Dra. Susana Arrechea | Energy, nanotechnology and waste managem
Doctora Susana Arrechea

Dra. Susana Arrechea | Energy, nanotechnology and waste managem

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Dr. Susana Arrechea

PhD in Nanotechnology (Guatemala)

Good afternoon everyone. It's a pleasure to be sharing in the women's forum with the engineer Tania. Thank you for the invitation to the CUMIPAZ 2018.

Next I will expose a topic that you may have heard about in action movies, as a very fashionable theme, a theme of superhero movies; for those of us who are no longer for those films, maybe our nephews, cousins, brothers or children take us. And in general this technology is understood as something futuristic, as science fiction and that is not being applied. So next I'm going to talk about nanotechnology and its applications in renewable energy.

In the next slide we can see some bases of nanotechnology. First of all to tell you all that it is the study, design, synthesis, and manipulation at a nanometer or nanoscale size. When we speak of this size, it means nano: "1× 10-9 m;” and nanotechnology is constituted between 0.1 and 100 nanometers.

What happens with this technology is that there are two very important phenomena. Classical mechanics no longer exists or classical mechanics no longer acts, such as gravity, or the law of action and reaction, but quantum mechanics. So quantum mechanics, which is based on probabilities, allows materials to act differently.

Another opportunity with nanotechnology is that they also have more surface materials, and that means there can be more reactivity and more storage in less space.

In the next slide we see that nanotechnology also (as I mentioned) is not something of science fiction, but something that applies to our day to day. Innovative products and services in nanotechnology have been developed; we know that investing in this issue means generating new products that can also support sustainable development.

Currently in the market, as of yesterday, there are 8,412 nanotechnology products in different areas developed by more than 2,000 companies in 56 different countries.

As we can see in the slide, it applies to agriculture; we can have fertilizers using biopolymers with nanotechnology, such as the work developed by Daniela Cuadra (if you can stand up) at Universidad del Valle; we were working together with the subject of biopolymers.

(I will be pointing out a couple of students and graduates of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry careers who are potential researchers).

And also the subject of environment, we see the development in materials for photovoltaic energy. Also in renewable energy, water treatment. We can see in food also, new packaging developed with this technology. In medicine also, the treatment of medicine and medical devices, which allow a better action in a smaller volume that allows them to be flexible and that can be taken to rural communities.

Also on the subject of electronics, we can observe it in our cell phones (all of us believe that we have a modern telephone, which is already using nanotechnology); and we have seen the evolution of computers, how we have gone from having very large computers with little capacity to having very small computers with a lot of storage capacity.

So we also owe all these advances to nanotechnology. And also there is another example of construction; new materials are being developed for this area. As you see these figures of 7 applications, there are many more applications, because nanotechnology is very versatile, and that allows it to be applied to different fields.

In the next slide we will look at nanotechnology and sustainable development. It is important to mention that new discoveries have been made with nanotechnology for water treatment, for clean energy, for medical devices, for green chemistry and manufacturing, for self-sustaining materials and technology that allows for a better education.

Some of the applications of nanotechnology in renewable energy are based on improving photovoltaic devices or solar cells, and making flexible devices that are transparent and of lower cost. This is what I was developing during my doctorate at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, we made solar panels with two different types of molecules to work better.

There are also investigations that are developing more efficient batteries and also long-lasting, and not with such a short life, as we have so far. More resistant materials are also being developed for wind turbines, among others.

So it is important to know that nanotechnology is being applied to this revolution of renewable energies and affordable energies, as proposed by Sustainable Development Goal number 7, which is affordable energy and non-polluting energies.

We are also applying in Guatemala some issues of nanotechnology in construction. I want Jennifer Páez to stand up, the engineer Jennifer Páez; she was working on her thesis in photocatalytic mortars. She was working on his thesis in collaboration with Cementos Progreso, the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, with support from the National Department of Science and Technology through  MULTICYT, in which we developed a product that has potential to be applied in schools and in hospitals; it is a mortar with nanotechnology that allows to have certain antimicrobial self-cleaning properties, and has a lot of potential.

