Nanotronics: At the Forefront of Revolutionary Technology
Dr. Jerome Palaganas
The rapid advancements in science and technology in the 21st century has been incredibly apparent. From the creation of smart phones to smart TVs to autonomous vehicles, science and technology have indeed revolutionized our way of life. With all of these advancements taking place, a glaring question that comes to mind would be: “How can one further improve our current technology ecosystem?” This answer can be found in Nanotronics.
Nanotronics is a “deep technology company based in the Philippines that produces advanced materials, products, and solutions to assist important enabling industries” such as, but not limited to, the industries of packaging, coatings and paints, textiles, medical, automotive, semiconductor and electronics, and agriculture. It offers bespoke technical solution services and products made of nanostructured materials appropriate for use in conventional manufacturing and additive manufacturing (3D printing) technologies. Within months since its founding, Nanotronics established its advanced pilot production facility at the De La Salle University Laguna Campus, which manufactured basic and advanced kinds of nanotechnology materials. It was able to ship these products to its first customers in its first year of operation. With this, why don’t you join me in learning more about Nanotronics with its Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Jerome Palaganas
What made you interested in entering the fields of Science and Technology?
What made me interested in this field is my love for science and technology. This started during my formative years in elementary school: studying, competing, winning science quiz bee competitions. After I graduated from my undergraduate studies, I worked in the semiconductor industry wherein I learned how to create new products using new technologies, to improve different processes, to ramp up volume production, and to do a lot of problem solving. I also underwent graduate studies in material science, which opened up a lot of opportunities and also deepened my interests in the fields of nanotechnology and additive manufacturing, technologies which are in the forefront of science and technology today.
What is the importance of nanotechnology in today’s time?
Nanotechnology is one of the emerging and disruptive technologies today, and is considered as one of the pillars of Industry 4.0. It creates new materials, new methods, and new systems. For instance, novel materials created using nanotechnology have been instrumental in developing new and advanced composites, which are used in lightweighting applications of newer aircrafts like the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777. These new aircrafts have stronger but lighter body frames, allowing these planes to travel non-stop and gain better fuel efficiency. Another example would be the ultra-high resolution (UHD), or the 8K LCD TVs that have also been created via nanotechnology. Also, the sensitivity of responsive smartphone touchscreens nowadays are created via nanotechnology. This allows users to effortlessly and smoothly glide through their screens with ease. In medicine, nanotechnology is now being used for effectively imaging cancer and improving diagnostics, thus aiding the medical doctors in the treatment of the disease. Lastly, nanotechnology is also used in creating effective vaccines for COVID-19, specifically those by Pfizer and Moderna.
Why did you decide to create Nanotronics? What problems did you want addressed?
Firstly, we established Nanotronics in 2014 primarily to bring new and advanced materials, especially for the semiconductor and electronics industry. This industry composes the biggest chunk of the Philippine industries, around 60-65%. From 2015 onwards, we pivoted Nanotronics towards nanotechnology materials production. The problems that we intend to solve is to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic. Today, as we all know, plastic waste is a huge problem that affects both the environment and communities. Secondly, since nanotechnology is one of the pillars of industry 4.0, we wanted to bring in the technology to empower local industries. Nanotechnology cuts through different industries, and as such, it would provide huge benefits to the industries which would adopt it. Some notable industries for the application of nanotechnology would be semiconductors, electronics, coating, marine, automobile, medical, 3D printing and even packaging.
What has Nanotronics achieved so far?
In terms of milestones, I think that Nanotronics has achieved a lot of things. Since 2017, we were able to put up our pilot production facility in DLSU Laguna. We have created 8 IPs, 3 of which have already been commercialized. We have 15 B2B clients, 20 customer discussions, and 17 corporate pilots both here and abroad. Furthermore, we won the inaugural Shell liveWIRE Philippine tech startup competition in 2020, and have undergone several acceleration programs both local and abroad including: Shell liveWIRE, Plug N Play in Silicon Valley, Plug N Play Japan, and more recently via the DTI-PhilDEV ADVANCE program. More so, we also received seed funding from the DOST in 2017. Recently, we received another funding from the DOST Science for Change through the BIST Program. The latter is intended to further our research and development of sustainable materials using our nanomaterials for packaging in the FMCG industry. Lastly, we are one of the three startups selected by Endeavor and EDC in their Open Innovation Program.
What significant challenges have you faced when putting up Nanotronics?
There are of course different challenges faced by every startup. For us, our first challenge was actually funding. We are in a deep technology space, especially with nanotechnology, and it would be impossible for us to create a minimum viable product (MVP) without our own lab. For startups, there is a 90% fatality rate. Funding plays the most crucial part in our early phase. For developed countries, funding for deep-tech startups like us is readily available. However in the Philippines, this is rather scarce. Thus, for us, funding is crucial to move forward. The second challenge for us was finding and growing our next customers. Since nanotechnology is quite new, most of the industries in the Philippines have not been well oriented with such technology. It took us almost two years to educate and bring up to speed the industries we engaged with about the nanotechnology advantage to their product and innovation. Our third challenge is finding the right people. I believe this is a common problem, not just for us, but for all tech startups as well.
Where do you see Nanotronics in the future?
In the near future, we expect that Nanotronics will be able to supply the FMCG industry with our sustainable materials for use in their packaging. These sustainable materials are intended to replace single-use plastics with the intention of alleviating the plastic waste problem and reducing carbon emission in the environment. We are currently in the final testing phase of these materials, and we hope to launch it very soon to the market. Likewise, as 3D printing is maturing in the country, we also intend to launch our very own 3D printing resins for different applications. There are a lot of interesting and exciting applications for this especially in the fields of automotive and medicine. In the long term, we intend to develop key components of the secondary or the so-called EV batteries using our nanomaterials. We think that this initiative will be strategic and beneficial to our economy especially with the petroleum-based vehicle to electric vehicle transition happening these days all in the name of sustainability and climate change.
Dr. Jerome Palaganas is the Co-Founder and CEO of Nanotronics, a circular bioeconomy startup that produces sustainable materials, products, and solutions that aim to enable vital key industries. He has profound experience in science and technology, specifically nanotechnology and additive manufacturing. Dr. Jerome Palaganas has utilized his professional and personal growth to create revolutionary technology in the Philippines, with the ultimate goal of supporting the industries of packaging, coatings and paints, textiles, medical, automotive, semiconductor and electronics, and agriculture among many others.
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