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It is necessary to reuse materials with awareness of sustainability: expert

It is necessary to reuse materials with awareness of sustainability: expert

Erent Gomez

La Jornada newspaper
Saturday, April 13, 2024, p. 5

Through a spiral staircase, where the steps are so small that they are barely a foot wide, you climb into a wooden cover, where there are several shelves containing books, cardboard boxes, a filing cabinet, and a wooden desk. It is not a large space, but a small one, with ventilation provided by a window, which seems to be lacking at one o'clock in the afternoon in the last days of March.

In the center of the room stands Sandra Elizabeth Rodel Posada, MSc in Materials Science from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), winner of the 2023 L'Oréal UNESCO AMC Prize for her contribution to the field of thin films applied in fields such as medicine and optics.

She reduces the heat of the place, “Only at this time of the day, when the sun comes through the window, does she excuse herself and immediately enters into the subject of which she is an expert.

“The study of materials science is extremely important for future generations because we face the challenge of continuing to produce the conveniences we are already accustomed to – all our electronic toys – but now with an awareness of the sustainability of the planet, which requires the reuse of materials.”

Electronic garbage

The specialist said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that in light of the increasing phenomenon of global warming and the accumulation of waste for which no alternative can be found today Which Young researchers are forced to think about how to find the complete mechanism, from the production and use of matter to its disposal, and find how to recover and reuse the essential elements..

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In the face of the recent report issued by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union on the accumulation of electronic waste in the world, Rodel Posada considered that among the waste there are elements that must be found to recycle a mechanism. . . One of the goals promoted by the Materials Research Institute UNAM It's teaching students how to make materials and also the other part, which is that for every device they produce they find a mechanism to completely recycle it..

Rodel Posada studied a degree in Physics at UNAM, but unlike most students who are inclined towards astronomy, he chose applied physics to understand materials phenomena. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK, and now has more than 20 years of research at the Top House Materials Research Institute, where he has focused on creating thin films that layer them above other materials. To avoid corrosion or to make it more resistant.

▲ Sandra Rodel Posada, materials science teacher from UNAM.Photo by Errent Gomez

But if there is something that distinguishes the academy, it is its work based on two tracks: one focusing on research into materials for application in the medical field, and the other related to environmental remediation and energy production.

In the medical field, the study of materials that give rise to layers with antibacterial and antiviral properties, or that enhance the biological response at the level of bone cells, and which can be used in a medical implant, has increased. As part of this research, he studied materials such as amorphous carbon and titanium oxide.

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In light of the epidemic, Rodel Posada's research team developed the silver-copper layer for face masks, which blocks bacteria and the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In environmental remediation and energy production, they study materials that have a photocatalytic response to break down contaminants such as pesticides, fertilizers, dyes, or medicines that regular water purification processes cannot break down.

We are looking for materials that can be used to analyze contaminated organic molecules.Repeats. In this field, they have also made important progress in research on processes for producing hydrogen – the fuel of the future – in an environmentally friendly way.

For the researcher, the challenge of progress made at the laboratory level – on a very small scale – is that it must be scaled up, It involves producing a larger quantity of material, so that a reactor can be designed to test it on a larger scale..

The specialist divides her days between classes, laboratory work, academic and administrative tasks with graduate students, meetings via Zoom, and theses readings: Here I tell the students that they should pay attention and not be upset, and devote a whole day to researching the materials, and that our work does not burden us, but rather fills us..