and dries up to form nanofibers.
- Small strips were cut from the resulting nanofiber mat and subjected to tensile tests using the Universal Testing Machine
- Surface morphology was observed using a scanning electron microscope at DLSU (no wonder the guest scientist of today’s episode works there) and their chemical composition were studied through Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. All data were compared across the different concentrations of MMT, of course.
- Lastly, DotA break after a productive day XD
I started this project as an intern under the University of the Philippines – Diliman’s Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Material Engineering. Thanks to their time and support, I learned some things about mining issues and materials science, I got the chance to contribute to their research, and I was able to conduct mine for free. 😀
I used to be intimidated by such a daunting task, but the S&T research course made me realize that writing scientific papers is actually pretty enjoyable (except for the pressing deadlines, haha). The best part was successfully explaining the project to the judges during the PSHS Research Fair, and unexpectedly garnering the 4th grand award. 😀
Needless to say, that PS episode brought back lots of good memories. 🙂