We are also working with more resistant cements using nanotubes, thanks to the financing of a TWAS Research Grant; it is a financing agency located in Italy, which is for developing countries; and Katherine Callejas is working on this project (is Kathi here?).

So, as you can see, we have many potential female Guatemalans in the area of ​​science, who are developing products that look like science fiction but are real.

We are also working now on a nanomaterials project for sustainability of communities in Guatemala, with an emphasis on wood-saving stoves. This is thanks to the financing of CSIC Spain and the Eduardo Torroja Institute of Construction.

We are also working at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala on other research projects developed with an orientation towards sustainable development. This is one of my favorite projects, because we see how renewable energy and connectivity can reach rural communities.

We started with sustainability indicators towards microgrids in isolated communities; which mean that these communities, which are far from the connection to the normal electric power network, can use renewable energy to feed themselves and be able to have this access.

We started communicators made thanks to the support of Fulbright NEXUS, with a case study in Guatacondo, Chile, and later we started working with a start-up of the University of California, called Newsem Road. Thanks to the support of Microsoft, we generated this first pilot project, in which renewable energy was brought by means of solar panels and connectivity to a rural school.

In Guatemala, we have more than 1,000 schools that do not have electricity, and we have even more without Internet. So this is our first pilot project, in which we are benefiting more than 65 children. In the mornings it is being used for the exclusive use of the school and in the evenings for community use, so that this exchange of knowledge can also be generated, for people to learn how to use computers and how to use the Internet for the benefit of knowing how to improve their crops, how to improve the production they are generating.

Also in this first pilot we have something very interesting, which is the use of hardware and software that manages the energy, and that allows control, and when the community needs more energy for the use of a drill or use of other electronic equipment, it focuses on using the plugs instead of giving the power to the computers. Then the use of energy can be managed more efficiently.

In the next slide we see that we also have projects with the topic of integral waste management; this is thanks to an international consortium of the European Union called ERANet-LAC; and thanks to the financing also of the National Department of Science and Technology, in which we are identifying some obstacles and solutions for the integral management of waste, making a transfer from the Fraunhofer University in Germany, also the IETU in Poland, who are making a knowledge transfer to Guatemala; and we are also generating a motivation for entrepreneurs, so that they focus on entrepreneurship projects based on integrated waste management, on how to find new business opportunities with integrated waste management.

Last week we had the final event for the selection of the winners of the contest, and there were wonderful ideas. So we believe that here in Latin America we have that potential, and we live with more than 100 proposals for the integral management of waste and how to generate that income for the new generations.

We are also working on opportunities for entrepreneurs based on research results with a project of the European Union, Erasmus + [Erasmus Plus] in which two universities from each Central American country participate: A public and a private university; and we are developing actions to be able to promote this system to the new generations.

Finally, I want to conclude that we must use science and technology as a tool for sustainable development and for the integration of peace.

And on the next slide I want to share an event where we were with SENACYT and also with the Ministry of Education at a youth fair, to tell you not to forget that girls are able; this is a women's forum.

And on the next slide you can see an image of when I was very small and an image of now. It is a typical fabric that appears in the middle of San Juan Sacatepéquez, the place where I grew up. And I want to tell you that, if it had not been for the support of my parents and the support of the people around me, I would not have been a scientist; and I want to tell you that girls can do it.

Many times we limit the girls to tell them that they can only play with dishes or dolls, and boys are given spaceships, Legos, and it's important to create that encouragement of science in girls too and tell them: "You can do it.”

In these activities that we have developed in training I have found ... in groups of 25, at least every 5 girls tell me that they have not been able to study the career they wanted because their parents have told them that these careers are only for men; because they wanted to study mechanics, because they wanted to study a career that escapes what is traditionally understood as a woman's career. This is still happening in 2018, it happens here in the city, it happens in the rural areas, and I tell you: please, let's change that mentality.

And thank you.


Dr. Susana shows us that the limit of nanotechnology is the imagination of each person. How far do we want to go? As far as we want, but the challenge is to overcome oneself, not overcome others, that does not make sense, surpassing oneself does take us far. So if you have any comments, someone... or do we start. If you like, we start the session of questions, comments, answers. Do not? Here the boss tells me no. Yes, please?